Bob Marley / Bob Marley & the Wailers

Natural Mystic: The Legend Lives On

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Despite its massive commercial success, Legend, the 1984 Bob Marley & the Wailers compilation, was not an impressive "best-of" of the group's full career. It was assembled to highlight Marley's U.K. hit singles of the late '70s and seriously underrepresented his early standards. You might think, therefore, that 11 years later, when Island Records finally got around to releasing what is, in essence, "Legend, Vol. 2," the label would redress the imbalance. No such luck. As its title, Natural Mystic: The Legend Lives On, suggests, this Marley "rest-of" has the same flaw as its predecessor. ("Natural Mystic," the leadoff track, is from 1977's Exodus, an album that had already provided five tracks to Legend.) Although there were few additional U.K. singles, this collection gathers them up, including "Iron Lion Zion" and the newly reconfigured "Keep on Moving," both posthumous tracks heavily overdubbed long after Marley's death that sound little like his classic style. The rest of the album scatters tracks from such later albums as Survival and Uprising, though there are three songs from Rastaman Vibration, an album ignored by Legend, one of them Marley's sole Billboard Hot 100 chart entry, "Roots, Rock, Reggae." Still, the absence of defining early-'70s songs like "Lively Up Yourself," "Concrete Jungle," "Stop That Train," "Burnin' and Lootin'," "Kinky Reggae," "Duppy Conqueror," and "Small Axe" from either compilation is so bizarre that the only explanation one can speculate is a financial one. Maybe due to recording or publishing contracts, Island has some reason to avoid putting Bob Marley & the Wailers' early classics on their compilations. In any case, Natural Mystic: The Legend Lives On adds to the frustration of fans who expect compilations to actually feature the highlights of the band's career.

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