Bob Marley / Bob Marley & the Wailers

One Love at Studio One

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Bob Marley & the Wailers' early ska sides, recorded from 1963-1966, are a too-often overlooked part of the group's oeuvre, and the best place to hear them is on One Love (At Studio One), a two-disc, 40-track anthology that strikes a nice balance between the Wailers' massively popular Jamaican hit singles and long-lost rarities, alternate takes, and outtakes. What impresses most is the sheer range of the music; Marley, Bunny Livingston, and Peter Tosh are influenced not just by indigenous Jamaican music, but also doo wop, late-'50s/early-'60s American R&B, gospel (these sides were recorded before the group converted to Rastafarianism), and even rock & roll (present are covers of the Beatles' "And I Love Her" and Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone"). Tender love ballads and spirituals alternate with raucous odes to Kingston rude-boy culture, including the classics "Simmer Down" (their first single) and "Hooligans," arguably the first songs which made their rude-boy subject matter explicit. But, as the original version of "One Love" (here with a skipping ska beat, as opposed to the more familiar, slowed-down version on Legend) makes clear, Marley was able to speak to his fan base while at the same time expressing himself in universal, anthemic terms. The Wailers made some of the most infectious, soulful ska of the era, and in spite of the occasionally uneven sound quality, it's hard to imagine a better distillation of the 100-plus tracks the group recorded for Studio One than One Love.

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