Bob Marley / Bob Marley & the Wailers

Soul Almighty: The Formative Years, Vol. 1

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Released 15 years after Bob Marley's death, this album of heavily overdubbed Marley juvenalia is suspect, if not entirely without merit. The nine original recordings (four of them previously unreleased) were made by the Wailers in 1967-68. The producers have taken those primitively recorded mono tracks and embedded them in extensive new musical tracks. Their main intention seems to have been to create reggae/hip-hop arrangements on the order of Marley's "Exodus." The result is not unpleasant, but it is odd, with the scratchy vocals peeking out from the state-of-the-art sound. The producers have also added three remixes of the songs for a total of 12 selections in just under 39 minutes. The recordings have not been "restored,'' as the producers put it; they've been altered practically beyond recognition. One way to tell this is to listen to the four original recordings provided on the CD-ROM section, which also includes interviews, graphics, biographical material, copies of speeches by Haile Selassie, links to America Online, a "rasta glossary," a song catalog, merchandise information, and a music video. Actually, the CD-ROM material is much more useful than the audio, and that gives the disc a slightly higher rating.

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