Bob Marley, Natural Mystic II

Keith Harris

By Keith Harris

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

The heated discussion between Lee "Scratch" Perry and Bob Marley could very well have ended with either or both dead. The brilliant but erratic dub producer had threatened to murder the upstart singer for swiping his ace recording band, the Upsetters. Instead, the two men emerged from the back room arm in arm, and together proceeded to revolutionize reggae. Natural Mystic is culled largely from Soul Rebels and Soul Revolution, the first fruits of this collaboration. Here, the two visionaries slow the upbeat groove of first-wave reggae to a ruminative lope, and the thick, murky mixes separate instruments rather than fusing them into taut R&B. Throughout, Glen Adams 'organ casts a disorienting haze from which Aston Barrett's bass pops occasionally with a clump of notes before slinking back into the primary beat. Tracks such as "There She Goes" showcase a brilliant harmony group: prime doo-wop rarely paired so creamy a lead with such flawlessly crystalline backup. And the deceptively casual vibe makes individual moments of intensity all the more affecting: on early classics like "Small Axe" and "My Cup," Marley's voice floats &#8212 sometimes seductively, sometimes thoughtfully &#8212 then leaps into the cutting high register that would later make him a star.