In 1973, Bob Marley & The Wailers played to an incredibly small group of people at the Capitol building in Hollywood. It was special for a number of reasons, but what stands out for me is the unique lineup of The Wailers, which had the legendary Joe Higgs in place of Bunny Wailer. Both a two record set and an accompanying film were just released. I've been loving the set, but the film blew my mind.
I haven't seen very many live reggae performances. I got to see Peter Tosh and Black Uhuru at The Ritz in the 80's, and I have caught a few acts at the New Orleans Jazz Fest. But watching The Wailers up close at the Capitol studio was a revelation. I know many dismiss reggae and ska, finding the rhythms and arrangements indistinguishable from record to record. This document of The Wailers just might change your mind.
The musicianship is precise. Quite frankly, it astonishes. Carlton Barrett's drumming is a mesmerizing combination of magic and restraint, and along with his brother Aston on bass, form a rhythm section for the ages.
And speaking of Peter Tosh, his harmonies underneath Bob Marley throughout this entire performance are something to behold. I think of great singers like David Crosby, John Lennon of course, and going back, Laverne Andrews of the Andrews Sisters, who had that natural ability to just grab the most difficult part and change the entire sound of the song. Tosh does this with incredible cool.
I can't say enough about this live document, and I imagine another 500 words won't change the minds of the staunch reggae non-supporters. But if you like the music a little, Bob Marley & The Wailers' Capitol Session just might turn you into a full blown fan. It's that special, and though it is almost 50 years old, it might be the best record of 2021.
Listen to the set on your favorite streaming service, though for full service, watch the film on Amazon Prime.