Bob Marley John Morthland - Essay

John Morthland

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The first side of Bob Marley and the Wailers's new Exodus is all Rasta anthems; the second is all love songs except for a reworking of "One Love" that's now called "One Love/People Get Ready." Exodus is presumably intended to emphasize that there are two sides to Bob Marley; because the first side is clearly superior to the second, it has rather a different effect. But the problems with this album go even deeper—for all that is good about Exodus, it is not a very satisfying album….

The album starts out beautifully. "Natural Mystic" is as passionate and haunting as anything he's ever done. But the next three songs suffer from singing that sounds either strained or barely there…. With the exception of "Waiting in Vain," the second side is quite forgettable. These love songs don't have the personal stamp of Marley's previous ones. The lyrics are mostly drawn from the pool of standard songwriter's phrases, and the melodies are equally ordinary. With "Three Little Birds" he even proves he can be every bit as banal as someone like John Denver.

One more sign of detachment: Exodus is easily his most humorless album. There's none of the wit or raunch found in songs like "Bend Down Low" or "Kinky Reggae." Detachment and desperation are often hard to separate and, like many people trying to keep a grasp on something important that seems to be slipping away, Marley sounds as though he doesn't have time to think about anything else.

John Morthland, "Bob Marley in Another Land," in The Village Voice (reprinted by permission of The Village Voice and the author; copyright © The Village Voice, Inc., 1977), Vol. XXII, No. 26, June 27, 1977, p. 71.