Bob Marley John Orme - Essay

John Orme

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[A] slender acoustic piece called "Redemption Song" puts the seal on "Uprising" as a Marley album of great worth after a patch of direct commercial flirtation and attempted American radio seduction.

The track comes at the end of the album as a wistful perspective on the Black move from physical and mental slavery to the potential redemption through religion, and offers a cool tranquility after nine tracks bulging with a mix of irony, hope, history and fate, woven together with a subtly powerful musicality.

The immediate impact of "Redemption Song" is reminiscent of early Dylan songs, presenting a neat twist of fate—Dylan's supposed rediscovery or fresh declaration of religion has been accompanied by some of his worst music to date, while Marley's continued commercial espousal of his religion and way of life has finally borne fruit with some of the best, most simple music of his career….

Marley uses his music to open doors, and leaves his words to ram home the message. He has backed away from constant incantations to the great Jah, who crops up once directly … and once indirectly … and turned instead to a broader view of his culture, drawing on recent and biblical history to arrive at a view summed up with almost cynical fatalism on tracks like "We And Them" and "Real Situation".

Marley tempers his view of the world as a rapid slide to self-destruction with the optimism, again fatalistic, of his religion. The powerful "Coming In From The Cold" and "Could You Be Loved" espouse a belief in some sense of salvation, strengthened by the logic of history suggested by "Zion Train"….

There is a strong tone of self-righteousness in Marley's songs, and the simple faith of his religion is at times over-bearing for distinctly non-Rastafarian ears. The solid musical strength more than makes up for the preachiness and his ear for acute melody and word lines has hit a new peak….

Marley has matured with his music, and "Uprising" is something of a mellow masterpiece.

John Orme, "Albums: 'Uprising'," in Melody Maker (© IPC Business Press Ltd.), June 14, 1980, p. 15.