Perhaps Marley is less resourceful or articulate than many of us originally perceived, or maybe the record business, as I suspect, has a way of diluting fervor. In any case, Exodus is a confused, irresolute effort…. Marley, however, professes that the thrust in his instance is one of spiritual growth; the inscrutable mystic who is in—but not of—the world. To those who demand the fire this time, Exodus will prove disappointing; to those enticed by Marley's reggae cum r&b conjurations, it will likely suffice. But it's hard to imagine anyone finding it vital. Exodus possesses more of an air than any distinct theme, moves with the finality more of a gesture than a blow.
The first side is a mini-religiopolitical epic….
Oddly, the second side, comprised of conventional love songs, sets better, allowing one to focus on Marley's increasing vocal and musical command…. Waiting In Vain, with its haunting major seventh chords and a jazzy guitar break, is the album's sole bonafide classic, a beauty worthy of Smokey Robinson's finest moments gone past.
Should Marley resolve his thematic ambivalence and reassert his clarity of vision, then, coupled with his striking musical growth, he will once more prove awesome indeed. But if, as he claims, his is a mystical direction, we can only hope for the best (and that we haven't already seen that best). At least he wears his guise well. Like real mystics, he is sly and obscure and increasingly content to communicate on some private, veiled level.
Mikal Gilmore, "Record Reviews: Bob Marley & The Wailers," in down beat (copyright 1977; reprinted with permission of down beat), Vol. 44, No. 15, September 8, 1977, p. 30.