There is no arguing Bob Marley's songwriting prowess: no matter how closely identified he is with reggae music, his compositions transcend the genre, which makes B is for Bob all the more frustrating.
Bob's oldest son Ziggy Marley executive produced B is for Bob with good intentions, I'm sure. But while Ziggy's recently-released kids' album Family Time is a great example of making music for listeners of all ages, the exact opposite brings down this compilation: some of the songs on B is for Bob end up being simplified to the point of condescension. But Bob Marley's messages of self-determination, empathy, love, and joy end up shining through, nonetheless.
On B is for Bob, Ziggy remixed eight of Bob Marley's classics with varying results. Instruments are added to or subtracted from "Three Little Birds," "Redemption Song," "Bend Down Low," "Jamming," "Small Axe," "Satisfy My Soul," "Stir It Up," and "High Tide or Low Tide," and alternate vocal tracks are used on some songs. Four of Marley's other tunes are left untouched: "Could You Be Loved," "One Love/People Get Ready," "Lively Up Yourself," and "Wake Up and Live, Part 1."
The most striking transformation is the remix of "Jamming," changing the song from a loping, laid-back tune to a furious conga/bongo workout. The powerful "Wake Up and Live" commands "Flee from hate, mischief and jealousy / Don't bury your thoughts, put your vision to reality," while the beautiful, quiet "High Tide or Low Tide" assures "In high seas or in low seas, I'm gonna be your friend."
The least successful remixes include "Stir It Up," which is reduced to staccato piano chords and acoustic guitar, and "Three Little Birds," on which drums and bass are taken out of the mix, while a plinky keyboard sound is added. And if you're averse to children singing on a kids' album, steer clear of "Bend Down Low" and "Small Axe," two songs that are also unfortunately altered by adding "kiddie record" instrumentation.
Of course, a project like this will have long-time fans of Bob Marley's music wondering why certain songs were or weren't included. And the even more dedicated might cringe at Ziggy's tinkering with perfection. Casual listeners might not even care that Marley's songs have been changed a little for B is for Bob, so this album could possibly make a nice introduction to Marley's music for their little ones.
For those more familiar with Bob Marley's music, suggested beginner albums include the tangible excitement of Marley's live set Babylon by Bus, the superstar pop reggae of Exodus, or the rootsy, organic African Herbsman.
Extra features of the B is for Bob CD include bonus online digital content like coloring book pages, a sing-a-long music video, and audio stream previews of Ziggy Marley's Family Time album. Each CD also includes a free one-year subscription to Parents magazine. B is for Bob comes in a recyclable and biodegradable Eco-Pak, making the album kid-, parent- and Earth-friendly.
Released June 23, 2009; UMe/Island/Tuff Gong
Track Listing and Original Albums
- "Three Little Birds" can be found on Exodus
- "Redemption Song" can be found on Uprising
- "Wake Up and Live, Part 1" can be found on Survival
- "Bend Down Low" can be found on Natty Dread
- "Lively Up Yourself" can be found on Natty Dread
- "Jamming" can be found on Exodus
- "Small Axe" can be found on Burnin'
- "One Love/People Get Ready" can be found on Exodus
- "Satisfy My Soul" can be found on Kaya
- "Could You Be Loved" can be found on Uprising
- "Stir It Up" can be found on Catch a Fire
- "High Tide or Low Tide" can be found on the Songs of Freedom Box Set