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By Kalamu ya Salaam of Kalamu.com

Thursday, May 12, 2011.

On a worldwide basis, Bob Marley is the most revered musician ever. In places you would never expect—Poland, for example, has a strong, strong reggae audience and Bob is, of course numero uno. You’ll find Bob Marley on Indian reservations in the United States, through Pacific islands, especially New Zealand. Virtually everywhere on the planet where Western music can be heard, there you will find Bob Marley devotees.

Robert Nesta Marley was born in Jamaica on February 6, 1945. He died in Miami, Florida on May 11, 1981. Although he transitioned 30 years ago at the young age of 36, he became and remains not only one of the best selling reggae artist worldwide, Bob Marley is also one of the few artists who is considered both a commercial superstar and a major social inspiration for people all across the planet.

Beginning with Catch A Fire (1973) on through Confrontation (1983), Bob produced a string of albums on Island Records that remain inspirational and continue to sell. Although his recordings are monumental, it was his legendary live performances that truly captivated the multitudes.

He performed in a trance state. I remember watching him put out more at a sound check than most other musicians do in full concert. He was beyond charisma. In his presence you felt as though you were having an out of body experience.

His miraculous escape from a 1976 assassination attempt that resulted in slight wounds (although his wife, Rita, and his manager, Don Taylor were seriously injured) only added to the mythology surround the invincible Bob Marley.

Bob was finally felled by cancer. Bob Marley Live Forever is an informal recording of Marley’s final public concert which occurred on September 23, 1980 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Although he had collapsed earlier that month in New York and was advised to cancel his America tour, Marley decided to do the Pittsburgh show.

At the time no one suspected that this would be the last go round. A routine taping was done from the sound board but unfortunately the tape ran out before the show was completed and thus the last two numbers were mastered from an audience tape whose audio was inferior to the rest of the tape.

This was not intended to be an album. There were already the incandescent albums Live and Babylon By Bus, both of which were landmarks in the Marley recorded treasure trove. After his death two other live recordings were officially released: Live At The Roxy and the DVD Bob Marley Live at the Rainbow (1977). Additionally, there are umpteen performance bootlegs in circulation.

For Marley fans and hardcore collectors this set is a must mainly because the music has been re-mastered and it is the complete concert. An earlier Japanese issue is incomplete.

I rank this the least exciting of the official live recordings but it’s still Bob Marley and is thus  ipso facto,  a cut above most music of its era. These tracks are far less rootsy and rather than horns and organ, the piano parts feature electronic keyboards, which is not my taste. Caveats notwithstanding, most of us need this music.

Bob Marley Live Forever
01 “Greetings”
02 “Natural Mystic”
03 “Crazy Baldhead”
04 “War / No More Trouble”
05 “No Woman No Cry”
06 “Exodus”
07 “Redemption Song”
08 “Coming In From The Cold”
09 “Could You Be Loved”
10 “Get Up Stand Up”

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