Everybody has the Marley comp called Legend, but for casual listeners that’s where it stops. So in 1995, Island tried to milk the cow a little more and offered this disc (subtly subtitled “The LEGEND Lives On”) as a kind of Part Two. Like its predecessor, Natural Mystic is neither deep nor wide, and focuses on Bob Marley The Cute Smiling Star Of Reggae rather than Bob Marley The Bandmember (the earliest song here dates from 1975) or Bob Marley The Radical (the toughest tracks here are Allen Cole and Carlton Barrett’s “War” and Rita Marley’s song “Crazy Baldhead”). Because it gives us the “soft” “nice” “spiritual” Marley, and because it ignores all the early Wailers stuff, and because it has the gall to offer two songs with “additional production,” I’m honor bound to say that it’s just not what it should be, and that I’m a little disgusted.
Now that I’ve said that, let me say this: DAMN these songs are good. They’re mostly album tracks, but DAMN, what album tracks! The title track is a slow sexy beast slouching towards Zion. “Sun Is Shining,” from Kaya, is one of your more dubbed-out non-dub tracks, with some angelic backing vocals and stinging guitar work. The massive live version of “Trenchtown Rock” could grow flowers in December. There’s nothing wrong with the gospelized “One Drop” or “So Much Trouble in the World,” nor with “Positive Vibration,” which has been added as the bonus track on this remastered re-issue.
Is this the “greatest album tracks” I would compile if it were up to me? No. Is it an amazing album for what it is? Yeah, I guess. You’re still better off owning all Marley and Wailers original albums… but if you’re strapped for cash and you need a fix, you could do a lot worse.
Bob Marley: http://www.bobmarley.com