Bunny Wailer
May 11 - 2003

Track list
  1. Roots, Radics, Rockers, Reggae
  2. Rock and Groove
  3. Love Fire
  4. Soul Rebel
  5. Want to Come Home
  6. Ballroom Floor
  7. Rise and Shine
  8. Cool Runnings
  9. Rockers
  10. Liberation
  11. Time Will Tell
  12. Warrior
  13. Dance Hall Music
  14. Dog War
  15. Conscious Lyrics
  16. Redemption Song
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)
Vocals : 4/5 Backing : 5 Production : 5 Sound quality : 4 Sleeve : 4/5
Bunny Wailer is one of the founding members of the Wailers, and the trio's only surviving member. Born Neville O'Riley Livingston on April 10, 1947, in Kingston, Jamaica, the young Livingston actually spent his earliest years in the village of Nine Miles in St. Ann's. It was there that he first met Bob Marley, and the two toddlers became fast friends. In 1952 their families relocated to Kingston. There they met up with another pair of equally keen youngsters, Peter Tosh and Junior Braithwaite. Initially, Marley intended on a solo career, but his hopes were dashed by a failed audition for producer Leslie Kong. The upshot was the four boys now joined forces, along with backing singers Cherry Green and Beverly Kelso, as the Teenagers. The band's name would change several times before they finally settled on the Wailers.
After a successful audition for Coxsone Dodd, their career took off immediately with their first single, the classic "Simmer Down." Early on, all four of the boys contributed songs to the group, which enabled the Wailers to continue without Marley after he left Jamaica in 1966, to seek work for a time in the U.S. Over time, however, Livingston's songwriting contributions to the group had lessened, although when he did turn his hand to composing, the results were never less than scintillating. Marley, of course, was more than happy to pick up the slack. By 1973, the Wailers were untouchable, the biggest reggae band in Jamaica, and on the verge of an international breakthrough. The first leg was a three month jaunt across the U.K., followed by an outing to the U.S. Livingston would never make that second leg, he barely made it through the first. Tensions were rising within the Wailers, a situation exasperated by the tour. Livingston had enough, and upon the group's return to Jamaica, he announced that he would not accompany the band to the U.S.
He now began pursuing a solo career. He launched his own label, Solomonic, with his debut solo single "Searching For Love," in 1973. The next year saw four more join it, "Trod On," "Lifeline," "Arabs Oil Weapon" (which was actually released credited to the Wailers), and "Pass It On" (an alternate version to the one found on the Wailers' "Burning" album). In 1976, these releases were finally joined by Livingston's first solo album, the phenomenal "Blackheart Man". The singer was accompanied by Tosh and the Barrett brothers -- the Wailers' own riddim section, as well as Marley who joins in on a new version of the Wailers old number "Dreamland." The albums "Protest" and "Struggle" proved quick follow-ups over the next two years.
Remaining in Jamaica, Livingston's profile would be forever overshadowed by his globe-trotting former bandmates. 1980's "In I Father's House", did nothing to change this situation, nor did the singles which had appeared across this period. "Bright Soul," "Rise And Shine", and "Free Jah Children," amongst others, all barely registered outside the Island. This same year, Livingston recorded "Bunny Wailer Sings The Wailers", a tribute to his former group, lovingly revisiting his own favorites, accompanied by the Sly & Robbie led Roots Radics. By the time the album was released later in 1980, Marley's cancer had been diagnosed, the following spring he was gone. If that album had been a tribute to the band, the next was meant to honor his late friend. "Tribute To The Hon Nesta Marley" was drawn from the same sessions as had produced "Bunny Wailer Sings..", and again was determined to help keep the Wailers' legacy alive. Of course, in the end there was no need for Livingston to fear, since Marley's death, shelves have been warped under the weight of Wailers' reissues, but in the early '80s, it's understandable that Livingston was concerned that the group's music might have disappeared forever into the archives. However, the singer wasn't content to merely look to the past, and his second release for 1981, "Rock 'N' Groove", turned to the dancehalls for inspiration. Unfortunately, Livingston hadn't quite come to the grips with the new riddims flooding from their, while sadly, 1982's "Hook Line & Sinker" didn't make a much better impression. In 1985, the entrancing "Roots Radics Rockers Reggae" released, with the band now gaining equal billing to the singer. This same year, Livingston inked a distribution deal with the U.S. label Shanachie, which was inaugurated with the "Marketplace" album.
Although not always successful, the singer was never tempted to wallow in the past, and has consistently given a sympathetic ear to the latest innovations in production and riddims. Then, in 1986, Livingston broke with past tradition entirely, and finally undertook his first tour outside of Jamaica since the debacle with the Wailers back in 1973. He returned to an older sound for 1989's "Liberation", eschewing the dancehall flavors for a return to a rootsier past. 1991 brought the "Gumption" album, another covers' set, but this time from a variety of artists, including Toots Hibbert and Johnny Clarke. The following year brought "Dance Massive", a dancehall album, where the taut riddims virtually overwhelm the songs. "Just Be Nice" followed hot on its heels in 1993. It was another two years before a new album arrived. "Hall of Fame: A Tribute to Bob Marley's 50th Anniversary" was a double album, featuring 52 songs, all loving recreations of Marley's Wailers' and solo compositions. Accompanied by a phenomenal aggregation of Jamaican sessionmen, the set would garner the singer another well deserved Grammy.
The compilation set "Retrospective" collects a bunch of classic tracks from this legendary artist. Probably most of the songs included are well known and highly appreciated by many reggae fans. Favorite highlights here are the magnificent hymn Love Fire, the dancehall songs Cool Runnings and Rock 'N' Groove and Bunny's overwhelming versions of Bob's Redemption Song and Time Will Tell. It's too bad they have not included the showcase versions of Cool Runnings and Rock 'N' Groove, but the single versions. There's also Rockers a heavy, near instrumental track peppered with dub effects. The tunes Want To Come Home,/i> and Rise And Shine balance sobering details of oppression with cries for freedom and unity.
Besides Bunny Wailer's excellent vocal delivery there are also outstanding contributions from guitarist Earl "Chinna" Smith, bass players Aston "Family Man" Barrett and Robbie Shakespeare, drummers Carlton Barrett, Sly Dunbar and Leroy "Horsemouth" Wallace, trumpeter Bobby Ellis, saxofonists Tommy McCook, Dean Fraser and Dirty Harry, keyboard players Tyrone Downie, Winston Wright and Keith Sterling and percussionist "Sticky" Thompson.
The set is a fine overview of his best works from the late 70's to the early 90's.