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Bob Marley – Kaya 40

Rather unbelievably, 2018 marks the 40th anniversary of Kaya by Bob Marley. Dubbed (pun intended) as ‘a masterpiece’ in some quarters, it contains some of Marley’s most memorable tunes – including ‘Is This Love’, ‘Sun Is Shining’ and ‘Easy Skanking’.

This special anniversary edition sees the release of a brand new set of mixes from Marley’s son, Stephen, who has chosen to mix all ten original tracks. The release brings together the songs in their original form combined with the new set of mixes, spread across a choice of either two CDs or a limited-edition 2LP green vinyl version.

First impressions are excellent – Stephen Marley has clearly dug deep to ensure that the songs really jump out of the speakers. The overall clarity is excellent – if you didn’t have prior knowledge of the age of these recordings, you’d be hard pressed to guess that they were recorded in 1978. Take ‘Sun Is Shining’ – the vocals are projected right into the room, while the dub-style bass and drums are as tight as the space between two sheets of wallpaper.

Rather than simply taking the original album tapes and remixing them, Stephen Marley went several steps further; first pulling Bob’s vocals from demo versions of the songs from the original sessions (which were recorded at different tempos), he then synced these with alternate takes of the tracks which made the 1978 cut and finally layered these over different instrumental arrangements. It makes for a refreshing new perspective on the album; those who already know the album may well be surprised at how the small differences stack up.

‘Is This Love’ carries the spirit of a beautiful summer’s day – it’s almost impossible to hear it without imagining yourself wandering through the dance tent at Glastonbury Festival in the summertime. ‘Sun Is Shining’ features a gorgeous-sounding organ which really elevates the tune – but the guitar stabs from Alva ‘Reggie’ Lewis really help to add a lick of blues. Right across the album, Marley’s voice cuts right across the instrumentation.

‘She’s Gone’ contains a beautiful deep bassline and minimal guitar. I also love the female harmonies which balance really well with Marley’s voice. It’s also impossible to discuss ‘She’s Gone’ without mentioning the brilliant drum work of Aston “Family Man” Barrett. His work on the rhythm section really drives the tunes and creates the space which allows Marley’s vocals and melodies to shine. During ‘Misty Morning’, there are all sorts of drum fills going on in the space between the vocals; Barrett clearly understood Marley implicitly and knew how to ensure that the vocals were at the very forefront of the recording. The album closes with the beautiful ‘Time Will Tell’, a gentler track where the vocals sound almost-naked, free of any reverb effects, such that we’re hearing Marley as he maybe would want to be remembered. The track feels very personal and heartfelt and concludes the album nicely.

In summary, ‘Kaya 40’ is a lovely set of mixes which highlight just how good the album is – and may well find a new legion of fans as a result.

‘Kaya 40’ is released on August 24th.

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