January 22, 2022

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Review: ‘Bob Marley And The Wailers: The Capitol Session ‘73’

Bob Marley And The Wailers: The Capitol Session ‘73 album cover

Bob Marley and The Wailers

By Mike O’Cull

Reggae giant and cultural icon Bob Marley lives again thanks to the amazing new audio and video release Bob Marley And The Wailers: The Capitol Session ‘73. The set is out now via Tuff Gong and Mercury Studios and presents fans with Marley’s famous, thought-to-be-lost studio performance at The Capitol Records Tower on October 24th, 1973. It wasn’t even a gig but a special closed-door taping without an audience captured by producer Denny Cordell, who filmed the band with four cameras and mixed on the fly directly to tape.

The footage was thought to be lost to the chaos of time until a few frames were unearthed by a freelance Marley researcher. Fragments of it were found and compiled over the next 20 years until the complete session was assembled, restored, and remastered. Now, we get an intimate, up-close look and listen to Marley and his pioneering group at the peak of their powers that most thought would never come to light. It’s available on DVD+CD, standalone CD, 2LPs pressed on green marble vinyl, 2LPs pressed on Rasta swirl vinyl (red, yellow and green), and all digital formats.

This taping happened at an important moment in Marley’s career trajectory, when he and The Wailers were getting significant traction in the US market after a decade together and having hits during the ska and rocksteady periods. They had played some NYC shows with Bruce Springsteen and gone on the road with Sly and the Family Stone. Unfortunately, The Wailers had just been unexpectedly dropped from the Sly Stone tour for reasons unknown. This left the lineup of Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Joe Higgs, Aston Barrett, Carlton Barrett, and Earl “Wya” Lindo available to play this session in California and put down 12 crucial cuts for the cameras.

The Capitol performance perfectly captures the casual genius, powerful minimalistic grooves, and the fearless socio-political commentary of Marley and his group at their best. They took inspiration from the US Civil Rights movement, various African liberation efforts, and Rastafarian beliefs and turned that inspiration into songs about life, liberty, and social justice that mirrored the struggles and sentiments of their times. From the first notes of the opener “You Can’t Blame The Youth,” the band uses their music to preach, teach, and implore listeners to face the truth as they see it. The soft, floating reggae pocket gives support to ideas about gun violence, politics, and historical figures like Christopher Columbus that are still relevant and still being discussed today.

The rest of the set list contains many of Marley’s best-known songs from that era and two that are destined to live forever. “Rastaman Chant” is chill and hypnotic, letting its groove come together among the players organically in front of the cameras. “Duppy Conqueror” begins without vocals and listening to these rhythmic masters work together so simply and easily is as educational as it is humbling. “Stop That Train” is reflective and spiritual and speaks on the common desire to move on to a better life. “Kinky Reggae” also makes an appearance and takes listeners to groove school once again before Marley’s soaring vocals kick in. Everyone involved digs deeply into the beat and into themselves in a mighty way that generates heat without resorting to excessive speed or volume.

The back end of the set features legendary Marley songs “Stir It Up” and the closing track “Get Up Stand Up.” You can feel the band surge with joy on “Stir It Up” and take it to a higher, more energetic place than the studio version we’re used to hearing. “Get Up Stand Up” is Marley at his minor key heaviest and delivers us a sermon about the importance of human life in the present day here on Earth. His unflinching lyrics have already brought this message to millions of people and this kinetic version will certainly do its part to keep it going. Bob Marley And The Wailers: The Capitol Session ‘73 is a full-on flow state just waiting for the world to experience it and clearly demonstrates why Marley will always matter. Lively up yourself and listen.

Watch “Stir It Up”

‘Bob Marley And The Wailers: The Capitol Session ‘73’ order link here

Bob Marley website 


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