Friday, October 14, 2005

A review of Damian Marley's "Welcome to Jamrock"

It can't be easy to distinguish yourself in a family full of musical visionaries, but Bob Marley's youngest, Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley, sure is giving it a good try. After winning the Grammy for 2002's Halfway Tree, and after penning one of the most explosive reggae hits of the summer, the menacing anti-violence anthem "Welcome to Jamrock," Marley returns with an album that lives up to the single's promise.

The album erupts right off the bat with "Confrontation," which builds from spoken word dialog by Bunny Wailer (along with recordings from Haile Selassie and Marcus Garvey) into a pounding indictment of war in general, and the war in Iraq in particular. Other stand outs include "Pimpa's Paradise" (with Black Thought and Stephen Marley), a cautionary tale about a casualty of hip-hop's bump-and-grind video culture; "All Night," in which Marley sings about trying to keep up with his insatiable lady over a loping Skatalites sample; and "For the Babies," an Asian-influenced anti-abortion song that takes men to task for abandoning their pregnant girlfriends.

Marley gets quite a bit of help from friends and relatives, including his late father, on several of the tracks. Bunny Wailer, Nas, Black Thought, Bounty Killer, Eek-A-Mouse and even Bobby Brown put in appearances. Marley's brother, Stephen, co-wrote and performs on many of the songs. And at least two songs include "interpolations" or samples of work by Bob Marley himself. But while Marley isn't shy about celebrating (or cribbing from) his father's legacy, the end product is his alone.

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