24 August 2018
Special Anniversary edition of Bob Marley’s historic release. Louder Than War’s Paul Scott-Bates reviews.
There’s always something exciting about a new Bob Marley release, maybe because his family are usually behind it. There is an important, undisturbable legacy with Marley that is protected by his loved ones, nothing is released without their full support and involvement and, with someone as pivotal as Bob in the world of music, that is paramount. Kaya 40 is one such album.
Forty years since its original release, Kaya has been carefully and tenderly updated by son Stephen and the results, whilst sometimes subtle, are quite brilliant. The objective was to heavily use the original versions of the songs from demos and session recordings to create something as authentic as possible. Synching the vocals with alternative instrumental arrangements and mixing on the analog ideas from the 70s, he has produced a modern day version sympathetic to the original but with enough updating to make it sound fresh and bright.
Recorded with what was a new version of The Wailers including wife Rita and, Carlton and Aston Barrett the album was first released just before the legendary One Love Peace Concert in Kingston, Jamaica in June 1978 following his return from London exile after a failed assassination attempt in 1976. The album was recorded at the same time as songs which would appear on the classic Exodus album and contained new versions of Kaya and Sun Is Shining from 1971s Soul Revolution.
So, to the purist how does the album differ? The changes will be instantly recognisable – different vocals in place and an overall more modern, almost clinical feel. The tracks are sparser, less cluttered and you get the impression that maybe this version would have been more preferably to Bob. There are some absolutely exquisite dubs scattered throughout (check out Sun Is Shining) which often send goosebumps down the spine as they reverb away into the background. It’s easy, joyous and, to be frank sounds like a brand new recording – hats off to Stephen for such a great piece of affectionate work.
To the newcomer, Kaya 40 could very well open the doors to a world of Bob Marley and maybe even a wider glimpse of reggae in general. Kaya is an underrated album often overshadowed by Exodus and the obvious Legend, the compilation that lit up the world in 1984, but it deserves to be right up there. If you can’t feel the vibe and beauty of Is This Love then there is no hope for you and if Satisfy Your Soul doesn’t then it’s possible you don’t have one.
There is often a certain amount wariness to be appropriated with new or remixed versions of old albums but Kaya 40 is an exception to the rule. Bob Marley’s legacy continues and this release is something he would surely approve of.
All words by Paul Scott-Bates. More of Paul’s writing on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive. Paul’s website is hiapop Blog and you can follow him on Twitter here, and on Facebook here.