Reggae’s greatest ambassador, a Jamaican national hero and one of the biggest icons of the 20th century, would have been 70 this year and as part of the year-long celebrations to commemorate this fact, Easy Skanking in Boston ’78 was released fresh from the vaults earlier this month, the first in a series of new releases set for 2015.
Recorded over two shows at Boston’s Music Hall on June 8th 1978, these performances are now available for the very first time as a Blu-ray/CD pack, a DVD/CD pack and as a lone 13-track CD. To add to the ‘rawness’ of the experience, the video footage was shot with a handheld camera by a fan who, amazingly, had been granted permission from Bob himself to sit in front of the stage.
“Slave Driver” kicks things off brilliantly and it’s a delight to hear the appreciative cheers coming from the members of the audience (one imagines the venue was packed to the rafters). Bob, a member of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, totally dominates the proceedings, impressively leading from the front as only he knew how.
His legendary backing band, The Wailers, featuring such talented and widely-acclaimed musicians as Aston and Carlton Barrett, Tyrone Downie, Junior Marvin, the I-Three and Alvin “Seeco” Patterson are also as tight as ever.
Track two, “Burnin’ & Lootin’” slows the pace down a little and is wonderfully infectious in its groove – the biting social commentary adding to the powerful overall effect. This overtly rebellious stance, common in much of the artist’s work, comes out strongly again on “Rebel Music.” Interestingly, the fourth track, “The Heathen,” wasn’t played during the second set…
The more well-known songs come thick and fast on the second half of the CD. Beginning with track six, the mesmerising “I Shot the Sheriff,” the audience is treated to hit after hit from the multiple award-winner’s stunning catalogue of reggae classics.
Other highlights include a spine-tinglingly beautiful rendition of “No Woman No Cry,” a laid-back “Easy Skanking,” the always outstanding “Jamming” (with its extended instrumental break in the middle) and the uplifting”Get Up Stand Up,” probably, judging by the noise of the crowd, the most well-received of all the tracks here.
The energy and enthusiasm displayed on this album from band and fans alike – proof that a truly special event took place one summer’s day in Boston all those years ago – showcases reggae’s most enduringly popular act at the very top of their game, a mere four years before cancer eventually claimed Bob Marley’s life on May 11th 1981.
As mentioned earlier, more albums of previously unreleased and unheard material are set to finally see the light of day this year. Let’s hope they’re all as good as this.
Bob Marley and the Wailers – Easy Skanking in Boston ’78 is available now.
For more information, visit Bob Marley’s official website.