Bob Marley: Uprising Live! 115 mins. $24.98 1DVD/2CD $14.98 DVD Eagle Rock Entertainment
By the time he and his band were filmed for this German concert on July 13, 1980 for the legendary "Rockpalast" TV show, Bob Marley was at the peak of his powers.
The first "Third World Superstar" had already been a well-known performer for 15 years in his native Jamaica and six in the wider world, had written hits for other performers (notably Eric Clapton's "I Shot the Sheriff"), and amassed a catalogue of his own incredible material.
He had also just released Uprising, the record which most directly addressed his Rastafarian beliefs. And was ready to take reggae music - and its message of peace, politics, preservation, power struggle, and potent pot - to the next level.
Unfortunately, it was to be his last studio effort.
Bob Marley would die less than a year later from cancer at the age of 36, one of music's greatest losses. But thankfully, this vibrant, generous, and powerful show has been rescued from the vaults just in time for what will be a year-long celebration of what would have been Marley's 70th birthday in February.
The show opens with a mini-set by female backing vocalists the I-Threes (Judy Mowatt, Marcia Griffiths, and wife Rita Marley) with highlights "Slave Queen" and "Stepping Out of Babylon."
Then, the "Marley Chant" brings the man himself to stage. Interestingly, he chooses to begin not with wham-bam rocking reggae anthems, but languid, mellower material like "Natural Mystic" and "Positive Vibration."
Show highlights include a frenetic "Jamming," Uprising deep track "We Can Make it Work" (credited on the record as just "Work"), and warhorses "War/No More Trouble" and "Get Up, Stand Up." Ballads "No Woman, No Cry" and Uprising cut "Redemption Song" (which would take on a plaintive coda after Marley's death) also stand out.
Throughout, Marley is a whirlwind of energy, swaying back and forth as his super-long dreads whip around, singing with eyes-closed passion, and dancing in his knees-pumping soccer-playing style. And with charisma to burn.
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The incarnation of the Wailers here are also a unit tighter than any of Marley's beloved joints. Anchored by rhythm section Aston "Family Man" Barrett (drums) and brother Carlton "Carlie" Barrett (bass), it also includes Junior Marvin and Al Anderson on guitars, and Alvin "Seeco" Patterson on percussion.
Holding down the squatting electronic beats and reggae rhythms (though sometimes too repetitive) are the peerless Tyrone Downie and Earl "Wire" Lindo.
And while sometimes the sound, video, and camera angles reflect the more primitive (but then-standard) look of concert videos from the era, it's been restored with the input of Marley children Cedella and Ziggy.
Another choice, rare find from Eagle Rock that will delight fans and certainly burnish the already highly-burnished legacy of Bob Marley.