Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Bob Marley & the Wailers: Natty Dread [Island, 1975]
You'd figure the loss of vocal and songwriting input from Peter Tosh and Bunny Livingston would be crippling, and reggae melodies being what they are that's the way I heard it at first. But the I-Threes pitch in like comrades rather than backup (can the Blackberries or the Sweet Inspirations claim the same?), and while the material has thinned out slightly I'm sure there are guys in Kingston who would kill for Marley's rejects. "No Woman, No Cry," a masterpiece on the order of "Trench Town Rock" or "I Shot the Sheriff," encourages him to bend and burr his sharp timbre until it's lyrical and incisive both at once. Lyrical and incisive--that's the combo. A