Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Wailers

  • Catch a Fire [Island, 1972] A
  • Burnin' [Island, 1974] A
  • The Never Ending Wailers [Tuff Gong, 1993] Neither

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Catch a Fire [Island, 1972]
In the mid-60s, when these Jamaicans were also known as the Rude Boys, they covered "What's New Pussycat"; now their anguished rhythms and harmonies suggest a rough spiritual analogue to the Rolling Stones, with social realism their welcome replacement for arty cynicism. At first I distrusted this nine-cut U.S. debut--it seemed laid back and stretched out in the worst album-as-art tradition. Now I notice not only that half these songs are worthy of St. John the Divine, but that the Barrett brothers' bass and drums save those that aren't from limbo. A

Burnin' [Island, 1974]
This is as perplexing as it is jubilant--sometimes gripping, sometimes slippery. It's reggae, obviously, but it's not mainstream reggae, certainly not rock or soul, maybe some kind of futuristic slow funk, War without the pseudo-jazz. What's inescapable is Bob Marley's ferocious gift for melodic propaganda. It's one thing to come up with four consecutive title hooks, another to make the titles "Get Up Stand Up," "Hallelujah Time," "I Shot the Sheriff," "Burnin' and Lootin'." A

The Never Ending Wailers [Tuff Gong, 1993] Neither