So, you’ve played your beloved 1980s CD of Bob Marley’s Legend greatest hits to death. You even bought the deluxe expanded edition with a second CD of bonus tracks. And, fast forward to recent times when Legend was reissued on spiffy tri-colored vinyl, you bought that to play on your equally groovy 21st century turntable as you stepped up your sonic horizons and grew your LP collection. These are all good things.
Still, you want to get some more Bob Marley music in your life on vinyl but are still not ready to buy all the albums or really know where to start.
So, what do you do?
Well, Songs of Freedom may be your smartest choice as it has been newly reissued on vinyl for the first time in nearly… ever!
In 1992, this four CD set was released celebrating Bob Marley’s life in music which was both highly anticipated and acclaimed at the time. Songs of Freedom was a great collection which gave the listener that exact deeper dive into Marley’s catalog all curated and contained in one distinct listening experience. It included rare mixes, previously unreleased live in studio recordings, demos and much more.
Even if you were a deep Marley fan you needed to have that set.
But that was the CD era and as far as I know Songs of Freedom never came out on vinyl in the United States (there was an eight-LP set in the UK and Jamaica, I think). Universal Music is aiming to rectify that situation with a new six-LP box set effectively re-creating most of that collection. Subtitled “The Island Years” the album begins in the middle of what would have been the second CD in the original collection and takes you through Marley’s classic years.
While you get most of the hits, and a lot of the rarities, the real appeal here is the larger sound potential capable vs. standard compact disc (you can find the CD set commonly these days on the used market). It is great hearing these rare 12-inch single mixes in fuller fidelity than the old CDs!
I’ve gone back to listen to parts of my original CD copy of Songs of Freedom and it actually sounded really quite good. For example, comparing a track like the 12-inch mix of “Jammin’” the new LP delivers richer more natural, round sounding bass. When the song breaks down just to drums you can hear and feel more of the vibe and depth of the studio. The kick drum is more present on the vinyl version and the midranges are warmer, especially noticeable when you turn up the volume a bit….
The old CD set was originally issued as a limited edition book styled packaging – – mine is #237 in the numbered series! The new vinyl version of Songs of Freedom re-creates most of the original look and feel, including liner notes, in fresh new large format LP-sized design. On the box itself it says that original tape sources were use to create this new vinyl edition wherever possible.
So at this point some of you must be thinking: “Great! Now I can get rid of my CD boxed set!”
Not so fast!
The only problem with Songs of Freedom (at least on the surface) is that it omits the early material from Disc One and part of Disc Two in the original set. I’m not quite sure why they did this but hopefully that material will surface in some other collection down the line…
Honestly, it wasn’t that big a deal for me, especially since I do plan to keep my Songs of Freedom CD set. Perhaps my only disappointment with the new vinyl incarnation is that we don’t get the lovely acoustic medley which includes “Guava Jelly” but even omission I can almost understand because it was a raw recording, a demo likely made on a cassette or other portable recorder (click here to listen on YouTube). For that reason alone I will keep my CD box set.
This is a fun collection. And my only problem with a set like Songs of Freedom is that it makes me want to get more Bob Marley music on vinyl — and I already have most of the regular albums! There is so much out there to explore.
Songs of Freedom is the tip of the iceberg, ultimately…