COLUMN: "Natty Dreads" is still a gem

If you attend the Lotus World Music and Arts Festival this weekend, now is the perfect time to listen to some international music to prepare. 

While there are no Jamaican bands at the Lotus Festival this year, the slow and soulful genre of reggae includes an abundance of great albums.  

“Natty Dread” is arguably one of the best reggae albums ever made. It fantastically showcases the legendary talents of Bob Marley. When this album was recorded in 1974, Marley was famous enough that his group was credited as Bob Marley and the Wailers, not just the Wailers.

Marley’s voice is beautifully versatile on this album. He has a great levity that makes the serious socio-political messages of “Revolution” and “Them Belly Full (But We Hungry)” more accessible. In addition to his voice, Marley expertly plays rhythm guitar on this album. 

Several of the songs on “Natty Dread” deal with Rastafarianism, a young, Africa-centered religion that began in Jamaica. Some examples include “So Jah Seh" and “Lively Up Yourself.” Marley sings as entrancingly about his religion as he does about any subject. 

In addition to Marley's excellent voice, the album also showcases the talents of the I-Threes, an all-woman trio. The trio ably assists Marley throughout the album with its backup vocals, and one of the members is his wife, Rita Marley. 

But what makes this album so great is the instrumental music. Aston Barrett plays some excellent bass guitar riffs and Carlton Barrett’s drum and various percussion sections provide solid rhythmic foundations for every song. Additionally, the horn sections on “Revolution” are jaunty and funky in a laid-back way. 

One of the best songs on this album is the titular one. Marley sings with relaxed passion as he sings about Natty Dread, an idealized member of the Rastafarian religion. The voices of the I-Threes add some nice energy, and the horn sections are spectacular. It’s a fantastic song that represents the laid-back energy and well-played music that makes reggae so excellent. 

"Oh, Natty, Natty/Natty 21, 000 miles away from home, yeah," Marley sings on the track. 

You can hear music from many different countries during the Lotus World Music and Arts Festival, but if you can't attend and want to expand your musical horizons further, then you should check out “Natty Dread.” It remains a fantastic introduction to reggae and Marley’s one-of-a-kind voice.  

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