I posted “Rock Stone,” the first single from Stephen Marley’s new album Revelation Part II: The Fruit of Life when it first hit the web. However, at the time I was so busy with other projects I did not have the chance to really listen and evaluate it. With all of the great reggae that’s been released so far this year, Stephen has a harder path to trod to the top. However, “Rock Stone” is an extraordinary track, which places him far ahead of the pack.
The track opens with Stephen chanting the words his father once sang in “Talkin’ Blues,” a reggae/rhythm and blues song from the Natty Dread LP. It is significant that Stephen chose these words from that song because it is that song in particular in which Bob speaks so eloquently about life on the rock. In “Talkin’ Blues,” Bob speaks directly from his heart without much reservation about living a life where surviving is not just about day to day subsistence but instead a daily struggle to overcome the ruthless politricks and overwhelming poverty on the rock.
Even the most respected, revered, rock and folk musicians from the Stones to Dylan did not live the life they described in song. Bob Marley lived the life of a poor man from birth through death , much of his wealth given away to Rastafari, charitable organizations, and to his bredren and sistren on the rock. So when he sang “Cold ground was my bed last night, and rock was my pillow too” he was being sincere. I remember interviewing Al Anderson of The Wailers about what it was like to go from 1974 London (where he was recording with Traffic at the time) to Bull Bay, Jamaica, which was where he joined Bob when he was asked to play guitar with the group.
“I lived it. I was there. I slept on the floor for a year until they released Natty Dread. I slept on Bull Bay Beach because there was no money.”
“Rock Stone” is a song built around this reality. Just like the lives lived by Bob and his people, the track is hard and it is fast and it is heavy. Just like life it is absolutely unpredictable – going from roots to ragga to EDM in less than 5 minutes. The lines chanted by Capleton and Sizzla (who just released the best album of his career) bring a toughness and edginess to the song, which distinguishes “Rock Stone” from the tracks included on Revelation Part I: The Root of Life.
In the end “Rock Stone,” with all of its modern sounds, edgy performances and brilliant production is somehow remarkably “Marley.”