The biggest-selling reggae album of all time. 15 million copies shifted in the US alone and more than 30 million worldwide. 500 weeks on the Billboard chart… You may wonder how many people are left on Planet Earth without a copy of this undeniably stellar greatest hits collection. 

The justification for the latest reissue is the 35th anniversary of its original release, in addition to Island Records’ 60th birthday celebrations. The most interesting point of note for a revisit that seemed of questionable necessity is the inclusion of two original songs that appeared as bonus tracks only on the UK cassette version of Legends: Easy Skanking and Punky Reggae Party.

The former, the opening track of 1978’s Kaya album is a loose carefree ganga-hazed lope. The latter, the B-side to the Jamming 12-inch, never appeared on a studio album. On it, Marley namechecks The Jam, The Clash and The Damned. Otherwise, the 2019 edition is a straight reissue of the 1984 original. You’d have to have had all of your emotions surgically removed to not appreciate the sheer elemental joy contained in these Jamaican hymns.

The criticisms of Legend as ignoring the importance of Marley’s early ska output and presenting a sanitised version of his catalogue, omitting his political commentary, won’t be challenged by this set, but that’s not the point.

It’s the ultimate primer to one of the most important musical figures of the 20th Century. To paraphrase Bob on Buffalo Solider, if you know your history, this reissue isn’t aimed at you. If you don’t own Legend already, don’t waste another second.

8/10

Gary Walker

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