Ziggy Marley is a bit of an unknown quantity to me, his father Bob Marley is of course legendary as much for his music as his lifestyle, and of late it is has been Damian “Jnr Gong” Marley proving beyond all doubt that musical talent is in fact genetic. But Ziggy’s musical imprint on my brain has been, thus far, negligent.
Love is My Religion is the eldest member of the Marley dynasty’s second solo album of a career spanning almost three decades, and it opens with what could be seen as a stereotypical calypso beat. With an eclectic blend of Caribbean and African styles there is a definite air of maturity and wisdom evoked through the lyrics of a free spirit.
The title track follows as much the same, without sounding samey. In a climate of theological debate it is an interesting and more positive philosophical outlook, although “I don’t want to fight/ Hey let’s go fly a kite” are amongst some of the more questionable lyrics to be found.
The simplicity of the words becomes increasingly endearing throughout, particularly in Friend, which holds no surprises in an ode to friendship without the pomp and pretensions of complicated riffs and extensive post-production. Black Cat explodes into a skanker’s utopia with its uncomplicated ska rhythm before Beach in Hawaii restores the chilled out level.
It certainly doesn’t have the upbeat feel of the openers but what it lacks in positivism it makes up for in an accessible and not at all soppy love song, yet it’s also a first peek into what feels like the real Ziggy Marley. It leads perfectly to A Lifetime and its powerful tale of a journey into self-realisation: “I may be different than you, criticised for what I do/ I chose to explore the truth, the truth of me.” And it doesn’t feel like an empty sentiment.
Keep on Dreaming continues Marley’s insightful openness with hints of innovation and experimentation. Bass guitars and synthesisers are used to create a murky atmosphere before transferring into a calypso vibe, and back again. The security blanket of Marley’s roots remain in every track but there is no fear of stepping outside the box.
Still the Storms contains what could have been the lyrics to Kanye West‘s Diamonds From Sierra Leone had he not been a multi-million selling artist. Where an artist isn’t subject to media-scaremongering and nanny-state politicians there is a license to tell a story, without fear of alienating key demographics. For an artist like Ziggy Marley, the people who want to listen will find his music. That is as much a benefit as it is a downfall, as there will be many people who would thoroughly enjoy this album, but they’ll maybe never consider picking it up.