How do you improve a masterpiece? For Stephen “Ragga” Marley the idea was simple, To improve Bob Marley’s Kaya for the 40th anniversary of its release it needed a new mix, one that captured both the vibrance and urgency of the original recording. To that end, “Ragga’s” updated version comes in three 40th anniversary remix versions, including 2-CD and 2-LP vinyl versions featuring the original and updated version.
Mixing Kaya 40, Stephen Marley’s goal was get close to the original versions, despite an array of problems. He used Bob’s demo vocals created during the original Kaya sessions, often recorded at different tempos, then syncing them over different instrumental arrangements. In mixing the album he took a minimalist approach, basing the mix on classic analog concepts.
Recorded in London concurrently with Exodus, Kaya came out during a time of turmoil. Marley had fled Jamaica in the aftermath of assassination attempt December 3rd, 1976. During his time in London he formed a new version of The Wailers, borthers Carlton and Aston “Family Man” Barrett on drums and bass, Tyrone Downie at the keys, Alvin “Seeco” Patterson, “Junior” Marvin on guitar, and the I Threes – Judy Mowatt, Marcia Griffiths, And Rita Marley on backing vocals.
The results are often stunning. There’s a pleasing thud to the bass, the brass is full of sass, and the I Threes vocals are crisp and clear. At the heart of it all is Marley’s voice, bringing these tracks to life with joy and warmth for all to hear. The true achievement is making what was old sound new and fresh, sounding for all the world like a man eager to return to his homeland, which he did later that year, appearing at the One Love Peace Concert in Kingston on April 22nd, 1978.
Songs like Is This Love, Easy Skanking, and Sun Is Shining are considered some of Marley’s most heartfelt. With this reissue of Kaya 40, yet another generation gets to enjoy the endearing qualities that made Marley’s death just three years later, in 1981 so tragic. Fortunately the legacy lives on.
Words: Bob Fish