Anyone who’s acquainted with the reggae star’s oeuvre is aware just how much of his material is available online. There are literally hundreds of albums, many of them re-releases and slight variations of the mainstream hits. Even after years of searching through Bob’s music it is still possible to be surprised by the discovery of a new track.
As someone who’s been a keen fan for over 20 years, I was surprised last year when I came across what strikes me as his most outstanding recording. It’s quite hidden away and, as far as I’m aware, not even commercially released, I’ve only seen MP3 downloads.
The session is called Uprising Rehearsal Tuff Gong, Kingston, Jamaica, 1980, (download) and it’s one of the last recordings he made before he passed. The tracks were cut in his home studio at 56 Hope Road in Kingston, apparently his favourite place to record, and his body was riddled with the disease that would soon claim his life. There are videos you can find from the same session on Youtube, also moving.
What’s characteristic about the recording is the sense of urgency and intensity in his voice. Bob is a warrior and it really comes across in this thrilling performance.
Be warned, the recording quality itself is terrible: it’s scratchy, the volume goes up and down, even the speed jitters as the master tapes must have been damaged. But that doesn’t detract from the impact of Bob’s vocals.
Related: Some excellent music journalism paying homage to Talkin’ Blues.