Although there are those who feel that Bob Marley's pre-Island Records output, particularly his work with producer and auteur Lee "Scratch" Perry
in 1970 and 1971, is the way to go, the material Marley recorded for Island from 1972 until his death in 1981 is still what most listeners are familiar with and it undeniably informs the public perception of his legacy. Smoothed out and polished, westernized with lead guitars and other commercial touches, the Island material was both slightly less Jamaican and more rock oriented than Marley's earlier efforts, and there is no doubt that these subtle refinements were instrumental in breaking him in the U.S. and elsewhere, leading to his international reputation, where he is revered as a cultural icon. Marley truly deserved his success, though, since aside from being a brilliant songwriter and charismatic live performer, he also clearly understood the business side of things, and few musicians have better mixed politics, religion, fun and hard-eyed bottom line business sense into one complete package of partying and public responsibility. This generous two-disc, 34-track anthology lifts a song or two from each of Marley's 11 Island LPs, and while one could quibble about some omissions (why no "Three Little Birds," for instance?), it really does a remarkable job of charting the fast, ascending arc (Marley essentially released a little over an album a year during his Island period) that led to his international stardom. The essentials are here, from "I Shot the Sheriff," "Concrete Jungle," "Rebel Music," and "No Woman No Cry," to later gems like "Exodus," the beautiful "So Much Trouble in the World," and the posthumously released "Buffalo Soldier." Longer and with more tracks than Legend
(even in its deluxe edition), Gold
is ideal for listeners who want the cream of the Island years in one package.