"Graduating thieves and murders...
Sucking the blood of the sufferers..."
---- "Babylon System"
It's a struggle. And, I don't mean the overriding theme of this album, either. Choosing the best albums in this early stage is similar to the argument of greatest rock recordings: Beatles or Stones. Bob's got 10. Steel Pulse has got 5 and before we get to the end of the top 20 we have to include at one from Burning Spear, Black Uhuru and UB40.
The 6th greatest reggae album is SURVIVAL (1979), the first album of his thematic apocalyptic trilogy. What distinguishes this album is, not only is it an underrated but it continues to carry (and might I say, mightily and courageously) the message of personal liberation he began when he created EXODUS.
Barely a couple of years after he returned from exile from The Bahamas and England from an assassin's bullet, Marley proclaimed to the highest powers at home in Jamaica as well as repressive governments around the world the singular message of Hope that would undermine and topple them.
In EXODUS, like the Hebrew prophet of long days gone by, Marley proclaimed to the modern-day pharaohs that there's a "Natural Mystic" blowing through the air and that the "Exodus" was at-hand, a movement of Jah's people. At the same time, blowing the ram's horn, he chanted to all oppressed, all over-worked/ underpaid, discriminated, humiliated and distressed that we'd be "Jammin'" in the name of the Lord and we'd better "Get Ready."
***** ****** ******
"Every man got a right to decide his own destiny/
And in this judgment, there is no partiality/
So arm in arm with arms we'll fight this little struggle/
Cause that the only we can overcome our little trouble..."
In SURVIVAL, the message of liberation is more descriptively defined. "We are the children of the Rastaman/ We are the children of the Higher Man." In "Africa Unite," and "Zimbabwe," Marley directly pointed to the broad and specific autocratic regimes in the Motherland.
Speaking about Zimbabwe, it's been long chronicled that Marley supported the newly minted government of Robert Mugabe. Promises of democracy, promises of individual liberty and communal responsibility for the building of a new nation. Colonial South Rhodesia, now The Republic of Zimbabwe. New nation, new flag, new name. Would Marley sing the praises of this nation's leadership today?
But Marley also poignantly pointed to the mechanics of oppression, namely, among other things, the educational system. In Babylon System, he sings:
"The Babylon system is The Vampire...
Building Church and University/
Deceiving the people continually/
Graduating thieves and murders/
Sucking the blood of the sufferers."
This album is also unique in that this is the only album where there are no ballads, slow or mid-tempo, of any kind. The message is poignant and served up without a hint of hesitation or feebleness.
SURVIVAL. The first album in Marley's apocalyptic trilogy and the 6th greatest reggae album of all time.
on December 14, 2002
This is one of the very best of Bob Marley and The Wailers' (the first two were originally released under the group name The Wailers) original 11 Island-era albums. Definitely. (Survival and Exodus are probably the two best.) I own all of these albums on CD and vinyl, and my Marley collection in general is very, very extensive. It is so good that if I had to suggest three releases which include material released during the Island Era, they would be Songs of Freedom (the 4-CD career retrospective box set), Legend, and SURVIVAL. It is so good that seven of the songs from this album are on Songs of Freedom, (for one of them they put the 12" mix instead of the original), and there is an additional dub version of one of these songs on the SOF box set. It is such a good album, that if you consider yourself a fan of Island-era Marley, I guarantee that if you do not have this album already and you buy it, you will like it. "Zimbabwe," "Babylon System," "Africa Unite," "One Drop," "Ride Natty Ride," and "Ambush in the Night" are unstoppably awesome songs!! Just as "No Woman, No Cry [Lyceum, 1975]" is Marley's best LIVE recording, "Africa Unite" is arguably Marley's best Island-era STUDIO recording. It's very beautiful and deep. "Zimbabwe" may be the most important song Marley ever recorded. READ THE WORDS from the liner notes AS YOU LISTEN TO THE SONG! BM&tW were invited to play at the celebration of the opening of the independent country of Zimbabwe in 1980(, at which the people knew the words to this song better than the words of their own new national anthem)! What an honor! They were the only non-African-based musical group that played for the celebration. I have heard SO MANY Marley songs, and this is my favorite Bob Marley song! "Babylon System" is also beautiful and deep, including one unforgettable line which you will discover upon hearing it. "One Drop" is almost unbelievably beautiful. You will melt when you hear it. "Ambush" did not make it onto SOF, but is beautiful and deep. Then you have "So Much Trouble in the World," and "Survival," which have great lyrics, So Much is also quite rhythmic. "Top Rankin" also has great lyrics. Even the arguably weakest song on the album, "Wake Up and Live," has great lyrics.
"Africa Unite-Ambush" could be a candidate for the best four songs in a row on any original album, of all time. I own about 32 or 33 copies of SURVIVAL on vinyl, including all four original colored vinyl editions pressed only in Jamaica in 1979 [according to Catch a Fire biography]. By the way, if you own the SOF boxset, that contains the "bonus track," the 12" mix of Ride Natty Ride, which was put on the remastered version of SURVIVAL, so you would only need to get the old 10-track TUFF GONG version of SURVIVAL (although it is currently becoming increasingly difficult to get a still-sealed copy of the ten-track version of the CD). The 12" mix is a bit more rhythmic, as might be expected of a 12" mix supposedly intended for the dancefloor, but the original version is already a great song that needed no help.
on October 23, 2002
In the interest of full disclosure, I admit to being a Jamiacan music fanatic, love everything from Mento to hardcore Dancehall.
And this is not my very favorite Bob album (thats reserved for Catch a Fire - you know what they say: you never forget your first)BUT: Survival is an absolute brilliant piece of music-making. From the clarion call of the opening track to "Wake up and Live, ya'll - wake up and live...." to the repeated admonition to "tell the children the truth" in Babylon System, the lyrics on this album are Bob at his very best: passionate, angry, caring, concerned, moving, persuasive, original: with an almost Biblical authority and a heartfelt authenticity that makes you feel as if Bob is speaking directly to YOU, straight outta Yard. Marley's ability to truly connect through these lyrics with everyone (from subarban white Americans to Moari tribespeople and everyone in between) while remaining true to himself and his heritage as a jamaican and member of the african diaspora is on bravura display throughout. For example: 'they bribe us with their guns, spare parts and money... and if you want to get some food, your brother's got to be your enemy..." A more succint and pointed description and indictment of superpower "realpolitik" foriegn policies would be harder to imagine.
And that's just the lyrics. The riddims between Bob, Carly and Familyman on this collection are SO hard, SO right & tight, SO in the pocket, it's hard to describe without simply throwing superlatives at it in a lame attempt to put into words what must be heard to be understood. The album makes extensive yet tasteful use of additional percussion (i.e. the african agogo bells in Ride Natty Ride) throughout, musically reflecting and enhancing the albums' lyrical focus on afrocentric concerns.
The saxaphone is also very heavily used, and it comes off great: I don't know who the soloist is, but he makes that horn growl and wail like a slave under the whip.
Another high point of the collection is the general songwriting. The melodies and structures of the songs reflect Bob's place as one of THE PREMIER pop songwriters ever - up there in Lennon/McCartney, Leiber/Stoller, Goffin/King, Rogers/Hart, territory - he drops out the 3-4 minute gem as naturally as breathing. Ever notice how Bob had distinct verse, chorus AND bridge sections in his mature output...? And still maintains the intergrity of the reggae form.
This album is worth repeated listening for Bob fans, reggae fans, pop music fans, and any lover of music with open ears. If anyone ever argues against Bob's place in music (i.e. he ONLY did reggae, his songs are simple, reggae is all the same, his lyrics stink, he was too "pop", he wasn't "pop" enough, etc), throw this on, adjust the bass up a notch or two and CRANK it.
If they don't change their mind, then they don't know anything about music...
on October 13, 2001
Bob Marley's music is strange. All of his songs are written in the context of his unusual and idiosyncratic Rastafarian ideology. The songs continually refer to concepts which it is a struggle to understand. Babylon system- the slave system which has created the inferiority of the black people outside Africa. His majesty-The Ethiopian Emperor Haille Sailasse who was thought to have divine power. Crazy Baldheads-Western oppressors.
This of course is another political CD. Songs cry for the liberation of Zimbabwe, a battle since one, the unification of Africa, a battle that will never be won and so on.
The degree of politicization of each song is incredible for one used to western music. Never the less despite the irrelevance of the music to the Western Political scene, and the passing into history of a lot of the issues raised in the songs the CD remains a classic. Songs such as Zimbabwe raise the passions of the liberation of that country. So much trouble in the world outlines the sufferings of the third world. A classic CD, this release is in a new digital format with superior sound than the original recording.
on April 20, 2004
While it is true that Bob Marley was not the FIRST Reggae singer, he was certainly the most famous.
This unique reggae beat, with the pulsations of black nationalism, was released in 1979, and has since make it's mark in the world of music. It starts with the hearty lamentation of "So Much Trouble in the World" and is followed by "Zimbabwe" which was a song of inspiration for Zimbabwe's guerrillas fighting for Black majority rule in that country during the Rhodesian War/ War of Independence. Marley performed at Zimbabwe's independence celebrations of 18 April 1980. He did not know that the performance on the first day would be reserved for the special guests of the new elite. When the masses tried to attend the concert they where tear-gassed and hounded out the stadium by Mugabe' s militia.
Marley responded by singing "War". The next day his performance was subdued as he was already disillusioned by the behaviour of the new Mugabe regime.
Today the song 'Zimbabwe' is sung as an anthem of Zimbabwe's pro-democracy movement as are other Marley hits like ' Get Up, Stand Up"
It is clear that Marley would not have approved of the genocidal dictatorship that Mugabe built up, in the last 24 years, any more than he did the white minority government of Ian Smith.
There is the angry condemnation of the 'Babylon System' and the Black Nationalist anthem " Survival" with the lyrics " Were the survivors! The Black survivors!"
This was one of my first albums so the heady beat of this album holds great memories for me.
"Africa Unite" is another is an ode to Marley's idealistic dreams of Pan African unity. And ' One Drop' is spiritual rendition of the longing for a true spiritual Rastafarian quest for authentic ideas of Haile Sellasie (the Christ of Rastafari) and Marcus Garvey.
" Give us the teachings of his majesty. We don't want no devil's philosophy"
You can always put your own interpretations and feelings into these songs , and my own conception of the sentence sung above may be different to that of most Marley devotees.
But then that only go's to show the genius of Bob Marley, doesn't it?
on March 5, 2004
first off, let us get this straight, there are some differing orders of songs, with different releases, interesting; but it doesn't affect each individual song; but....
"Wake up and Live ya", as another eloquently noted, is the opening of this album ("opening clarion call"). It sets a tempo for this album, could be very good for the ending too, as this edition we look at has it finishing up the order (before the bonus track). "Coming in from the cold", plays a similar role on "Uprising", somehow, a similar message; refrains.
Difficult to rank these songs, you have my maybe two favorites then most everything is tied for third; in order of my favorites, because most every song is excellent excepting the likes of say, "so much trouble in the world" or "natty dread rides again (ride natty ride)", some may find these songs very likeable, but they miss for me. The latter seeming overdone in concept.
One drop, I know Bob's music fairly extensively, this is in my 10 top favorite songs, if not in the top 5.
Africa Unite , the instruments and Bob's melodic vocal contributions (not words, the "la-la" rhythms) make this A-1 besides it message.
Most Memorable; for me, is "Top Rankin" with one of those clever lines one remembers, mention the album "Survival" to me, and I think of "Top Rankin' Top Rankin' Are You Skankin' (Skankin')"
Zimbabwe, this is likewise, very memorable to the memory, about what was the former country of Rhodesia.
After these songs, all are excellent on an almost equal basis; probably no sense in rehashing what other reviewers have said.
on June 2, 2003
In the few short years of his Island records career Marley produced a string of astonishingly good studio albums as well as two great live albums. These included Exodus, rated by Time magazine as the greatest album of the century, and Kaya, which is my personal favorite. So where does this leave the rest of the Marley canon.
It seems to me that the Marley albums fall into only two categories, the five star and the four star albums, (see my ratings below). Though I am very stingy with the five star rating, Survival easily makes five stars, and it may even be the best Marley album, and quite possibly the greatest album of all time.
How can this be? Well, every song on the album is just irresistible, with great lyrices, impassioned performance, superb orchestration, catchy hooks... just a superb package. I honestly do not believe that anyone who listens to this album will not find it a life changing experience. Well, to be honest, there are probably lots of people who would fall into that category, but my remarks apply to those with discriminating taste and well developed sensibilities.
OK, I am running on, but this is just a great, great album. 'Nuff said.
* A really worthless CD
** A CD that has some good stuff, but some major defects.
*** An OK CD that will please fans of the artist in question.
**** An excellent CD that represents the best work of the artist in question and can be bought with confidence.
***** An absolute classic that is the best, or among the best, of its genre. Your collection should start here.
on November 28, 2001
From his last three albums this one is definetly his best while Exodus and kaya where made to receive a new audience Survival is actually a trown back to the begin of his island career in 1972 with Catch a fire or even earlier the lee perry days
the songs are outstanding "So much trouble in the world" was the best choice for an album opener "Zimbabwe" a good follow up and the rest stand like a rock. actually the best thing of this album is not Marley's great voice but the fantastic drums of charlton barret. the sleeve also looks good it immidiatly says that this is a roots album and when you listen you certainly will agree
on March 25, 2004
This is one of the best albums ever and a must have for any BM&TW fan! Lyrics are very deep, meaningful and beautiful, and the music is warm and mellow. "So much trouble in the world", "Zimbabwe", "Africa Unite", "Survival", and "One drop" are standouts, but each track is absolutely fabulous. The album is all about Africa, but I think anyone will find something very personal in the lyrics. I'm very eclectic when it comes to music, and I listen to various genres (alternative, rock, hard rock, reggae, progressive, trip-hop, gothic, blues, jazz), and this is one of my top 5 albums of all times!
on July 18, 2002
This is one of Bob's more political works. Recorded around the time that the last colonialized African nations were fighting for independence. "Zimbabwe," "Africa Unite," "One Drop," "Baylon System" and "Ride Natty Ride" all deal with African liberation and/or the teachings of rastafarianism's place in this scheme of things. "Ambush in the Night" and "Top Rankin'" (sometimes known as "They Don't Wanna See Us Unite") deal with the assassination attempt on Marley in 1976. While musically speaking, this is a great album, you might wanna read up on rastafarianism and recent African history to fully get what Bob's talking about.