Bob Marley and the Wailers -1978 LP Kaya – ‘Time Will Tell’

by | Feb 3, 2018 | 0 comments

Following the heinous assassination attempt on Bob Marley’s life
in December of 1976, he flew to London to escape the imminent threat hanging
over him in Jamaica. He’d spend more than a year in Britain, developing and
recording songs that would eventually make up both 1977’s 
Exodus album
and 
Kaya, the subject of this ‘rock room’ rant. In addition to
the overwhelming stress caused by the political ire directed at him, Marley was
also to begin to battling the melanoma discovered in his foot that would lead
to his eventual demise
Kaya allowed for the pressure of being a spokesman, activist,
and leader to subside momentarily, while enabling Marley to mellow the mood
musically. Whereas Exodus had
changed Marley’s life personally and politically, Kaya would detach him
from it for a time.
A
record that sits in complete contrast to the politically charged and
world-renowned ExodusKaya has a serene and
stony, roots-reggae groove. Kaya is Jamaican code for marijuana, and the cover
art of the original LP contains a massive smoldering rasta joint,  a preview to the levitated Jah attitudes
pervading the recording. For this album, Marley stepped back from his mystical
preacher man and human-defender status, taking time to reflect on his new view,
regain his sanity, and express his one love. This sneaky record is sometimes forgotten
in the context of Marley’s larger discography, obscured and bookended by the
lyrically dense collections Exodus
and 1979’s Survival.
Upon
its March 1978 release, Kaya was
criticized as light fair, an album of beautiful songs played through a smoky blue
haze. Yet, time has revealed them to be filled with deep personal insights,
conveyed through expressive Marley vocals and clairvoyant instrumentation.
While the attitude that permeates the record at glance may be one of ganja,
praise and love, a concentrated look shows personal songs dealing with fear and
faith. The Wailers were road practiced and as tight as blood brothers during
this era, working in conjunction with Marley entering a prolific songwriting
stage of his career due to the aforementioned inspirational and life changing events.
Kaya emanates a vibrant and contagious positivity as soon as
the needle settles into the grooves, as ‘Easy Skanking’ undulates with a
thumping bass drum that punctuates the elastic vocals, stretched like warm
waves drawing shore sands into their depths. The ganja smoke is hearty, as
Marley sings: “Excuse me while I light my spliff,” and continues through the
vibrant red, yellow and green drift of the title track.
‘Kaya’ is a squishy sweet number, containing colorful keyboards
and fruitful vocal exclamations and is an appropriate groove for the title
track. Another lidded expression of love for Ganja. The major radio hit of the
album follows, with the popular “Is This Love,” a song rooted in its addictive
melody line. A hearty sleek dual guitar line becoming the centerpiece. Once the
tune makes winds way to your ears, it’s soaked into your head for the duration.
A fine Marley classic, the Wailers sound like an island orchestra, while Marley
and the I-Three’s commune vocally in stirring fashion.
The Wailers were every bit the mirror reflecting Marley’s muse, the
interpreters of his dreams, and relaters of his attitudes and they have never
sounded better in a studio setting than on the crisp representation of 
Kaya.
‘Sun
Is Shining’ slithers out to a new dawn, bringing the vibe down slightly,
slinking with a sexy one-drop groove. This track features some of the finest
Marley vocals on the recording, fluctuating between smooth grooving and rough
pleading, coupled here with a dynamic and clean guitar accompaniment by Junior
Marvin.
‘Satisfy My Soul’ closes side one of the original LP, with the
swelling horn section shouldering the songs watery melody line. Marley is again
hopelessly optimistic lyrically (“I am happy inside, all, all of the time”),
pledging his love to the song’s subject — if she can, indeed, ‘satisfy his
soul.’
Side
two of the record opens with a slightly different vibe. Similar to the way a
wispy veil of clouds moves past and rests in front of the sun on a clear day,
the songs of the flip side shade the buoyant attitude of side one with slight
shadow. As ‘She’s Gone’ begins, its radiant melody disguises a hazy air of
regret and sadness lying underneath the surface. The vocal relationship between
the I-Threes and Marley is again a highlight; their call and response, playful
echoes, and soul accents are a joy to behold.

‘Misty Morning’ is a personal favorite of the album: Its dramatic delivery is a
wade through choppy waters, operating on a saw-sharp acoustic guitar and
twine-tight rhythmic interplay by the Barrett brothers, on bass and drums
respectively. Marley lets it go vocally and, while the backing singers and horns
intermingle, his voice soars, floating above and sinking below the churning
Wailers. His wordless exclamations throughout the track are proof of his
investment in this song.
The
thematic thread connecting this album’s final three songs is one of turning
inward for moments of introspection and realization. The first, ‘Crisis,’
begins with Marley singing in his full island dialect and diction, the band
snapping the spring with a riff that echoes the introduction to ‘Is This Love.’
Marley directly points to his Rastafarian religion, with the belief that “no
matter what the crisis is,” Jah will carry him through.
 
‘Running Away,’ which follows, is a umbrageous track that would
become one of the few from this album to be consistently played in concert.
Often paired with ‘Crazy Baldheads’ on stage, ‘Running Away’ is a moody mantra
that contains lyrics designed to comfort Marley himself, as he shares a
response to people who question his motives in leaving Jamaica. The classic,
meaty ‘One Drop’ rhythm supports Marley’s diverse and free-form vocal approach,
in addition to supporting the tune’s flashy keyboard accents.

Kaya closes with the magnificent ‘Time Will Tell.’ Acoustic in
its sensibilities, and containing such pure and soulful vocals by Marley, it’s hard
to not be moved. The tribal song rolls forward on the organic cadence created by
the thick, woody bass line, and skin on drum thump. More electric instruments
peak their heads into the song’s framework as the tune develops. The momentum
gained by ‘Time Will Tell’ is built by the hand-driven groove and outlined by
the thick penmanship of the bass. The pastoral quality of the track closes the
album perfectly, leaving the listener to ponder the statement: ‘Time alone, oh,
time will tell; think you’re in heaven, but you living in hell.;

Kaya is a record that finds Bob Marley learning how to pull
away from what he had been pressing toward for so long. The album not only
celebrates his love of life, ganja and women, it also offers glimpses of his
vulnerability, apprehension, and faith. Even the deepest Marley fan can forget
the virtues of the album that was created between two definitive, militant and
amazing records in Exodus and SurvivalKaya is doors-open
and windows-down music, made for times both good and bad,  a soundtrack for when life needs a just a
little bit of a lift.

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