Don't ask me why or even why now but allow me to say I feel like I'm obeying some unseen giant cosmic force that is haunting me with the following command: "Bring Bunny Wailer's two albums, 1977's magnificent "Protest" and the nearly equal "Blackheart Man" from 1976, to light for they have been too long ignored by the Marley-gorging reggae-loving public. Do it now, do it this week and don't blow your deadline, dummy." Not exactly 'God said to Abraham, kill me a son,' I know. But I also don't know why I have been returning to these two fine albums so much lately. I mean, I wouldn't be caught dead listening to Bob Marley because he was a peace-mongering pothead who eventually blew his mind out in a car-sized bong, partying til his brain turned to cancerous mush. Sad, really. Seriously, I haven't listened to a Bob album in years other than a deluxe copy of Exodus half-a-decade ago. I ponder. I know. I listen to Neville O'Riley Livingston, original member of the Wailers along with Peter Tosh and Marley, because these two albums are distinctly soul-reggae. That is, there is an old-school R 'n' B groove and vocal delivery not to be heard on any Bob or Tosh album, though at times Tosh's stuff did touch a little on the soul side. New Orleans radio stations spread the American black music experience out from the Gulf of Mexico over the Caribbean straight into the hills of Jamaica and the gritty streets of Kingston. Some who heard rewrote it but kept the soul side. Marley didn't; Bunny did. Thank God and maybe Wolf Man Jack, too perhaps. Protest, in particular, is so powerful because Bunny's was often a Mandela-like social justice message of poverty and desperation of the poor mixed with the spiritual. Like "Scheme of Things," which ties in both as the Bunny Man asks, "What are you doing toward the scheme of things/What are your words to your brother beings/What are you doing toward the scheme of things/What are your works toward your brother beings". He's echoing Buddhism's “right livelihood” concept--except when he's reincarnating slave tales, as in “Moses Children”: "Working round the clock and obeying the gong/is like the weak who's got to feed the strong"--a mixture of oppression and revolution which he ties in with redemption through the "king of kings," who purify the "unclean." The edge of Protest is softened on Blackheart Man, so much of it gentle lovers rock with tales of struggle to simply survive. Less emphasis on rebellion and more stress on well-being. The feeling is paramount on both albums though I think the writing is just a star better on Protest. Much of Blackheart could instrumentally qualify as sex music--sensual, easy-going melodies, soulful delivery and just a hair faster than slow. Swaying is indeed the proper physical response. "That's the strangest man I've seen," Bunny sings like no one on the American scene ever did, with a discernible Jamaican patois yet with a non-threatening aura not unlike Marvin Gaye or Al Green. Nice, very nice. In falsetto he and his backing singers answer the first line, "That's because he's a Rasta Man." You've got to hand it to Bunny, he advanced the blaxploitation of the super-stud/ghetto gangster with spiritually guided Jah-obsessed men from the hills who spread the word. This was clearly different from the American soul music being beamed out over the waters just a few hundred miles north of the equator. "We are reincarnated souls from that time," Mr. Bunny declares in "Reincarnated Souls," as strong a statement on the cycle of life as anything Hendrix, George Harrison or American country music ever made. "Drink water, children/because it's the age of aquarius." Positivity plus. There's room for end times in Wailer's world. "Armagedon." But Bunny quickly makes clear chaos and destruction is just part of the other side of the universe's coin of existence: to die is to be put back in the process of life, waiting to be reborn. Bunny's embrace of soul and reggae is not terribly different from Tosh's and Marley's, but enough to make a huge difference. It comes down to feel. Like, I suppose, the difference between John Mellencamp and Bruce Springsteen. Mellencamp can dance; Bruce's body is like a bunch of sausage-links run by a constipated computer. The music of Bunny Wailer is, quite frankly, the most sensual and deeply felt of the three Wailers. Marley is indeed the Shakespeare of reggae; Tosh, the tough guy. But Bunny...Bunny is the most beautiful soul composer. Coupled with his spiritual/political message, there is a wholeness in Wailer that simply doesn't exist in Tosh and Marley. You listen to his "This Train," and you'll see. Part of him is reincarnated from the Afro-American church experience. The message is in the music and the music floats with uplift. Better than getting high on campus franken-weed, to be sure. So, for the reggae lover in your life, seek these two titles out. Fuck Bob Marley. Go with the Bunny Man. The only problem is, Protest is seriously out of print and semi-collectible online. So download if you can, though don't tell anyone I told you to do so. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Our living laureate of a rock poet, Bob Dylan, got into some trouble recently in Europe for shooting off his mouth in a very weird way. Saying how "blacks can sense slave master or Klan in your blood" and how Jews can do the same with people possessing Nazi genealogy and Serbs with their natural enemies the Croats, may be a poetically mystical romanticism dealing with intuition but that's more for dogs than people. If you know what I mean and I know you do, if you only for once be politically incorrect enough to admit it. And did you know a while back he was picked up by the police in New Jersey as he walked around in some rough neighborhood by himself. Cops wanted to know what he was up to. Of course Dylan had no ID--he's Bob Dylan! So they took him in. Eventually they realized who they had on their hands and after humble apologies, let him go. His reaction? Shrugged his shoulders and said something to the effect that they were just doing their jobs. Not bad, Bob. Not bad. My point is, hey man, he IS Bob Dylan and ain't he cool? He didn't get pissed off at the cops, he didn't need our loudmouth president explaining the situation and making it worse. As for his strange theory on human social intuition of past evil sins, hey, who cares? He's Bob Dylan! Which brings me to the best Dylan I've heard in years: "Bob Dylan: Another Self Portrait (1969-1971)The Bootleg Series Vol. 10." The sonuvagun is loaded and I mean LOADED with fantastic unknown versions of obscure and better known material from the original 'Self Portrait'/'New Morning'/'Basement Tapes/Nashville Skyline period. Is that enough to get the Dylanologist in you slobbering and salivating? Hell yeah. "Went To See The Gypsy," a demo, will show how Bob could actually, you know, SING! With a melody and everything, mainly minus the burnt-out croak of a voice he's had since the late '80s. "Little Sadie," without overdubs; Alberta #3, an alternate version; “I Threw It All Away," alternate version and a host of unreleased tracks like “Thirsty Boots,” “This Evening Soon,” “These Hands” and half-dozen more make up disc one. Disc two: more of the same and how wonderful it is, including a live version from the Isle of Wight rock festival of “Highway 61” with The Band done more as an R 'n' B rocker than the greatest acid-folk song of all time. "Working On a Guru" ought to raise a few eyebrows as will “Tattle O' Day,” a pair of tunes as odd as the shit he said about the Croats. His version of “Dogs Run Free,” though, is just unbelievable--laid back, low-down, slyly humorous, maybe a put-on. Just fucking incredible. "Dogs run free/why not we?"--Dylan with a gospel chorus. Ridiculous it's so cool. A total of 35 songs between the discs is fairly evenly split between unreleased items and alternate versions, live stuff, etc. And, again, for some unknown reason, like the Bunny Wailer stuff, I am grabbed and really find it hard to explain how these two guys and the music I've written about has grabbed me and won't let go. I guess those touched with earthbound, cosmic genius are here for a reason as mystifying as to why we're here to begin with. Pondering doesn't pay, listening does. I listen.

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