Do not buy this DVD-Audio version. I already had the CD version when i bought this (with the intention of giving the CD to my brother, who does not have DVD-A equipment). Whilst the material itself is fantastic, the sound quality on this DVD-A is WORSE than on the CD, suffering from distortion at high frequencies. And to pre-empt any suggestions of incompatibility etc, i am positive that it is the production on this disc and not a problem with my system or the user, since i own plenty of DVD-A and SACD albums and this is the only one i have a problem with. So I am keeping the CD version and i'll probably give this DVD-A to a charity shop.
This review is for the original 1988 CD pressing of African Herbsman on Trojan Records, CDTRL 62.
Originally released in 1973, this was a compilation of Wailers material recorded a couple of years earlier in Jamaica and issued to cash-in on the UK success of the band's debut LP for Island Records, Catch A Fire.
Most of the material on African Herbsman was produced by Lee Perry, Lively Up Yourself and Trenchtown Rock being produced by The Wailers themselves.
With this 1988 CD release there is a lovely warmth to the overall sound, and it can be played at high volumes without scraping the eardrums. It's very analogue, quite a pleasant listening experience.
That said, in comparison to the material Marley later recorded for Island in the UK the sonics are somewhat primitive at times, but that's a consequence of the basic recording facilities available to the band in Jamaica. It's also a huge part of the charm of the material, which in a more high-tech studio environment would have been lost.
As for the music, this "pre-mainstream" incarnation of Bob Marley and The Wailers shows the band with a more stripped down, smoother and organic sound than they would later develop after being exposed to expensive studios and white Rock influences in the UK. It's testament to the fundamental strength of the music featured on this collection that Marley would revisit so much of it across subsequent albums recorded for Island Records. Don't make the mistake of assuming that because this is early material it's inferior quality. It's not.
So, for the casual or exploratory fan I would say buy African Herbsman after the more well known Legend compilation, to get a good picture of a more earthy side to Marley and the Wailers. If you're already a Marley fan and own the Island albums, buy it to hear the roots of those albums, to hear the band before external influences took hold and the band developed more of a mainstream polished sheen.
The packaging for this 1988 CD is some of the most basic I've seen. The front artwork is simply a single paper sheet with the original album cover artwork on one side, the song titles on the other. No written information is present aside from the song titles and production credits for Lee Perry and Bob Marley.
And I have to say there's a distinct irony with the cover artwork, in that what during 1973 was designed to appear as an example of rustic homemade embroidery, today reduced to CD size looks like a blocky image created on Windows 95 by an MS Paint fan in their bedroom.
So, how will I rate this CD?
I'll give it a 4.
African Herbsman, Trojan CDTRL 62;
Lively Up Yourself Small Axe Duppy Conqueror Trench Town Rock African Herbsman Keep On Moving Fussing And Fighting Stand Alone All In One Don't Rock The Boat Put It On Sun Is Shining Kaya Riding High Brain Washing 400 Years