Essential Bob Marley CDs

Most ska and reggae fans have at least one Bob Marley CD on their shelf, but if you're a new listener, you might be stuck as to where to start. While you can't really go wrong with any of the reggae legend's music, these CDs will get you started nicely.

This album is a reissue, a collection of the Wailers' early singles. It will give you a good idea of their early ska and rocksteady sound before reggae music even existed. Notable tracks include "Simmer Down" and "There She Goes."

This was the Wailer's first international release. It was produced by Lee "Scratch" Perry and features a very clean, sparse band with no horn section. Notable tracks include "Soul Rebel" and "Try Me."

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African Herbsman (1973)

Bob Marley and the Wailers - African Herbsman
Bob Marley and the Wailers - African Herbsman. (c) Silverline Records, 2004

African Herbsman is one of the Wailers' rootsiest records, featuring intense Jamaican rhythms and stunning harmony vocals. Notable tracks include "Small Axe" and "Trenchtown Rock."

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Catch A Fire (1973)

Bob Marley and the Wailers - Catch a Fire
Bob Marley and the Wailers - Catch a Fire. (c) Island Records, 2001

This album was released the same year as African Herbsman, but caters to a decidedly different audience; where African Herbsman was directed towards Jamaican audiences, Catch A Fire was directed towards an international rock audience. Notable tracks include "Stop That Train" and "Kinky Reggae."

Bob Marley and the Wailers - Burnin'
Bob Marley and the Wailers - Burnin'. (c) Island Records, 2001

Just six months after Catch a Fire, the Wailers released Burnin', the album that would pave the way for Marley's later superstardom. Notable tracks on this album include "Get Up, Stand Up" and "I Shot The Sheriff."

Natty Dread marks Marley's departure from his trio with Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh. Marley still continued to call his band The Wailers. This album also was Marley's first hit in the United States, staying on the Billboard Top 10 Album list for 4 weeks. Notable tracks on this album include "No Woman, No Cry" and "Lively Up Yourself."

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Exodus (1977)

Bob Marley and the Wailers - Exodus
Bob Marley and the Wailers - Exodus. (c) Island Records, 2001

Exodus was named the Album of the Century by Time Magazine and for good reason... it's absolutely, heartstoppingly, one hundred percent brilliant from the first note to the last. All of the tracks have become classics, among them "Jamming," "Natural Mystic," and "One Love/People Get Ready."

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Babylon By Bus (1978)

Bob Marley and the Wailers - Babylon by Bus
Bob Marley and the Wailers - Babylon by Bus. (c) Island Records, 2001

This live album features recordings from concerts throughout Europe and features several of the songs heard on Exodus. Notable tracks include "Jamming" and "Stir It Up."

This album is Marley's final studio album, released the year before his death. It was not a commercial success in the way that many of his other albums were, but it is a deeply religious and intense album, a peek into Bob Marley's soul. Notable tracks include "Redemption Song" and "Real Situation."

You can never go wrong with a greatest hits album, and Legend is consistently ranked among the very best of them. All of the tracks are notable, and likely familiar to you, even if your acquaintance with Jamaican music is just a casual one, including "No Woman, No Cry," "Get Up, Stand Up," "One Love/People Get Ready," "I Shot The Sheriff," and "Jamming."