THE STRAIGHT DOPE:
Bob Marley is revered beyond just about every modern musician save perhaps John Lennon. His influence on artists that have come after him is nearly limitless.
Bob Marley: The Legend Live is, according to the press materials, the last complete recording of one of Marley's legendary concerts before his death in 1981 from cancer. Running a meaty twenty songs (seven more than the original VHS release) the concert is powerful and moving.
Marley's performance is emotional and dramatic. His hold over the audience is clear, even during the early parts of the show when the sun is still shining, lending the concert a sort of state-fair feel. The sun sets around the band's tremendous version of "Exodus" and the tone just becomes perfect. Marley's music has an easy groove that manages to sound relaxed while still building tension. The band repeats its simple melodies and rhythms mantra-like while Marley uses his raspy voice to full effect. His range as a vocalist wasn't technically impressive but his ability to drench his songs in raw emotion and anguish was unparalleled. The performance here is proof of that.
1. Positive Vibration
2. Wake Up And Live
3. I Shot The Sheriff
4. Ambush In The Night
5. Concrete Jungle
6. Running Away
7. Crazy Baldhead
8. Them Belly Full
10. Ride Natty Ride
11. Africa Unite
12. One Drop
14. So Much Things To Say
17. Is This Love
18. Kinky Reggae
19. Stir It Up
20. Get Up Stand Up
The widescreen non-anamorphic video is gummy looking - as you would expect from a program shot on video in the late seventies/early-eighties. There's not much to be done about it, I suppose, but it still won't look good to audiences used to modern video quality.
There are Dolby Digital Stereo and Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks available. The 5.1 is fuller and provides the individual instruments with better separation. Still, the stereo track sounds organic and acceptable.
Chris Salewiecz gives an introduction to the DVD and offers a good bit of information about the tour, including great insights into Marley's stage presence and beliefs. Salewiecz points out something interesting: That the tour the video comes from included a stop at Harlem's Apollo theater (oh, to have that on DVD!) which was geared to bring his music to a black audience, something that hadn't really happened at that point.
Prophesies and Messages is a collection of pieces that totals nearly an hour. The segments use narration, interviews and images to illustrate some of the thematic content of Marley's music. A lot of information is included about Marley's spiritual beliefs and the background of Rastafarianism. There are a lot of lengthy clips from the concert used but they don't feel like padding since the added insight of the piece gives the viewer an opportunity to reevaluate the lyrics. A lot of information is included on Marley's political and spiritual inspirations as well as his career path, including his shooting and his bout with cancer. This is a fantastic extra feature and really deserves equal billing with the concert. The audio in the interviews is a bit raw and Marley's heavy patois is quiet and tough to decipher at times but it's worth watching.
"The Fans: A Point of View," which features another enthusiastic intro from Salewiecz, finds fans waiting for a Marley show (a benefit for the Sugar Ray Robinson Foundation) expounding on what the musician means to them. It's incredible the range of people who are featured in the segment, from black Rastas to a couple of Japanese fans to a guy who looks like Alan Jackson. Robinson himself is briefly featured as well.
There is also one additional bonus track ("War") which is located in the special features section. I'm not sure why this cut wasn't edited back into the show, especially considering that it's one of his most significant songs, but it's nice to have.
While the video quality won't blow anyone away it's the force of the performance and the significance of the artist that make this disc worth a look. Marley's stage persona doesn't consist of empty gestures and the economy of sounds in his music serves a purpose: The music is the message and this passionate, powerful concert makes that point well.