NY Music Daily
Bob Marley Classics Stripped Down and Reinvented For Bass and Vocals
What better way to kick off the year than an epic collection of material by one of the greatest protest songwriters of all time? On their album 400 – streaming at Spotify – Acute Inflections reinvent Bob Marley songs via imaginative arrangements for bass and vocals. Singer Elasea Douglas brings a summery, resolute delivery and subtle jazz inflections to a diverse mix of classics and rare gems.
Likewise, bassist Sadiki Pierre uses Family Man Barrett’s melodic low end on the originals as a stepping-off point but doesn’t always play them note for note, adding emphatic flourishes and forward drive. If you love Marley’s music, the starkness of these songs drives home his defiant, impassioned lyrics while reminding how crucial Barrett’s low end was to his bandleader’s sound. Pierre also doesn’t play as far behind the beat as Barrett did, and his E string is always in tune. Seriously – listen to side one of Rastaman Vibration, for example, and you’ll notice that the low bass is almost as flat as it is fat.
The duo open the album with about a minute of 400 Years and revisit the theme throughout the record for a terse reminder of the music’s historical context. They set the stage for much of the rest of the songs with Stir It Up, the harmonies from the bass hovering above the vocal line. Pierre doesn’t wait til halfway through the first verse of Is This Love before he shifts from the original, Douglas offering cheery enticement overhead.
“Many more will have to suffer, many more will have to die,” she intones somberly in a syncopated, more-or-less straight-up 4/4 take of Natural Mystic. And the sheer desolation of a long, expansive remake of I Shot the Sheriff will give you chills.
The first of the rarities is All Day All Night, a good choice considering how interesting the bass riffage is. The other is High Tide or Low Tide, which the two take as far outside as any of the songs here
The rest of the album is a mix of party songs and freedom fighter anthems. Pierre has fun swinging Could You Be Loved harder than any other bassist ever has, then a little later completely flips the script in Waiting in Vain. And Jamming turns out to be better suited to brisk swing jazz than you would imagine.
Douglas changes up the rhythm to One Love – and in 2022, that line about “The hopeless sinner, who would hurt all mankind just to save his own,” seems absolutely prophetic. Pierre’s slinky intro to Douglas’ poignant take of Concrete Jungle is one of the album’s high points. And who would have thought that Redemption Song, the closest thing to a strummy American folk song Marley ever wrote, would work so evocatively as a stark gospel tune?
Douglas’ vocalese at the beginning of Slave Driver is more energetically impassioned. The two bounce through a jaunty, determined take of Get Up Stand Up and reinvent Exodus as a similarly upbeat, swaying, rootsy tune. This is just as much fun as Monty Alexander’s far more elaborate remakes of Marley classics.