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Various Artists: A Twist of Marley

The same production team that brought the recent A Twist of Jobim now sets its all-star tributary sites on another of the world’s great musical legends, with A Twist of Marley (GRP/Verve VERF-010982; 64:02). Produced by Lee Ritenour (who also plays on most of the album’s tracks), Twist was intended to extend the universality of Marley’s work through new arrangements and performances. Several tracks here hit that inspiration dead-on, offering insight and passion. For example, Jonathan Butler turns “No Woman, No Cry” into a tender expression of longing, reflection and hope through pathos-laden vocals and acoustic textures. “Exodus” is pumped with a soul-disco passion, and a sparsely arranged “Stir It Up” bops deliberately from speaker to speaker with Phil Perry singing over hip-hop funk. Also on the unexpected treat side is “Could You Be Loved,” populated with Marc Antoine’s deep, stuttering guitar and Patti Austin’s haunting vocal-but the real revelation here is “Redemption Song,” marked by West African vocalist Richard Bona’s beautiful read (in the Duala language), and Michael Brecker’s gentle tenor sax. On the opposite end of the spectrum is a silky contemporary rendition of “Get Up Stand Up,” which comes across not as a rousing anthem but as a cocktail party comment. A sweetened, guitar-needling “I Shot the Sheriff” casts vocalist Maxi Priest as kind of a Marley-lite, removing all grit, while “So Much Trouble” is too-smooth sailing with its synth-gloss coating.

Originally Published