A Look at All of Bob Marley's Albums in Order

Today, we're celebrating the birthday of an icon

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When it comes to the topic of all time great musicians that left us far too early, Bob Marley is rightfully on any and every list for his legendary contributions to music and the entertainment industry as a whole. With today being what would have been his birthday, we’re taking a deeper look at all of the Bob Marley albums, in order. While Marley might have passed away super young, he did some pretty incredible things in the course of his 36-year lifespan, which also included being an activist. The artist’s professional music career started 1963 when he formed a band called the Wailers (which would eventually become known as Bob Marley & the Wailers), who released their debut album The Wailing Wailers in 1965, which led to a record deal with Island Records.

What followed was thirteen more studio albums (two of which would be released posthumously), and two live albums, all of which would make him not just what many consider to be the greatest and most successful reggae artist of all time, but one of the greatest and most accomplished artists of all time in any genre with  75 million records sold worldwide.

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Since his passing, Marley has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, has received a ranking from Rolling Stone as No. 11 on its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of all time, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and an induction into the Black Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame. The only right way to celebrate Bob’s birthday is to spend the day blasting his music, and we’ve put together a list of all his albums in order so you can get the full experience. Check it out below.

1. The Wailing Wailers

Year Released: 1965

Released in 1965 and named after the group name of Marley and his bandmates, The Wailing Wailers is a simple introductory EP to the band, which is a compilation of some of their best recordings made between 1964 and 1965. The record contains one of Marley’s most beloved tracks “One Love,” and has been re-released multiple times with an overdub to fit current music trends. Other popular songs from this EP include “Rude Boy” and “Simmer Down,” which became known as teenage youth anthems. While not the most successful record in Marley’s catalog from a numbers standpoint, it was important in introducing him to the general public.

2. Soul Rebels

Year Released: 1970

Perhaps due to the fact that the band didn’t have an official record deal at the time of their first release, it would take five years before the world would hear another record from Marley & the Wailers. Released in December 1970, Soul Rebels presented a revamped sound and image from the group who were now no longer teenagers, but instead young 20-somethings with more life experience. The album was first released in the UK by Trojan Records, and has also been re-released multiple times. While Soul Rebels wasn’t as impactful as The Wailing Wailers, it did receive great reviews, setting the band up for future success.

3. Soul Revolution Part II

Year Released: 1971

Recorded in 1970 and released in 1971, Soul Revolution Part II was produced by Lee “Scratch” Perry, and included the songs “Keep on Moving,” “Kaya,” “Fussing and Fighting,” “Stand Alone,” and “Sun is Shining.” This album is one that has truly had multiple lives, as it has been re-released on more than one occasion, and has even had a name change/name confusion to go along with it. There’s apparently a dub version of this album entitled Soul Revolution Part II Dub which is instrumental only, and that version was re-released as recently as 2004 as a reissue with a bonus track.

Then in 1988, Trojan Records released a double-LP reissue of both the original and the dub version called Soul Revolution I & II, which too included bonus tracks. It can get a little confusing, but whatever version you do listen to contains great music which makes up for it.

4. The Best of the Wailers

Year Released: 1971

While the title might have you automatically thinking this is a compilation album, it’s actually not. The Best of the Wailers was actually a brand new album full of brand new material that had never been heard before. This record was actually recorded in May 1970 (which was before the group began working with Lee Perry), and was produced by Leslie Kong who unfortunately passed away a week after the album’s release. Stand out tracks include “Soul Shakedown Party,” “Go Tell it on the Mountain,” “Cheer Up,” and “Back Out.” A definitive remastered version would go on to be released in 2004.

5. Catch a Fire

Year Released: 1973

Two years later, the group released their fifth studio album Catch a Fire, and the backstory behind this album is actually quite interesting. During the process of recording, Marley & the Wailers entered into a contract dispute with CBS. Not having enough money to return to Jamaica, their road manager Brent Clarke contacted Island Records producer Chris Blackwell to get the group an album advance. However, instead of using the funds on the album, the group chose to use the money to pay for tickets back to Jamaica where they would finish the recording of Catch a Fire, which was released in April 1973.

While not commercially successful at first, Marley and crew made the wise decision of embarking on a small European tour, which helped to drum up interest in them. Sometimes it takes time to fully appreciate a body of work, and in the decades since the release of Catch a Fire, the album has gone on to be regarded as one of the best reggae albums of all time. 

6. Burnin

Year Released: 1973

In October of that same year, Bob Marley & the Wailers put out their sixth studio album Burnin’, which was written and produced by all three members while they were in the process of recording Catch a Fire. The album contained the hit “I Shot the Sheriff” which reached No. 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100, along with a gold certification and an addition to the National Recording Registry deemed by the Library of Congress as a culturally significant piece of work. Burnin would also mark the end of Marley & the Wailers as a group as they would decide to embark on their solo careers after the release.

7. Natty Dread

Year Released: 1974

1974 would be the year that Bob Marley would officially go solo (though he still released under the name Bob Marley & the Wailers), with his official debut Natty Dread. The album was mostly popular in the UK at time of its release where it received a gold certification, but was once again one of those albums that went on to be appreciated more with time, eventually being ranked by Rolling Stone as one of the greatest 500 albums of all time in 2003. Natty Dread also contained the single “No Woman, No Cry,” which has been performed by many different artists over the years.

8. Live!

Year Released: 1975

Bob Marley’s first live album, simply titled Live!, was released in December 1975. The album was recorded live in concert during Marley’s show at the Lyceum Theater in London, with the live version of “No Woman, No Cry” being released as a single. The concert was released initially as a vinyl LP, eventually being released in CD format in 2001. In 2016, a three disc edition called Live! Deluxe Edition was also released in both vinyl and cd format.

9. Rastaman Vibration

Year Released: 1976

The following year, Marley took a new direction with his eighth studio album Rastaman Vibration, which featured the artist tackling tough subjects such as war, poverty, pain, and tragedy. The album contained Marley’s most popular US single “Roots, Rock, Reggae,” and was the first album of his to reach the top ten on the US Billboard Hot 100. 

10. Exodus

Year Released: 1977

Released in June 1977, Exodus was a pivotal album for many reasons. First off, the record followed a December 1976 assassination attempt on Marley in Jamaica, where he then retreated to London to record the album as therapy. Secondly, Exodus was the album that propelled Marley to international superstardom, with gold certifications in the US, UK, and Canada. Additionally, the title track of the album, “Exodus,” reached No. 1 in Jamaica, the UK, and Germany.

11. Kaya

Year Released: 1978

Album number ten, Kaya, was released in March 1978, taking on a new laid back sound, revolving around themes of peace, love, and marijuana. Kaya was accompanied by Marley’s One Love Peace Concert, which was held on April 22nd, 1978 at The National Stadium in Kingston, Jamaica. The show was an important one, being held during a political civil war in Jamaica between the Jamaican Labour Party and the People’s National Party where the artist joined the hands of political rivals Michael Manley and Edward Seaga. 

12. Babylon by Bus

Year Released: 1978

Marley’s second live album Babylon by Bus was also released that same year, with majority of the tracks recorded coming from his three night show at the Pavillon de Paris during the promotional tour for Kaya. The album was a double one, and included the live versions of many of his most popular songs. A remastered version of the album would go on to be released in 2001.

13. Survival

Year Released: 1979

Deciding to take on a heavily militant theme, Marley’s eleventh studio album Survival was a response to the critics who called his previous album Kaya too “soft.” The record featured tracks such as “Africa Unite” (which was about Pan-African solidarity), and “Zimbabwe,” which was a hymn dedicated to Rhodesia. “Zimbabwe” would later go on to be performed at Zimbabwe’s Independence Celebration in 1980, which took place shortly after the official declaration of Zimbabwe’s independence.

14. Uprising

Year Released: 1980

A bittersweet album because it was Marley’s final during his lifetime, Uprising was released in June 1980, focusing heavily on religious themes. Three years prior, Marley had been diagnosed with a type of malignant melanoma, and unfortunately progressed significantly by the year 1980. While one can’t speak for Marley (because he chose not to discuss his illness), it’s possible that the heavy religious themes were a way of his making peace with his homegoing. Despite his illness, Marley continued to perform until he basically couldn’t anymore. Uprising remains a beautiful and spirited album that one can listen to for any occasion, especially if you are going through a tough time.

15. Confrontation

Year Released: 1983

Marley would succumb to his illness on May 11th, 1981, and two years later a compilation album entitled Confrontation would be released. The album mostly contained unreleased songs that were recorded throughout the course of Marley’s life, with many of the tracks being built up from demo versions. The album would go on to peak at 55 on the US Billboard 200.

16. Legend

Year Released: 1984

One year later, an official greatest hits album appropriately titled Legend would follow, which was a greatest hits collection of his singles in its original vinyl format. The album is the best selling reggae album of all time with over 12 million sold in the US, over 3 million sold in the UK, and an estimated 25 million sold globally.

Today, Bob Marley’s impact as the greatest reggae artist of all time is as strong as ever, with many of the younger generations being introduced to his work through social media platforms such as TikTok. And at the end of the day, the legacy you leave behind is your greatest work. Long live Bob Marley. 

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