It’s taken Ziggy Marley six albums to run out of ideas on the title front and settle for a self titled effort, and while he’s not quite run out similar ideas for his songs, you feel album number seven may need a change in direction or some fresh ideas or its going to get stayed. If you’re bag is edgy, rootsy reggae with lyrics offering direct action and call to arms of one sort or another, then ‘Ziggy Marley’ will be a disappointment. However, if you’re looking to pass a pleasant 45 minutes of pop-reggae with Ziggy, dreaming of sitting in a beach bar with a Red Stripe in your hands, and you liked album number five – 2014’s Fly Rasta, then this might just be perfect.
Opener start it up is a case in point. It’s deliciously catchy, if a little lightweight, full of (admittedly rather lovely) harmonies and spotless production, as Marley – with his likable vocals, immediately reverses into a revolution / evolution / contribution cul-de-sac, before suckering us with a Lion / champ-ion combo. And as cheesy as it sounds (Marcus Garvey it ain’t), there’s an earnestness and even charming about it that makes you want to smile along with him, rather than at him.
Musically, it’s pretty straight up fare, with some nice brass additions onto one of the stand out tracks – Amen, and also album closer I’m not made of stone. He gets a little more rootsy and stripped back with Heaven Can’t take it, which features the similarly likeable (and possibly slightly gruffer) vocals of brother Stephen, and on Ceceil he just about gets away with the synths. Just about.
Lyrically, Marley touches on War, or more pertinently peace, as well as Poverty/Greed and Jah and Sun and Lions and Zions and all the things you’d be disappointed not to hear. That’s not to be trite about it either, it’s just what you’d expect from Marley. You just end the record feeling he’s maybe only scratched the surface of what he wants to say. The only slight surprise, in the context of the record, is his assertion that politicians should smoke a little dope on Marijuanaman.
If you can’t find something likable in Ziggy Marleys self-titled album, it’s highly likely you’re missing a lot of sunshine in your life. It’s an uplifting, earnest, warm and catchy collection of songs. If you want it to change your life, or even change your opinion of roots music, you’ll be a little disappointed.