Release date: 3 June 1977
UK chart peak: #8
Running time: 37:24
Singles: 1977 – Exodus (#14), Waiting in Vain (#27), Jamming/Punky Reggae Party (#9); 1980 – Three Little Birds (#17); 1984 – One Love/People Get Ready (#5)
Originally released on Island Records, Exodus is considered both a critical and commercial success, receiving gold certifications in the UK, USA & Canada. It reached the top 20 in several countries worldwide, including the Netherlands (#11), France & USA (#20), Sweden (#14), and Norway (#12). It remained in the UK album charts for 56 consecutive weeks.
The most notable kind of music coming to prominence around the time of the album’s release was, of course, punk. This even spread to Bob Marley’s output, when The Clash’s cover of Police and Thieves inspired the writing of Punky Reggae Party – multiple punk bands received a mention in the lyrics. Around the time of the release of Exodus, The Beatles claimed a number one album with The Beatles At The Hollywood Bowl, and ABBA’s Arrival also hit the top spot; in the singles charts, The Sex Pistols’ God Save The Queen just missed out on number one, and The Muppets also scored a top ten hit with Halfway Down The Stairs.
As far as Bob Marley and the Wailers were concerned, this was the album that launched them into global superstardom – all while they had placed themselves in temporary exile. Bob, his wife Rita, and the Wailers’ manager Don Taylor had all been shot in the build-up to the Smile Jamaica peace concert; Marley ended up playing at the concert, in spite of his injuries, but left for London shortly after that. They ended up staying for two years, following up Exodus with the album Kaya in 1978. The One Love Peace Concert brought Bob Marley and the Wailers back to Jamaica in April 1978, where the band performed and also requested political rivals Michael Manley and Edward Seaga to join them onstage and shake hands.
Exodus is rightly labelled as a classic – there is so much to love about this album. Obviously the fact that it contains so many well-known tracks helps, so even the most casual of fans will have some points of reference; half of the tracks can be found on the ever-popular compilation, Legend, released posthumously by Island Records. Despite the title track being almost eight minutes long, the album rushes past in a haze of religion, politics & love, all in the distinctive reggae sound developed by the Wailers. As I listened to it I thought I could feel something of a tonal shift between tracks five and six – as it turns out, the songs were purposefully grouped together, making side one about religion, politics & social commentary, with side two exploring love, sex & fun.
Though side two produced more singles, it’s the slightly darker & grittier side one that really stands out for me; Exodus and Natural Mystic are definite highlights (the former is brilliantly brought to life in the stage show), as is So Much Things To Say. Of side two, Waiting in Vain is another favourite, and One Love/People Get Ready is the optimistic, uplifting end the album deserves.
The Greatest Show
The band planned a huge global tour in support of the album, beginning at the Pavillon de Paris on 10 May 1977, and stopping off in other major European locations such as Brussels, Hamburg, Stockholm, and Copenhagen, before a residency at London’s Rainbow Theatre – the final show of which was recorded and released as Live! at the Rainbow. There was due to be a US leg, but this was first postponed and then cancelled in the wake of Marley’s fateful toe injury during a game of football in France.
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