World & Latin

From The Highest Rung


Climb The Ladder (Heartbeat, 2000) captures the magical time when the Wailers were the Peter Tosh, Neville "Bunny" Levingstone and Bob Marley vocal trio, and not the later, larger ensemble that backed up frontman Marley. Recorded in the early-1960s, it also captures the Wailers in a magical place, Clement Dodd's legendary Studio One in Kingston. Climb The Ladder is not the sound for which the Wailers became famous in the subsequent decade, but it's their foundational sound: Soulfully harmonized and alternating lead vocals, echoes of the era's famous Motown Records.

These first two rungs, formative skanking versions of "Dancing Shoes" and "(I'm Gonna) Put It On," endured as Wailers hits. Soft piano and guitar sketch a whispered portrait of a winsome, lovelorn "Sunday Morning" around frothy sweet vocals. "Love Won't Be Mine" moans with saxophone then cuts its swinging multipart vocals loose while Marley sings "I really don't want you, baby, I really don't" in precisely the way that lets you know he really does.

The rest of the set overflows with traditional pop and gospel tunes that will be familiar to many American listeners, such as their giddy-yap through "Nobody Knows," genteel "Lemon Tree," and a "Ten Commandments Of Love" so languid that it floats like a romantic cloud.

Other seminal titles in Heartbeat's Marley catalog include Greatest Hits At Studio One (2003) and Another Dance: Rarities From Studio One (2007), comprising rare titles, alternate takes, and original singles, that don't appear anywhere else in Heartbeat's catalog.