Probably the only positive thing that can be said about the "new" Bob Marley album, Chant Down Babylon, is that it doesn't include yet another version of "Buffalo Soldier." Assembled by Bob's son Stephen Marley, the disc features digital-age duets between the late Marley and Busta Rhymes, Rakim, Lauryn Hill (the mother of two of Marley's grandchildren), Aerosmith's Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, and The Roots, among others. One of the others is Erykah Badu, who teams up -- well, sort of -- with Marley on "No More Trouble," a track off 1973's Catch a Fire. And no recent album would be complete without a guest shot by Chuck D, who shows up on "Survival"; apparently, judging by his most recent drop-in on The Artist's Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic, the erstwhile Rhyme Animal will add his vocals to anything if the check clears, and probably even if it doesn't.
Chant Down Babylon is the worst sort of cash-in, released during the Christmas shopping season so Stephen Marley is assured of a hefty payday. Marley claims that the album is intended to complete his father's "unfulfilled mission of securing wide-scale acceptance among African-Americans." Sure thing, buddy. The problem with that idea is that the elder Marley is almost incidental to Chant Down Babylon, little more than a familiar sample that ties together an A-list hip-hop compilation and a roster designed to move units. And at a scant 12 tracks, Stephen has left the door open for the inevitable sequel, just in case he doesn't make enough scratch this time. At least Stephen hasn't resorted to selling his pop's dreadlocks on eBay. Of course, keeping Chant Down Babylon in mind, we're sure the idea has crossed his mind once or twice.
If nothing else, Stephen Marley has inspired us to follow suit. We're readying a disc for next Christmas featuring us rapping over the sound of our late grandfather sitting on his porch, cursing and shooting his B.B. gun at anyone who happened to step on his beloved lawn. The album will also feature our cover of Natalie and Nat King Cole's "Unforgettable," as well as our polka take on "Buffalo Soldier," featuring background vocals by The Three Hanks. And, obviously, we're only doing it to complete our grandfather's dream of gaining acceptance among crotchety old bastards.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.