After releasing a children’s album in 2009, Ziggy Marley decided to make a return to Roots, Rock, Reggae Music in 2011 with a new set of songs, titled collectively as “Wild & Free.” To coincide with the new album, he also decided to release his first ever comic book, which was titled “Marijuana Man.” Essentially Ziggy was trying to raise awareness about the benefits of cannabis, or hemp if you will. You can’t get high off of hemp, but you can make all kinds of other stuff out of it, ranging from clothes to paper to plastic and even food. Not just hash cookies either – Ziggy now has his own range of hemp seeds which can be used for cooking everyday meals. Seeing as how that was his concept, he wanted to make a whole entire record about marijuana. He must have realised that it was impossible to do that, which was just as well, because he could have lost a few listeners with a project like that. But even so, go back and listen to his father’s “Kaya” album and see how many songs about weed are on it. Just the first two. That’s not many. Not even Peter Tosh’s “Legalize It” album is about marijuana, just that one legendary title song is. Bottom line: Reggae Music is very rarely about Marijuana. Or maybe it just depends on which artist you’re listening to. So then, even though the first song on this CD just so happens to be about Ganja, let’s get stuck into this review…..
Wild and Free: Several months before releasing the “Wild & Free,” album Ziggy offered his fans a free acoustic version of this song on his official website. Back then the title was simply “A Fire Burns For Freedom.” Never been a pot smoker, but the song was actually quite good. Nothing beats Ziggy Marley and an acoustic guitar. The finished product however was a duet with actor Woody Harrelson. According to Ziggy himself, asking Woody to sing on the track with him was a joke at first (understandable as the whole idea of collaborating with him comes off as that) but after hearing him singing, he liked what he heard. As a non-smoker, however, this song always gets skipped over, thanks to lyrics such as: “I see hemp fields forever growing wild & free. And I see marijuana trees blowing in the breeze.”
Forward to Love: Here’s where the album actually kicks off for this here amateur reviewer. Ziggy is professing his love for his woman. Saying that they are both about to move forward in their relationship. Or rather they are moving forward to love. Interestingly, there are “directions to love” inside the CD cover, which is pretty creative. He sounds pretty close to his father when he sings: “Why don’t you stay ‘cause you know what we could do baby” in that whispery falsetto of his. Yeah. Great tune.
It: At first it was quite surprising to hear this collaboration with Heavy D. Simply because of the fact that, after vowing never to do so ever again, he was actually rapping. It was also pretty cool to hear him mentioning Ziggy’s name in the intro: “Let’s go, ZIGGY!!!” Sadly, Heavy D passed away not too long after this album was released, thus making it the very last thing we ever heard from him. At one point he asks: “How you feel/When you look in the mirror? Do you see a champion?/Or a weakling?” Perhaps we should all ask yourselves that question. Essentially though, this song is just about searching for that little extra something…. but you don’t quite know what it is. Hence, the name, “It.” Although at one point during the song, Ziggy once again reminds us all that you cannot have religion unless you find LOVE first.
Changes: Ziggy is describing the yins and the yangs of the world in this song: “There’s so much hurt all over the place,” yet there is also “so much beauty in every breath that we take.” So of course, we can make certain changes in the world, or even in our own personal lives if we choose to do so. For some reason, the lyric, “We can find religion in the freedom we choose” always stood out for me. Other than that, it’s very much a straight up roots reggae type of jam. Midway through, Ziggy’s eldest son Daniel drops by to deliver a rap verse. First time the father & son duo have collaborated on record. This song was co-written by Linda Perry, formerly of the group 4 Non Blondes.
Personal Revolution: Next up we have a Ziggy Marley song that you can literally march to. Just listen to that beat in the intro. Of course it eventually goes off into a strictly roots type of jam, which is great. Songs like this one kind of make you wonder if Ziggy is as happy as he appears to be, as he’s singing about shedding “tears of change.” Although that doesn’t necessarily imply that he’s sad. When he performed this one at the Metro in Sydney in 2012, he had us all chanting: “Who got the power? I do!!” So it’s definitely a great song to experience live in concert. Certainly takes you higher when you’re shouting those words out with him. When he screams out: “Hey! I don’t like the hypocrisy. Is this democracy?,” it kind of makes you wonder whether or not he’s questioning the legalisation of his most favourite plant. Given the original concept for this album…… possibly.
Get Out of Town: You can tell by the way this song sounds that he had some kind of a Western flick in mind when he came up with the music behind it. Not the first time he’s done that either, check out the song “Everyone Wants To Be” from his “Fallen Is Babylon” CD, which he recorded with his siblings, The Melody Makers in 1997. Is that a piano accordion that he’s used on this track? On second thought, no, it’s most likely a Melodica. Really dig the lyrics in this tune, especially the line that says: “Like a cub leaves the den a boy leaves his home in search of the truth.” It’s pretty obvious what he’s talking about, though – just wanting to get away from all of the pollution and the overall madness of the world. He mentions his mother in this song too… yet another first for Ziggy Marley. For some reason or another, the lyrics are not printed in the CD booklet, yet they still appear in the digital version. By the way, speaking of lyrics, this one features a very slight reference to weed: “I want to plant a little grass and help this planet as best as I can.”
Roads Less Travelled: Seems as though there are two references to his father in this song: “….a wise man sang, decide your own destiny,” which is a discreet one, (check out the song “Zimbabwe” from his “Survival” album) but then he comes along and shocks the hell out of you with an outright reference to him in the second verse: “My daddy had a lot of woman and my mamma had a lot of grief. And the brethrens that surrounded him became the enemy.” Quite surprising to hear him singing so openly about the man, as he’s never said anything before about him in the past. Especially not something as personal as that. Evidently he was always trying to do his own thing, which is exactly what this song is saying: Follow your OWN path and forget about what others may expect from you. Again the lyrics to this song have mysteriously disappeared from the CD booklet but are still in the digital one. Perhaps they didn’t have enough room to print them.
Mmmm Mmmm: Quite a spiritual and socially conscious song from Ziggy Marley that most certainly makes you want to pay attention to what Ziggy is saying. Begins with the words: “The Lord looked down from Heaven on the children of man.” He’s also talking about justice, which is something that he’s always been passionate about throughout his career. He even named one of his kids Justice. Perhaps he couldn’t come up with a title, so he just hummed the chorus. Whatever the reasons were, it would have been silly to have called it something as corny as “The Humming Song.” It’s a nice song to chill to every now & then…. even to reflect on for that matter.
Welcome to the World: While Ziggy was recording this album, his wife gave birth to a son whom he named Abraham Selassie. This song begins with him crying and then moves off into Ziggy singing to him, “Welcome to the world, I can’t promise it’s a good place. Welcome to the world, I can’t promise it’s a cool place.” Ain’t that the truth? “I could tell you stories, I tell you the truth. I could sugar coat it, try to make you the fool.” This song ain’t bullshittin’. Neither is Ziggy. Definitely one of the highlights here.
A Sign: Is this, like…. Angry Ziggy? Furious Ziggy? Or just simply Frustrated Ziggy? Cause towards the end of this song, he sounds like he’s damn near shouting at you: “I tell you every day, please don’t walk that way, but DO YOU HEAR A WORD I SAY?!?” Well, if you don’t listen, then what else is going to happen? Of course the other person is gonna crack after a while. But anyways, a message like this one can most certainly resonate with anybody, especially: “Maybe you need a sign. Maybe you need to cry. Waa!! Waaa!! Waaa!!!” Don’t you just love the way he illustrates that particular lyric? Genius. “A Sign” by Ziggy Marley is still in heavy rotation. Yes even after three years have passed since its release date.
Reggae in My Head: “Sitting by the river, listening to her songs, she played it all night long.” Paints a very pleasant picture in one’s mind. Just chill out and put on some reggae music. In no way does the song have a huge party vibe (not that it needs it) but it’s still very much a celebration of reggae music. “Oh what a wonderful world this could be, only if we live in peace dancing to this vibration.” Unfortunately life is not like that, Ziggy. Although the lyric still implying that out of all of the styles of music, reggae music unites us all the most, which is exactly true. Sometimes reggae music can be rebellious, but it can also be about love. And no, there aren’t any weed references in this song. There’s no need for them to be here in the first place.
Elizabeth: Can’t speak for any other song on this record, but “Elizabeth” is fairly old now. It was originally written for the follow-up to the Melody Makers’ last album, “Spirit Of Music.” Unfortunately, the album never went ahead. However it was still performed on tour at the time. It’s quite a scathing attack on war: “Uncle Sam is a naughty old man, he says he wants you but he only wants to use you.” The lady named Elizabeth in this song is one of those women who works on the corner of the street late at night….. so to speak. All righty then. Not a bad closer.
Verdict: The “Wild & Free” album is quite solid from beginning to end and much like his father’s music, it will surely go on to be discovered for many generations to come. Furthermore, what folks fail to realize is that is that “Wild & Free” is quite a spiritual, uplifting, personal and reflective album from Ziggy Marley. Put out the spliff and LISTEN TO WHAT HE IS SAYING!! Maybe then you’ll be properly uplifted by reggae music.