Stephen Marley has hit the ground running with his fifth solo album, “Old Soul”. The project marks a significant milestone, arriving as his first full-length project since 2016. Known affectionately as “Ragga” by close friends and family, Stephen has built a reputation as a studio perfectionist, yet simultaneously shines as an exceptional live performer, celebrated for his innate ability to infuse spontaneity into his sets. With “Old Soul,” Stephen not only leans into these strengths but also reveals a side of the artist that has remained hidden until now. Released on September 15, 2o23, the album features special guests Eric Clapton, Bob Weir, Jack Johnson, Ziggy Marley, Damian Jr. Gong Marley, Buju Banton and Slightly Stoopid.
The album kicks off with Don’t You Believe a track that’s hard to forget as the lyrics echo on in your head for minutes after. “Don’t you believe, everything they tell you”, sings Marley, with sweet melodies and absolute groove. A rhythmic drum beat lures us in, accompanied by beautiful finger-style guitar. Setting the stage for the rest of the project, track 1 is already a work of pure beauty. Not to mention the message, which is pure wisdom. As the track comes to a close, we’re thrust into the groovy strumming of Cool As The Breeze. The second track holds firm to listeners’ expectations for the album, if not exceeding them. A wholesome reggae ballad, Stephen has beautiful vocal harmonies backing up his vocals – driven by pure groove and a laid-back drum pattern. After an exciting round of the chorus, “When the wind blows…”, we’re onto track 3.
Cast The First Stone opens up with a darker sound, with heavy hitting drums and darker guitar chords. The track features Damian Jr. Gong, with the two singing about hypocrisy. And could there really be a better addition to that theme than a flute? Expectations are being exceeded again with this one. Next up, Thanks We Get (Do Fi Dem). This one features Buju Banton, and starts in full throttle. Fuelled by groovy strums and powerful backing vocals, listeners will be severely pleased with the combination of guitar and melodies. And when Buju Banton’s gets into his verse, queue more groove!! The wild melodies continue as we head into the beautiful Don’t Let Me Down, focusing on the power of vocal harmonies. Holding a continuous strumming pattern with subtle drumming in the background allows listeners to really soak in the lyrics and vocals, which no-one is complaining about. So far each track has its own complimenting features, ranging from drums to vocals. Which we see in the next song, as we kick off with piano and a trumpet. The slower pace of the track sets the scene for Let The Children Play, a slower-paced track, driven by hard-hitting drums and yet some more finger-style picking. As Stephen chants, “Love must find away”, bass and piano team up to play us into the title track.
Old Soul is a retrospective take on Stephen’s childhood, and the namesake of the album. “I’m an old soul… Inside me legacy lives on” is the best way to describe the track, as Stephen dives into his backstory – a genuine way to connect with fans. And with that aside, Stephen finds a way to connect with Ziggy Marley on track 9 – There’s A Reward. Stephen dives into perseverance with lyrics like “I shall not give up so easily, no no, there’s a reward for me” – providing positive message for his fanbase as we dive into This Time – a track driven by shakers and various percussion instruments. The trumpet is back on this one too, adding a very special effect to Stephen’s melodies of choice. The trumpet sticks around for the next track as well, These Foolish Things, as Stephen continues to bring the groove with another ballad – “These silly things reminds me of you”, he sings. Speaking of ballads, the next track is reminiscent of an old western flick – fitting, as it’s titled I Shot The Sheriff. Featuring Eric Clapton, the track is a a reggae/country hybrid, with vibes like a western duel. Standing In Love is next, filled with various background sounds and vocals. Lyrics about true love really bring out another side of Stephen, and set the mood for the final track. Winding Roads features Jack Johnson and Bob Weir, and is already at work winding down the album. With a creative vocal mix, Stephen, Bob, and Jack have a fun time on this one – wondering “How long must we try these winding roads?” The instrumental has the mood of an ending song, and as the project comes to a close, listeners come to the sad realization that this is, in fact, the end.
Stephen Marley did an incredible job of executing his 5th album, and the excitement is warranted. We’re looking forward to what he has in store next, and hope you are too.
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