Bob Marley – B Is for Bob (Tuff Gong, 2009)
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A perfect blend of the utterly crass and the undeniably entertaining, Tuff Gong’s latest Bob Marley compilation stitches together a dozen previously released tracks — eight of them with subtle remixing and repurposing from Ziggy Marley — bundles them with a whole bunch of nifty bonus content, and serves them up for one more round of consumption. On the one hand, it’s label tomfoolery at its most repellent — how much Marley product do these people need to sell? — but on the other, it’s really sort of brilliant; after all, now that Legend has passed the 10 million-in-sales mark, is there a reggae fan left on Earth who doesn’t own his greatest hits? It’s time to start building new ones, which is where B Is for Bob comes in. Though I doubt most people have ever thought of him as a children’s artist, a lot of Marley’s music is quite kid-friendly — simple, catchy, and carrying messages of peace, love, and happiness — and though it seems safe to say the original versions of these songs would have worked just fine, Ziggy’s remix job hasn’t done them any harm; in fact, unless you’re a dedicated Marley disciple, you probably won’t even notice a difference.
Adding value to the compilation is a raft of extra online material, unlockable when you insert the disc into a Web-connected computer. In exchange for purchasing these songs for the umpteenth time, you get things like coloring book pages, a music video, and a one-year subscription to Parents magazine. None of it is truly essential, of course, but it’s a fun little package, and something that’ll make a terrific gift for any budding Bob enthusiasts in your life. You might get more sparkle from a more contemporary artist, but for classic songs that will last a lifetime, this batch is just about impossible to beat.