A five-time Grammy-winning musician, actor, artist, activist and humanitarian, Ziggy Marley has established his presence on the public stage for over a quarter-century. Which is why, perhaps, there’s a wisp of irony in naming his latest album Wild and Free, given not only the focused writing and recording of his fourth solo studio album, but also Ziggy’s concurrent involvement in the ambitious tour which stretched through spring and summer, as well as other projects in the realm of publishing and filmmaking. And with the arrival of a new baby requiring his attention, it’s remarkable Ziggy is able to capture the energy to keep his sound wild and free!
The overall theme of the album is a powerful one, as it propels Marley to challenge social injustice along with the political weapons of ignorance and fear. Wild and Free (Tuff Gong Worldwide), his fourth solo album, may be Ziggy’s most political and personal to date. Released on June 14th 2011, Wild and Free, was produced with friend and collaborator Don Was at Ocean Way Studios in Hollywood, CA as well as Marley’s own studio.
“The thing that makes this new album special is that Ziggy has embraced the more traditional and familiar textures and rhythms of reggae, while further defining the unique artistic vision that sets him apart,” says producer Don Was. “His quest to find his own voice within the framework of tradition is the real story of the album.” In that quest, Marley finds company in the immense and varied talents of guitarist Takeshi Akimoto (Raya Yarbrough, Dry & Heavy), bassist Darryl Jones (The Rolling Stones, Miles Davis, Sting), keyboardist James Poyser (Eryka Badu, Common, Mariah Carey), drummer Carlton “Santa” Davis (Jimmy Cliff, Burning Spear) and percussionist Rock Deadrick (Ben Harper, Chicago, Kenny Loggins).
With themes of freedom and responsibility, tempered hope and intemperate love, Wild and Free affirms Marley as a master storyteller with an innate sense of soul. It opens with its title track, “Wild and Free,” a rock-fueled reggae anthem with a funky, Stevie Wonder-esque synthesizer solo, written in support of California’s Proposition 19 to legalize marijuana. Swapping verses with his friend, actor Woody Harrelson, the two envision “hemp fields growing wild and free” and the far-reaching effects of legalization benefiting small farmers and a myriad of others. Marley provided a free acoustic version of the song to his fans on his website under the alternate title, “A Fire Burns for Freedom.”
From there it’s the funky and fun-loving “Forward To Love,” segueing into the first of several cautionary songs, “It” (joined by rapper Heavy D), which implores people to examine long-desired goals. Ziggy rides a swift reggae current on “Changes,” joined by songwriter/producer Linda Perry as well as his own son, Daniel, who lends vocals. The self-empowerment anthem “Personal Revolution” opens with a military drumbeat, before adding hot guitar licks and thick Hammond organ fills; in contrast, it’s a Wild West guitar that opens “Get Out of Town,” moving into a dark beat to take aim at the pollution of the planet and the corrupt powers that control it. Politics is also in the side-view mirror in the spirited “Road Less Traveled,” which extols the virtue of bravery in choosing paths that may not be familiar or comfortable.