Bob Marley – was part of the soundtrack to the Seventies, a permanent presence. I have the one album – Legend, a Greatest Hits and all the best songs are here. My personal favourites are ‘I shot the Sheriff’ ‘No Woman No Cry’ and ‘Redemption Song’. A sad loss that he died so young.
Laura Marling – is an English singer songwriter of very recent times. Remarkably mature from her very first album, she echoes hints of Joni to my ears; her words seem simple but are subtle and wise and her guitar playing is simple and effective, sounding so much like the seventies artists I first fell in love with. Her albums keep getting better and better and she may end up as one of very favourite female singers. There are also, dare I say it, echoes of Leonard Cohen in there somewhere too. Her debut album – Alas I Cannot Swim (2008) – is pretty good, especially for a debut by a pretty young woman. Her guitar playing is gentle and warm and never intrudes on her voice; in fact what I love about her is that the melody seems to follow the words, not the other way round, and she has the occasional lines that don’t fit and yet somehow it all flows along. She sings of love affairs – mostly gone or going wrong, of how it feels to be a woman in the modern world; unsure and hesitant and yet willing to love and be loved. Best songs are ‘You’re No God’, ‘Crawled Out Of the Sea’ and closer ‘Your Only Doll (Dora)’. One possibly silly feature was that her first few album’s titles consisted of 6 syllables. Her second was titled I Speak Because I Can (2010). This seems a much more mature, at times despairing and angry, set of songs. It seems autobiographical, but who knows where songs come from – mostly, they are about the unbalanced relationship between men and women, of course from the viewpoint of a woman – but somehow not really blaming men. Anyway, in some ways a better record, though in some ways there seem not such distinctive songs, although the production is more varied. Best are – ‘Goodbye England (covered in snow)’,the title track and ‘Darkness Descends’. Her third album A Creature I Don’t Know (2010) has a quite nasty drawing of a naked couple, either dancing or in sexual congress, one in outline and one in black – which gives some indication of the songs. One aspect of her records is their apparent timelessness; they could easily have fitted into any of the previous 4 or 5 decades – and yet they sound modern at the same time. She seems to have absorbed Joni and Cohen into her writing and yet her own voice comes through clear and strong. Another great album, a bit more aggressive at times as if confronting a past love affair – the words are sometimes personal sometimes almost abstract, so hard to pin her down. Best songs are ‘All My Rage’, ‘Beast’ and the very Cohen-ish ‘Night After Night’. Her fourth was Once I Was An Eagle’ – an obscure title until she sings that ‘when we made love I was an eagle and you were a dove’. A much longer album, sixteen songs instead of the usual ten and maybe a touch too long – but mostly strong compositions with some quite ferocious strumming and insistent tom-tom drumming, the first two tracks especially are moving and angry – ‘Take The Night Off’ and ‘I Was An Eagle’ – I also like ‘Devil’s Resting Place’ and ‘When Were You Happy’. She is one of those artists you just find yourself hooked upon; she is truly unique. Her fifth suddenly ditched the six syllable titles and was simply titled Short Movie – not that here was any real change in direction, though she did record this in L.A. I believe, home of the movies. If anything Laura just keeps getting better; this album very much an attacking strummed acoustic guitar and drums tap taping in rhythm. Some of the songs seem to drift into each other – and she uses the F word a few times, seems quite angry at times. Best songs are ‘Strange’, ‘Gurdjieff’s Daughter’ and ‘Short Movie’. Her next album I somehow missed but have ordered it now…but her latest album is Song For Our Daughter (2020) and it I think her best yet; every song is a winner. There is more variety both in the songs and the arrangements, quite a bit gentler orchestration which does not impede on her gorgeous voice. Very hard to pick favourites but stand-out songs are ‘Alexandra Leaving’, the title track and closer ‘For You’, and my favourite ‘Blow By Blow’. What a brilliant artist, I am beginning to think she might just be approaching the league that contains Dylan and Joni and Leonard – but only time will tell.