Various Tribute to a Reggae Legend

You could argue that Putumayo has erased any incendiary residue from the king of reggae and replaced it with a smiling face, a sun-swept beach and a familial philosophy. But Bob Marley's enduring image isn't so frail and even though Putumayo has cherry-picked material from the lighter side of Marley's vast output (absent is the violent revolutionary, the horny playa and the religious zealot), we're still left with some timeless music. The meaning of "Africa Unite," for instance, takes on added complexity when sung by South Africa's mixed-race Freshlyground and the Nora Jones-inspired "Mellow Mood" by Canadian Julie Crochetière recasts this little known classic into a smoky croon-fest. But the majority of tracks are a little too reggae-lite ― maybe it has something to do with all the softly plucked acoustic guitars, fluttery flutes and everyone trying to be so damn reverential to the material. If you like your reggae easy listening, non-offensive and well, very polite, this compilation is for you. But let's face it, this Putumayo disc will be at the top of the hit parade anywhere fair-trade coffee, third-world crafts and good patchouli are sold. (Putumayo)