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Bob Marley / Songs of Freedom

First time on vinyl outside Jamaica • 6LP and 3CD sets

A revised version of the 1992 Bob Marley box set, Songs of Freedom: The Island Years, is being reissued at the end of this month.

This box still features a mix of classic tracks, remixes, B-sides, Jamaican singles and alternates but for ‘revised’, read ‘reduced’, since what was originally an 8LP vinyl set and a 4CD package is now a 6LP vinyl box and a 3CD set. 78 tracks from the originals are distilled down to just 47 for this new edition (the CD and vinyl boxes share the same track listing).

That said, the vinyl box was previously only ever available in Jamaica, so this is the first full worldwide release on that format. The records come with ‘custom labels’ and the box includes a 20-page booklet.

The CD edition is no longer the old style ‘long box’ and it includes a 96-page booklet.

Songs of Freedom: The Island Years is reissued on 29 January 2021, via UMC/Island.

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Bob Marley

Songs of Freedom - 6LP vinyl box

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Bob Marley

Songs of Freedom - 3CD box

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Songs of Freedom 6LP vinyl box set

LP1

Side A

1 High Tide Or Low Tide
2 Slave Driver
3 No More Trouble
4 Concrete Jungle
5 Get Up, Stand Up

Side B

1 Rastaman Chant
2 Burnin’ And Lootin’
3 Iron Lion Zion
4 Lively Up Yourself

LP2

Side A

1 Natty Dread
2 I Shot The Sheriff (Live At The Lyceum, London/1975)
3 No Woman No Cry (Live At The Roxy, 1976)

Side B

1 Who The Cap Fit
2 Jah Live
3 Crazy Baldhead
4War

LP3

Side A

1 Johnny Was
2 Rat Race
3 Jamming (12″ Mix)
4 Waiting In Vain (Advert Mix)

Side B

1 Exodus (12″ Mix)
2 Natural Mystic
3 Three Little Birds (Alternate Mix)
4 Running Away

LP4

Side A

1 Keep On Moving (London Version)
2 Easy Skanking
3 Is This Love (Horns Mix)
4 Smile Jamaica

Side B

1 Time Will Tell
2 Africa Unite
3 Survival
4 One Drop
5 One Dub

LP5

Side A

1 Zimbabwe
2 So Much Trouble In The World
3 Ride Natty Ride (12″ Mix)

Side B

1 Babylon System
2 Coming In From The Cold (12″ Mix)
3 Real Situation
4 Bad Card

LP6

Side A

1 Could You Be Loved (12″ Mix)
2 Forever Loving Jah
3 Rastaman Live Up
4 Give Thanks and Praises

Side B

1 One Love/People Get Ready (12″ Mix)
2 Why Should I
3 Redemption Song (Live At The Stanley Theatre, Pittsburgh, 1980)

Songs of Freedom 3CD box set

CD 1

1. High Tide Or Low Tide
2. Slave Driver
3. No More Trouble
4. Concrete Jungle
5. Get Up, Stand Up
6. Rastaman Chant
7. Burnin’ And Lootin’
8. Iron Lion Zion
9. Lively Up Yourself
10. Natty Dread
11. I Shot The Sheriff (Live At The Lyceum, London/1975)
12. No Woman No Cry (Live At The Roxy, 1976)
13. Who The Cap Fit
14. Jah Live
15. Crazy Baldhead
16. War
17. Johnny Was
18. Rat Race

CD 2

1. Jammin (12″ Mix)
2. Waiting In Vain (Advert Mix)
3. Exodus (12″ Mix)
4. Natural Mystic
5. Three Little Birds (Alternate Mix)
6. Running Away
7. Keep On Moving (London Version)
8. Easy Skanking
9. Is This Love (Horns Mix)
10. Smile Jamaica
11. Time Will Tell
12. Africa Unite
13. Survival
14. One Drop
15. One Dub

CD 3

1. Zimbabwe
2. So Much Trouble In The World
3. Ride Natty Ride (12″ Mix)
4. Babylon System
5. Coming In From The Cold (12″ Mix)
6. Real Situation
7.Bad Card
8.Could You Be Loved (12″ Mix)
9.Forever Loving Jah
10.Rastaman Live Up
11.Give Thanks and Praise
12.One Love/People Get Ready (12″ Mix)
13.Why Should I
14.Redemption Song (Live At The Stanley Theatre, Pittsburgh, 1980)

42 responses to Bob Marley / Songs of Freedom

  1. Wayne K says:

    I have the original box so I’m good. A pity they cut the disc of early material.

  2. Bruce Marsh says:

    Glad I’ve got the original boxset. Compared to that and the amazing Island 11 cd set this lesser box is a bit of a rip off. Thanks Paul for the tip off on the €15 bargain!

  3. Joe Donato says:

    One of the first box sets I ever owned. I have the original 1992 pressing. Limited edition number 470444. I have subsequently bought the Island Deluxe Edition CD’s, but this is the only place I have pre-Island recordings from 1960’s Jamaica. That period is also essential so I second the notion that you find the original 4 CD box set second hand

  4. Gordon Hill says:

    Should be renamed ‘Some Songs Of Freedom’

  5. Thomas Beattie says:

    A bit of a wasted opportunity for Tuff Gong/Island as they could have made up the playing time by adding tracks. The Jamaica Single Version of “Ambush In The Night” and “Crisis [Version] B-Side for example. In other words the Island era tracks that have yet to appear on CD.

  6. Larry Davis says:

    Now that I know this thing was pared down, I just came across an original used 4CD version for like $27…next time I am there, will buy it…

  7. Alan Blevin says:

    I love the original box.Coincidentally I have been playing it in the last month for the first time in a few years.
    Reducing 78 tracks to 47 is really butchering it.Like everyone has said you are much better off trying to track down a copy of the original rather than this,

  8. Brian Burhans says:

    Have the tracks been remastered? That would be the only reason why I would give up my original numbered box for this. I wouldn’t mind the pared down track list if the audio is improved.

  9. Pete Stanton says:

    I read this and thought ‘ I’ve got that’. After a bit of searching I found the 4 CD long box original, Tuff Gong 1992, with Limited Edition 0308982.

    As others have said, this is one of the first CD box sets that I bought. I really must listen to it again.

  10. Paul E. says:

    Track 6 on Disc Two of the original box set “Acoustic Medley” that runs 12 plus minutes to include: Guava Jelly / This Train / Cornerstone / Comma Comma / Dewdrops / Stir It Up / I’m Hurting Inside is in my Bob Marley top five tracks of all time. It’s omitted here in this re-release and huge reason to search out the 4 disc version.

  11. Don says:

    As others have said, the original 4CD longbox/book version, which is glorious, can still be found used for very decent prices.

    And as others have also noted, it looks like all of the pre-Island material is what has been removed from this new version, but that’s what makes the set desirable in the first place. The tracks on this new 3CD version can all be found on the original Island albums and even the 12″ mixes and alternate versions were included on the post-2001 deluxe editions of those albums.

    But hey, at least they’re keeping physical media alive a while longer.

  12. Uwe says:

    All the best/better für 2021, everyone!

    The original CD issue was the first box set I ever bought. Never regretted it (because it’s awesome), coming back to it for almost 30 years on a regular basis.

    Cutting the content down to just 3 CDs and paying that amount of money is bogus: With a little luck you can score it used (even as the later version with the added DVD feature-length documentary) for under 12 euros or so.

  13. Steven Campbell says:

    I have the original which wasn’t in the long box but a smaller box and has all the CDs. I bought second hand off ebay very cheaply as it couldn’t be had for love nor money prior to that but given that apart from coloured vinyl versions of this truncated set that seems to be the only thing worth looking at means I think this one is a no for me also.

    • Klaus says:

      @Steven Campbell:

      The original release in 1992 came in a long box and in a numbered limited (to 1.000.000) edition.
      In 1999 the second edition was released in a square box which seems to be the one you own.
      Then in 2005 a third edition was released where a dvd featuring a documentary about Marley was added. This came in a dvd-case-sized book edition like we are used nowadays from e.g. Jethro Tull-, Marillion- or Tears For Fears-SDEs and was re-released (for reasons unknown to me) once more in 2007.

      • Ex-Oligarch says:

        The very idea of a “limited” edition of 1,000,000 copies is an insult to the consumer’s intelligence.

        Especially when the “limited” edition is then repeatedly reissued and even expanded with additional content.

        • Paul Murphy says:

          Well, this one probably has a print run of 5000-8000, and has been reissued with even less content, so, no insult there then.

  14. MarkD says:

    So basically CD 1 & half of CD 2 of the original release are dropped, and nothing new for anyone that already has the box set.
    Not sure who the target audience are for the new CD set.
    Maybe a few will be tempted by the vinyl set.

    • Klaus says:

      @MarkD:

      I guess that Universal sold more than they expected of the recently issued 10-cd-set with all the original albums and thought that they might experience another pleasant surprise re-issuing this one. I doubt it though…

  15. StevieT says:

    Yes, as Dave G points out, the first disc and a half from the 4 cd set has disappeared. Which makes this reissue rather lacking, to put it mildly.

    • KevinK says:

      The first disc and a half of the original 4CD set was the pre-Island label tracks (which Universal don’t have the rights to). Of the remaining tracks, about two thirds can be found on the recent Complete Island Albums – while about one third is “new” (mainly alternate or extended versions). Ideally these alternate/extended versions would be issued as a single card-sleeved CD which could be stored in the recent re-issue box.

  16. StevieT says:

    I got the 4 cd box some years ago from hmv for £19.99, this version seems to still be available on amazon uk for a reasonable price.
    I recall reading a review of the original boxset, where the reviewer expressed astonishment that Marley’s first single, Judge Not, was released at a similar time to Love Me Do! I suppose he had a point to be honest.

  17. Beechlander says:

    The original “long box” is a wonderful package of mixes/alternate versions plus book. I remember when it it first came out circa 1992 retailing at over £100 so I was delighted to pick up a near-mint copy recently for £15. Highly recommended.

  18. Dave Gasbarro says:

    The reason it is reduced is the rights to the Leslie Kong, Studio One, Wail’n Soul’m and JAD material expired and either it is too expensive to renew or Universal chose not to. Either way it is a loss.

    • Ex-Oligarch says:

      If so, that’s kind of weird. Throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s there were literally dozens of dodgy labels releasing compilations of pre-Island material, and not just the Upsetter sides. Many were pitched as “Greatest Hits” (when they were anything but), and some of those were box sets, though the packaging was invariably bargain basement.

      It’s hard for me to imagine that Island couldn’t manage to license the material, or that whoever the current rights holder is wouldn’t settle for a fair fee. But maybe you or another reader has some insight into that?

  19. -SG- says:

    Rediculous. It just goes to show less really is more. In some respects this reminds me of the recent Gimme Some Truth John Lennon set, while that one offers new mixes, the Old version of Gimme Some Truth basically contained Lennon’s whole remastered catalogue of original mixes omitting only about 9 songs and it all fit on four discs and cost about $30 new. But why buy here? it is more expensive and offers less of the same music.

  20. Caroline says:

    I can’t think of many reissues that reduce the original content. “NEW DELUXE CONTRACTED EDITION!” isn’t going to have the same pull. John and Yoko’s “Some Time In New York City” was (mercifully) cut back for a CD edition but that’s a wee bit different.

    • Klaus says:

      @Caroline:

      Lol. I don’t want to give the record labels ideas but think of how much more copies of an album you could sell when re-releasing it “contracted”.
      I can already see Camp Mc Cartney sticking their heads together…

  21. MüllerMüller says:

    A new master/remaster??

  22. Adam says:

    I picked up the old 4CD+DVD version about a year ago on ebay for £14.95 (brand new), so this revised CD boxset version price is frankly ridiculous.

  23. Superhoop says:

    Hi Paul,
    Over at Sound Of Vinyl they are doing an exclusive coloured vinyl version of this.
    2 yellow,2 green and 2 red.
    Yours for £129.99.

  24. fredpostman says:

    Got the original 4 cd release at the time of issue and it’s a great resume of the man’s music BUT be aware that it contains different versions of some of the hits.

  25. Stephen Maynard says:

    This is surely very niche on CD? Given the fact you can buy the box set of all the island cd’s for less than the cost of this 3 disc set?

    • Ex-Oligarch says:

      Exactly my thought.

      The original “Legend” compilation sold like hotcakes for years. Island intended “Songs of Freedom” as a means to upsell to general listeners interested in a prestige artist, while dragging along the serious fans with a smattering of 12” versions. Later it was sold in general discount retailers like Costco as a cheap impulse buy along with the old sets by the likes of Billy Joel, Johnny Cash and Barbara Streisand.

      It has sold so many copies for so long that at this point it’s hard to imagine anyone that wanted one has not already obtained it. And why anyone interested in Marley would opt for this set over the cheaper set of the complete albums is beyond me. That leaves just those completists looking for the versions, and it’s hard to see why they’d buy the trimmed down set rather than a used copy of the original.

      • BillyD says:

        I think this may be for the vinyl version. I don’t really see a SOF cd box collector, but I’m probably wrong. Anyway, I’m not buying.
        I own half a dozen versions of Legend, including a Jamaican lp and both bluray audio versions. I never set out to collect these. ‘Better’ versions were released over the years.

  26. David Roest says:

    123 mix? Or are these the 12 inch mixes?

  27. Tim says:

    Oh. What was maybe the greatest ever career-spanning box set has been filleted down to just more of the same.

  28. Andy says:

    I recall spotting this as a £13 offer in HMV Gloucester some years back. It came as a hard-back four CD set that also included a DVD an good hour-long Bob documentary that was rather excellent in its own right. Seems I bagged a bargain.

  29. Klaus says:

    Hi Paul,

    the cd-set has already been released as a square cardboard box with four separate cardboard sleeves inside in 1999 for several markets and although it’s true that the vinyl box was only ever released in its full glory in Jamaica BUT Europe and the U.S. had the exclusive box with tapes inside ;-)

    Contentwise i’d say if you don’t have the old box be it square or long then try to get one second hand, because it will not only have ALL the original content but will also most certainly be cheaper than this new edition.

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