IN THESE days of endless tribute acts you sometimes have to check twice to make sure you’re seeing the real thing.
Reggae lovers have the chance to see a bit of both this weekend with the return to UK shores of The Wailers featuring reggae leading light Junior Marvin.
Expect serious dreads, knitted bonnets and bass cabs the size of wardrobes. The gig on Saturday (June 3) at Warwick University’s Copper Rooms promises to be roots reggae at its finest.
The Wailers – as even the least ardent fan of Jamaican music ought to recall – made their name backing the genre’s greatest ever star, composer and ambassador Bob Marley.
In a series of legendary albums during the 70s and right up to the great man’s death in 1981, The Wailers wrote the soundtrack for far more than just the Caribbean. It was a sound which spoke not only of its Jamaican origins but which put down fresh roots round the world, not least in the reggae explosion in 1980s Britain.
Songs like Jammin’, Waiting in Vain, Three Little Birds and the perennial late night favourite No Woman no Cry, took roots reggae into the mainstream arena and made the band global figures.
It’s those classic tunes which form the set list for the latest Wailers tour, named after the best-selling greatest hits collection Legend.
Surviving members are augmented by talent from the younger generation and by Junior Marvin himself of course. Junior Marvin brings an impressive heritage with him having played as part of the band that produced Exodus, Survival and a host of famous albums.
Despite a hugely varied and successful career spanning musical on the London stage, session appearances and highly-acclaimed solo work, Junior is happy to be returning once more to the material which captured the world and continues to captivate music buyers.
Speaking to the Observer’s editorial director Matthew Salisbury he said: “I believe the Legend album is timeless, as I do with Exodus. There is a spiritual flow to the songs on the album.”
“The songs on Legend cover all the positive and harmonious things in this life. I appreciate these songs not only as message songs but as motivational, educational and refreshing. Songs for everyone of all ages – young, middle aged and senior.”
And despite the dwindling number of original members able to join the party, Junior, with one eye firmly on his continuing solo projects, has no plans to unplug and take a back seat.
“I don’t think I will retire and put my feet up. But if I did I’d keep a copy of this album to sing and dance to. These songs will last forever.
“I’m looking forward to playing these songs in the UK.”
And although the reggae scene has plenty of up and coming talent in bands like John Brown’s Body, Gentlemen’s Dub Club and the East Star All Stars, he’s still backing himself to hold his own.
“I’m looking for myself and my new album to be the future of roots rock reggae. This new album – Happy Family – will take reggae to the next level.”
Part original, part remembrance, part statement for the future, if you like bass you can feel, infectious rhythm and timeless songs, this one’s for you.
The Wailers play the Copper Rooms, Saturday, June 3. For more visit thecopperrooms.com .