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RECORD RACK

THE WAILERS BAND "I.D." Atlantic * 1/2: POP STARS ***** Great Balls of Fire **** Knockin' On Heaven's Door *** Good Vibrations ** Maybe Baby * Ain't That a Shame

June 04, 1989|DON SNOWDEN

Between the death of Bob Marley, the murder of drummer Carlton Barrett and legal entanglements restricting the group's activities for years, the Wailers Band has faced plenty of trials by fire. But there's little evidence of the reggae sextet's indomitable spirit on this undistinguished comeback album. The songs (all written or co-written by singer-guitarist Junior Marvin) steer a nondescript commercial course that echoes Steel Pulse and UB40. Only "Reggae Love" and "Irie" pack any kind of groove punch, while the lyrics are nebulous social protests or generic tributes to reggae music. No one should begrudge the Wailers an identity as something more than the official Bob Marley jukebox, but the anonymity of the material on "I.D." is pretty shocking--as is the realization that the Wailers, who once defined the direction of reggae, are now followers rather than leaders.

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