Catch a Fire was the first album of Bob Marley & The Wailers with a major record company. Released on April 13, 1973, the album was a major success that propelled the band (and reggae music) into the international arena. Marley’s versatility as a composer is evident in songs that range from social and political statements (Concrete Jungle, Slave Driver) to a love letter to his wife Rita (Stir It Up), but Tosh does not stay far behind in the performance of his own two songs. When listening to those two powerful talents in the same recording it is easy to understand why Tosh decided to follow his own career path: his enormous talent was of no use while he played in someone else’s band . And he was right. Starting with this album The Wailers will slowly become Marley’s backing band (Marley wrote all the songs except the two by Tosh) and he will take over completely after Tosh and Bunny Wailer’s departure in 1974. Modern releases of this album are, in fact, credited to Bob Marley & The Wailers instead of just The Wailers, as in the original release.
But Bob Marley wasn’t the only Wailer when this album was recorded and it was the band as a whole which breathed life into one of the best debuts in history. Especially brothers Aston (bass) and Carlton Barret (percussion), whose craftsmanship led Marley’s tight and harmonious compositions to new and yet unparalleled reggae heights.
The album received critical acclaim from its release, did well on charts, and it is number 123 in the list of 500 greatest albums of all time of Rolling Stone magazine (Marley has 4 in that list). This is an essential album in any collection.