It can’t be easy being Ziggy Marley. As the first-born son of Bob, the reggae icon hailed as "the first Third World Superstar" who remains very much a worldwide phenomenon more than 30 years after his death, Ziggy inevitably suffers from the same syndrome as Femi Kuti and Julian Lennon: being the son of someone so famous that forging your own musical identity is a terribly daunting challenge. Yet Ziggy has risen admirably to the task, racking up a number of Grammy awards, both for his solo work and as the leader of the Melody Makers: the group he founded with his siblings shortly before their father’s untimely passing.
Ziggy’s latest effort, Wild and Free, is similar in style to Love Is My Religion, his Grammy-winning solo set up 2006, being a pop-oriented reggae album with rock and rap shadings. Producer Don Was keeps the sound in the realm of full-spectrum audio, but with occasionally excess polish, reminding that Ziggy is Miami-based, rather than a Kingston ghetto-dweller, and that this album is aimed primarily at American audiences.
Although the opening title-track, featuring a cameo by Woody Harrelson, is a hammy ode written in support of California’s failed bid to legalise marijuana, and Forward to Love is radio-friendly peppy pop, Ziggy shows what he’s really made of on numbers like the anti-establishment Personal Revolution, and the tense and eerie Roads Less Traveled, in which he notes that his father’s romantic excesses negatively impacted his mother, while "the brethrens that surrounded him became the enemies". Somehow, the spectre of the father looms large over the proceedings: Mmmm Mmmm would not have sounded out of place on Uprising, but on Changes, the inclusion of the line "Everyone has an ego to feed", adapted from Pimper’s Paradise, ultimately reminds that Ziggy is not such an exceptional wordsmith as Marley Senior was.
Nevertheless, the ever-dependable drumming of Carlton ‘Santa’ Davis and guest raps from both Heavy D and Ziggy’s son Daniel help keep the material more than simply two-dimensional.