Not to be confused with Wailers guitarist Junior Marvin, Murvin is the possessor of a fabulous falsetto. (In the late ’60s he did reggae covers of Curtis Mayfield tunes and was known as Junior Soul.) In 1976, after some success writing for others, he teamed with legendary producer Lee Perry and delivered “Police and Thieves,” an instant classic with phenomenal impact in both Jamaica and England (it came as a timely remark on increased racial tensions in both nations). As an added intercultural bonus, the song’s appropriately rebellious lyrics offered the Clash a convenient way to make an early reggae statement on their first LP.
Murvin’s original is worth every bit of applause it’s gotten. The cool, understated presentation contradicts the mood of the lyrics, but lends them an underlying tension unattainable by histrionics (which, by contrast, gives extra weight to the more dramatic middle eight). As for the rest of the album, other than the excellent, more groove-minded “Roots Train,” it’s a swell voice and righteous riddims buoying plain songs. Murvin never did really capitalize on his big success.