Marley was not even 17 when he and the Melody Makers issued their EMI debut LP, Play the Game Right; the burdens of becoming a second-generation star weighed heavily on the youth -- who looked and sounded almost eerily like his father -- and he allowed the record and its 1986 follow-up Hey World! to veer closely towards pop music, resulting in derision from reggae purists. Poor sales, combined with EMI's public desire to market Marley as a solo act, prompted the band to jump to the Virgin label, where they entered the studio to record their masterpiece, 1988's Conscious Party. Produced by Talking Heads' Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth, the album was both a critical and commercial smash, with the single "Tomorrow People" reaching number 39 on the pop charts. The follow-up, 1989's One Bright Day, continued the Melody Makers' artistic growth; it was also their best-selling effort to date, cracking the Top 20 and like its predecessor winning a Grammy.
Marley and the Melody Makers resurfaced in 1991 with Jahmeyka, another assured and creative effort; it sold well, edging into the Top 20, but failed to generate much radio or video airplay. 1993's Joy and Blues barely charted, despite adding elements of contemporary dancehall (a showcase for Stephen's rapping skills.) The record was the Melody Makers' last for Virgin, and they moved to Elektra for 1995's Free Like We Want 2 B; Fallen Is Babylon followed in 1997, and scored a third Grammy. Like his father, Marley emerged as a leading political voice, and was named a Goodwill Youth Ambassador for the United Nations; at home in Kingston, he also founded his own record label, Ghetto Youth United, created to spotlight the next generation of reggae talent. In addition to the four siblings in the Melody Makers, three other Marley children -- Damian, Julian and Ky-Mani -- also pursued careers in music.
They returned to Reggae Sunplash in 1998, and before the millennium was out, the rootsy Spirit of Music arrived. Although album sales for these later records never equalled their earlier peaks, on-stage the group remained unequalled. Permanent proof of this arrived in 2000 with the Ziggy Marley & the Melody Makers Live, Vol. 1, a powerful album boasting hits, a cover of their father's "Could You Be Loved," and a celebratory "People Get Ready." ~ Jason Ankeny, All Music Guide