Burning Spear Creation Rebel: Burning Spear at Studio One

This is the American entry in the Burning Spear (aka Winston Rodney) anthology sweepstakes of 2004. Spear’s Studio One output (1969-74) had never been properly issued on disc, but now both Heartbeat and Soul Jazz (in the UK) have released almost identical retrospectives within a few months of each other. You can’t lose with either one. It’s simply incredible that Spear had no professional musical experience prior to these recordings. His first single "Door Peeper” sets the stage for the next 35 years and counting — declamatory, almost biblical-sounding horns, dense but pithy Rastafarian sentiment, and the countrified vocals that were miles away from what was going on in Jamaica’s pop charts at the time. Even the musicians seem to be feeling it more heavily than usual, as luminaries like bassist Leroy Sibbles and keyboardist Robbie Lyn take different approaches to their instruments to suit this unique talent. It still has the characteristic Studio One sound, of course, but much doomier, slower and what would become known as "rootsier." Spear’s lyrics are a wonder to listen to, and the transcriptions are a bonus. A song like "This Race” plays on the double meaning of the word "race” in expressing, "this race is not for the swift, but for the smart.” Chris Wilson’s informative liner notes take a step back from the music and place Rodney in the historical context of the parish of St. Ann on Jamaica’s north coast. A great addition to all reggae collections. (Heartbeat)