Bunny Wailer

Blackheart Man

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AllMusic Review by

After leaving the Wailers behind, Bunny Wailer (born Neville Livingston) wasted no time establishing himself as a highly original and visionary singer and songwriter on his own. His solo debut remains one of the most extraordinary albums of the roots period, a complex but instantly attractive and occasionally heartbreaking record that never rises above a whisper in tone but packs as much political and spiritual wallop as the best of Bob Marley's work. Critics have been praising this album for more than 25 years, and they generally (and quite rightly) focus on the quality of such songs as the quietly ferocious "Fighting Against Conviction" (aka "Battering Down Sentence"), the classic repatriation anthem "Dreamland," and the apocalyptic "Amagideon," but the song that pulls you into Bunny Wailer's magical web of mystical Rastafarianism is the first one, in which Wailer recalls being warned by his mother to avoid Rastas ("even the lions fear him") and then describes his eventual conversion, all in a tone of infinite gentleness and sadness at the hardhearted blindness of Babylon. Are there missteps? Maybe one or two: The bluesy "Oppressed Song" never quite gets off the ground, for example. But taken as a whole, Blackheart Man is an astounding achievement by an artist who was, at the time, only at the beginning of what would be a distinguished career.

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