Burning Spear

Harder Than the Best

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After gaining exposure with producer Clement Dodd between 1969-1975, Burning Spear (aka Winston Rodney) and singing partners Rupert Willington and Delroy Hinds cut a handful of stunning albums for Island over the next three years. The first two releases, Garvey's Ghost and Man in the Hills, were produced by Jack Ruby and introduced Jamaicans and eventually a much wider audience to the trio's stark mix of rasta/social themes, chant-like vocalizing, and sophisticated take on the islands' raw nyabinghi drumming tradition. The next two studio albums, Dry and Heavy and Social Living, were produced by Rodney and maintained the group's cultural stance while also sporting a slicker sound, thanks in part to some jazz-tinged horn arrangements. This roundup includes highlights from these releases, plus one track from the dub version of the Marcus Garvey LP, "Garvey's Ghost." And while the expansive and somewhat more accessible sound of later tracks like "Throw Down Your Arms" and "Social Living" might stand out at first, early bedrock cuts such as "Marcus Garvey" and "Slavery Days" remain the most compelling numbers here. Featuring such Jamaican studio luminaries as the Barrett Brothers, Sly and Robbie, Leroy "Horsemouth" Wallace, Vin Gordon, Bobby Ellis, and Earl "Chinna" Smith, Harder Than the Best qualifies as a solid introductory disc for the curious listener.

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