Burning Spear

Reggae Greats

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Although Reggae Greats would eventually be supplanted in the mid-'90s by Island's two-CD set Chant Down Babylon: The Island Anthology, until that point this compilation, along with Harder Than the Best, remained the best roundup of classic Burning Spear material from the roots era. Harder was originally released by Island in 1979, and annoyingly, when Reggae Greats followed five years later, it duplicated six of the earlier set's tracks. Marketing was mercenary even back in the "good old days." As to be expected, both sets drew exclusively from Spear's first four studio albums, a group of masterpieces whose run would be completed in 1980 by Hail H.I.M., which Island, of course, did not own the rights to. In any event, even standing on its own without the Harder collection, Reggae Greats was a superb set, including only the cream of Spear's songs. All of the tracks are classics, a number of which began life at Studio One but were brought to fruition in the roots era. During this period, Spear never released a record that was less than stellar, and so this compilation provides only a taste of the true magnificence of the band's canon. It's hard to imagine anyone who, having heard these songs, wouldn't be compelled to search out the albums from which they were drawn -- and such an investigation would uncover a plethora of further excellent numbers. Once upon a time, this was a brilliant intro to the band, bringing Spear to a new generation of reggae fans.

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