Burning Spear

Best of the Fittest

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Obviously Best of the Fittest is far from a career-spanning anthology, nor is it even a best-of Burning Spear collection, but then it doesn't claim to be. Instead, this set brings together on one CD some of the finest tracks from a trio of Spear albums released in the early '80s. Culled exclusively from 1980s Hail H.I.M., 1982's Farover, and the following year's Fittest of the Fit, oddly nothing is drawn from Hail's companion set, Living Dub, Vol. 2. In any case, during these years Winston Rodney was rarely able to reach the dizzying heights he had previously. Hail H.I.M. was the exception, an album many fans include in the stream of roots masterpieces that began with 1975's Marcus Garvey. The title track, "Columbus," "Follow Marcus Garvey," "African Teacher," "Cry Blood Africans," and "Jah a Guh Raid" are all drawn from this set, and make up half the compilation in total. Every one of these numbers is superb, classics one and all. Farover and Fittest of the Fit have all the elements and many of the same musicians that graced H.I.M., yet both sets are missing a bit of the spark and heft of their more legendary predecessor. Pruning out the less than fittest tracks, the compilation pulls out a trio of powerful numbers from each, driving home the point that Rodney and the roots he so loved were far from a spent force. All self-respecting roots fans need H.I.M. in their collection, at which point the amount of duplication rather mars this compilation, but it's still cheaper than buying the more extraneous Fittest and Farover as well, which one supposes is the point.

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