This "Introduction to Burning Spear" actually covers a fairly narrow slice of the act's career, drawing from five mid- to late-'70s albums for Island. Some might reasonably argue that it doesn't provide a full survey, even an introductory one, of an artist who's had a much longer lifespan. On the other hand, Burning Spear's '70s Island period was pretty much indisputably the one which produced their (or his, depending upon the recording lineup) best and (to the larger international pop audience, anyway) most widely known work. Jah No Dead covers that groundbreaking period well, featuring what's probably the most famous Burning Spear song ("Slavery Days"), of course, but also including a couple of tracks from the dub version of Marcus Garvey. What strikes the listener when hearing this overview is how Burning Spear not only reflected reggae's peak of social consciousness and articulation of Rastafarianism, but combined that with music and production that was as innovative and interesting as the lyrics. The songs projected a brooding determination while managing to often avoid the clichés of many minor-keyed '70s reggae melodies. The tracks were also spiced with suitably ghostly dub effects, horns, and background vocals that did not, as Lee Perry's productions sometimes did, call attention to themselves primarily by virtue of their eccentricity. It all enhanced Burning Spear's message, one which comes through powerfully on this fine compilation (which, incidentally, includes the extended 12'' mixes of "Civilized Reggae" and "Social Living").
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AllMusic Review by Richie Unterberger