Burning Spear

Man in the Hills/Dry & Heavy

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Coming after the highly acclaimed Marcus Garvey (1975), Burning Spear's fourth album, Man in the Hills (1976), had a lot to live up to. It is generally conceded that they did not craft an equally impressive follow-up, but Man in the Hills has its charms nevertheless. Lead singer and main songwriter Winston Rodney turns back to reflections on his rural Jamaican childhood for many of the lyrics, which gives the album a gentler, more nostalgic message than the political, exhortative Marcus Garvey. Rodney's tenor is well suited to the sentiments, and the all-star band assembled to back him is supportive and, especially in the horn charts, complementary to the lead voice. The demands of recording schedules may have caused Burning Spear to recast earlier songs, but that contributes to the album's theme of looking back. "Door Peep" was the first song Burning Spear released in its Studio One days, and "No More War" updates the Jamaicans' 1967 song "Ba Ba Boom." With Dry & Heavy (1977), Burning Spear consisted only of Rodney, who also jettisoned producer Laurence "Jack Ruby" Lindo and handled the board himself. This time, he went in for remakes in a big way -- seven of the nine songs date from Studio One, with only the title song, another recollection of childhood, and the anti-violence statement "Throw Down Your Arms" newly written. (The titles, however, have usually been changed. "It's a Long Way Around" is a new version of "Creation Rebel," "Black Disciples" is "Swell Headed," "Any River" is "Down by the Riverside," "The Sun" is "Call on You," "I W.I.N." is "This Race," and "Shout It Out" is "Free Again.") But even if the songs are old, the performances are powerful, and the combination of the two albums here makes for an excellent CD reissue.

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