Burning Spear's seventh album was originally released in the U.K. by Island in 1978 and has always been difficult to find in the U.S. Blood and Fire's reissue makes it possible for average American reggae fans to hear what they've been missing, and it turns out that's quite a lot. Social Living picks up where the third Burning Spear LP, Marcus Garvey, left off -- more slow, dark songs about slavery, repatriation, and, of course, Garvey himself (four of the nine songs have his name in their titles). There are still no real tunes to speak of, just immensely dense grooves that thud and rumble along slowly and relentlessly to the accompaniment of distant horns and rattling nyahbinghi percussion. If this 2003 remaster edges out the original Island release in any way, it's in the mix: Island toned down Social Living (aka Marcus' Children) a bit to appeal to British audiences, but the Blood and Fire version absolutely throbs with bass and echoes like drums heard across vast distances. In this context, when Winston Rodney sings that "Jah no dead" it's impossible not to believe him; when he instructs you in the specifics of "Social Living," you find yourself submitting to his instruction. It's that kind of album.
Social Living Review
by Rick Anderson