Burning Spear

Studio One Presents Burning Spear

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Though he is better known for his releases on Island during the mid-'70s, Winston Rodney (aka Burning Spear) wrote an equally important chapter in reggae music during the first half of that decade. The singer began his professional career on a series of recordings for the legendary Studio One label during the years 1969-1974. Aided by singer/producer Larry Marshall and singer Rupert Willington, the resulting music was some of the most innovative of the style eventually categorized as roots reggae. Known alternately as Presenting or simply Burning Spear, this debut set collects 12 of the sides he cut during the period. A further 12 compositions were subsequently gathered as Rockin' Time, and the two albums together represent the bulk of Spear's recordings during those years. Ideologically, Spear's music was comparable to that of the Abyssinians, who also got their start at Studio One, recording their groundbreaking "Happy Land" (aka "Satta Massagana") in 1968. Both groups were among the first to deal openly with Rastafarian themes on record. Though Spear's early releases failed to achieve the success of some of his more fortunate labelmates, they form a significant part of the singer's body of work and, therefore, reggae music in general. Perhaps most stunning is "Door Peep Shall Not Enter," Rodney's 1969 debut 45, which begins with the singer's spoken praise to Jah, and is supported by a suitably rugged rhythm. Equally strong are "Pick Up the Pieces," "Journey," and "He Prayed," compositions Spear would return to during a period of self-production in the late '70s. Unfortunately, the sound quality on the Studio One issue available on CD hardly does justice to this majestic music. With no other alternative, however, Presenting is still unreservedly recommended.

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