Calling this album Burning Spear's Ultimate Collection is overstating things a bit. Sure, nearly every song here can be considered one of his best, but there's a lot missing here -- a problem that has marred his other previously released best-ofs, in particular the nearly "ultimate collection" Chant Down Babylon: The Island Anthology. Like that album, Hip-O's attempt at the definitive Burning Spear compilation focuses mostly on his mid- to late-'70s output -- the Marcus Garvey, Man in the Hills, Dry & Heavy, and Social Living albums -- along with a few choice selections from his early-'80s albums, Hail H.I.M. and The Fittest of the Fittest. And one can't really argue with Hip-O. As mentioned, everything they've chosen is first-rate, even if it makes it seem as if Burning Spear's post-early-'80s efforts were futile. But there is a problem with Hip-O's logic -- not necessarily for them but rather a problem for fans looking to pick up a quality best-of. What they've done here is essentially released a consolidated one-disc version of the more comprehensive yet still problematic Chant Down Babylon anthology. While that may be wonderful for neophytes looking for a cheap, simple buy, it's frustrating for existing fans who are still waiting for the "ultimate collection" that this album masquerades itself as. For those who are still waiting for an ultimate collection of Burning Spear's work, this isn't it, even if it's stacked with great songs. But for those who are looking for a simple, economical single-disc compilation of early career highlights, and could care less how comprehensive the selections are, this will satisfy.
Ultimate Collection Review
by Jason Birchmeier