Hard-to-find early Burning Spear recordings from the dawn of the '70s -- such as "Door Peep" and "We Are Free," cut for Jamaica's infamous Studio One label -- are primordial dread masterpieces. Their dissonant vocal patterns and thunderously bass-heavy mix anticipated the direction Jamaican music was to take throughout the remainder of the decade. Originally a vocal group, Burning Spear signed to Island Records in '75 and subsequently recorded a trio of stunning albums -- including that year's Marcus Garvey, an undisputed classic, whose revolutionary themes of slavery, repatriation, and African pride curiously found some commercial acceptance and managed to introduce the group to a wider audience outside Jamaica.
By the '80s, the group had split, leaving lead singer-songwriter Winston Rodney, who alone adopted the moniker. He's continued to record and tour relentlessly, remaining a top draw not only in the States, but in Europe and Africa as well, where roots music has remained popular. He now has nearly 30 full-length studio albums under his belt, without a turkey in the bunch. Unlike so many of his contemporaries, Spear still sounds as fresh, passionate, and energized as ever.
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