From The Burning Spear (SJRCD 101 - 2004)
Call On You
Bad To Worse
We Are Free
Down By The Riverside
What A Happy Day
|Over the past fifty years Jamaica has produced many
great singers, songwriters and musicians but few have ever been able to
approach the sustained inventiveness and insight coupled with an
unwavering and all encompassing commitment to a musical and spiritual
ideal as Winston Rodney - The Burning Spear. He has built a long and
successful career with a careful and gradual accumulation of a solid
body of work over three decades that has stood the test of time and has
endured all vagaries of fashion. Burning Spear still shows no signs of
faltering from his chosen path and his records still regularly outsell
those of any new pretenders. His famed live performances, celebrated for
their transcendental atmosphere, are eagerly anticipated by his
worldwide legions of admirers. 'Legend' is a much abused and
inappropriately over-used term but there can be no denying that he truly
is a legend and that his music has touched a nerve that many people were
unaware even existed until the music of Burning Spear reached it. The
legend began at Studio One.
"I and I, Sons of the Most High Jah
Rastafari. Our hearts shall correspond and beat in the one harmony.
Sounds from The Burning Spear"
The spoken introduction to Burning Spear's debut recording released on Clement 'Coxsone' Dodd's Supreme label set the tone and established the precepts for all the music that they would make together over the next five years; a body of work that would help to dictate the direction of reggae music for the latter half of the seventies and herald the acceptance of Jamaican music as a serious art form. This music could never be termed widely or readily available and Burning Spear's seven inch singles are seriously obscure and even harder to locate and a number of them have never been released before on album format. 'Sounds From The Burning Spear' features all of the classic seven inch rarities alongside a painstakingly handpicked selection from Burning Spear's classic albums at Studio One; it is very difficult not to envy anyone hearing these recordings for the first time.
Winston Rodney was born in St. Anne's Bay on the North Coast of Jamaica on the first of March 1945 and it was on the recommendation of the most celebrated son of the Parish of St. Anne, Bob Marley, that in 1969 he travelled to Kingston to audition for Clement 'Coxsone' Dodd:
"I bumped into Bob and I asked him who and where I could check. He told me about Studio One. We have a nice reasoning pertaining to the recording business. But a start with Clement Dodd... Monday morning I do the audition. I was told to come back the following Sunday. Mr Dodd was in charge of the session. My first song was "Door Peeper" and I start... 'Foggy Road', 'Creation Rebel'."
Clement 'Coxsone' Dodd, was widely regarded as the most innovative and prolific Jamaican record producer ever, opened Studio One at 13 Brentford Road, Kingston 5 in 1963. it was his ability to always see beyond the current musical trends that kept him at the forefront of reggae music throughout the sixties and on into the seventies and he was one of the first producers to actively encourage and actually record Rastafarian inspired music. The music that Burning Spear made at Studio One between 1969 and 1974 was as far removed from the music of the time as it was possible to get; the formats and themes that they explored together did not begin to encroach on reggae music until later in the decade when their influence would become all encompassing. That 'Coxsone' kept faith with Burning Spear for over five years speaks volumes for their working relationship for it must have been a lonely furrow to plough. The songs of Winston Rodney possess the sincerity and conviction of a true and humble servant of The Most High and these works are the very first steps on the straight and narrow road that Burning Spear would steadfastly tread throughout his subsequent career. His soul is revealed on these mesmerising recordings set to some of Mr Dodd's most inspired rhythm tracks and these lovingly crafted and intricate rhythms complement the songs and match the gravity and dignity of Burning Spear's approach. Their sparseness always feels full for nothing more is needed to make it complete and its indefinable simplicity is devastating in the extreme. Many of these records were credited to 'The Burning Spears' on their original release and many people assumed that because of this and the fullness of the music that Burning Spear was actually a vocal group but this was not the case:
"I started out as one person but I used one back up artist name Rupert Willington. That was it. Me and him. I can sing any kind of harmony. I do a lot of background vocals at Studio One."
Many of the rhythms have been used time and time again for countless instrumental, deejay and further vocal versions for their subtle arrangements are open to any number of different interpretations.
"We worked with various musicians, not one set all the time. Leroy 'Horse Mouth' Wallace used to be the drummer there. Leroy Sibbles played a lot of bass in the day. Jackie Mittoo and Ernest Ranglin were there also. Some greats! It was more like a college."
Winston Rodney came to Studio One fully prepared with an abundance of superb songs that he had written in the rural tranquillity of St Anne's Bay.
"All those lyrics was created long, long, long time before going through the studio door but the time never come until 1969. From when I started in music I took unto myself the name Burning Spear. Jomo kenyatta inspired me to that as an African."
Jomo Kenyatta, The Burning Spear, is now seen as a stabilising influence in Kenya but in 1952 he was charged with leading the Mau Mau rebellion against the British and in 1953 he was sentenced to seven years imprisonment. In 1964 he was elected the first President of the Republic of Kenya. He remained in that exalted position until his death in 1978 and his life, work and towering achievements were to have a profound and lasting influence on Winston Rodney.
Winston Rodney and Clement Dodd together practically invented what is now termed 'roots' music and Burning spear's stance was unequivocal from the very beginning:
"I inspired to do work and I do work."
CALL ON YOU
FREE AGAIN/WE ARE FREE
DOOR PEEPER/DOOR PEEP SHALL NOT ENTER
DOWN BY THE RIVERSIDE
WHAT A HAPPY DAY
BAD TO WORSE
Burning Spear and Mr Dodd parted company in 1974 after creating one of the most impressive bodies of work ever made at Studio One that would lay the foundations of Reggae music as it is has since become to be understood. The tone and lyrical content of their music would be returned to time and time again and it can be safely stated that Burning Spear is one of those handful of artists responsible for elevating Reggae music to a level that the mainstream were finally able to treat seriously. To many subsequent imitators 'roots' music had to be solemn, mirthless and dirge-like but there is moral and spiritual enlightenment in the exultant music of Burning Spear. A joy, a love and a concern shines like a beacon throughout all his work, a life affirming positivity that reaches out to all classes and races of people everywhere and that uplifts the spirit and gladdens the soul. It is always inclusive and this important release makes what had become the exclusive preserve of serious record collectors available to any and every one.
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