Burning Spear – Wolf Records – 1975

Marcus Garvey / Slavery Days / The Invasion / Live Good / Give Me

Old Marcus Garvey / Tradition / Jordan River / Red Gold And Green

Without much doubt I would think that most Europeans and Americans who have an interest in reggae music would have, after trying out various Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff LP’s landed with a huge bump onto Burning Spear material.  Specifically the first Burning Spear vinyl LP offering produced by Jack Ruby in 1975. Although Burning Spear had recorded a clutch of 7″ singles and two LP’s (Burning Spear / Rocking Time) for Coxsone Dodd of Studio One fame, those LP’s were not well known outside of Jamaica and ex pat Jamaican areas in the cities of the UK, Canada and the US.

For most ‘whitey’ fanatics of the genre, Island Records, and later on in the 1970′s, Virgin / Frontline Records would be the starting point for the purchasing of hardcore roots reggae music on vinyl if one lived outside of ex pat Jamaican areas in one’s respective cities. Trojan Records during the mid 1970′s was in a sorry state and continued to re release tracks on iffy compilations like Music House volumes one, two and three and Reggae Jamaica volumes one, two and three. Trojan did not catch much decent new material coming out of Jamaica until the company released some Prince Far I and Mikey Dread LP’s towards the later part of the 1970′s.

If you were enticed to purchase the Island Records version of Marcus Garvey by Burning Spear released in 1976 you would have got yourself a stone wall classic LP in your record collection. Not many people knew, or cared, at the time that the sound coming out of the speakers was a diluted version specifically mixed for sensitive ‘whitey’ ears, ears that were not yet used to the Sound System culture or sound.

Uploaded onto this site today is my original Jamaican version of this classic LP released on Jack Ruby’s Wolf Records imprint. Mixed as it was meant to sound, and released way back in the mid 1970′s.

Accept no substitute.

Text below mashed up from allmusic and a BBC online review of Burning Spear’ ‘Marcus Garvey’.

The Jamaican singer and wordsmith Winston Rodney was born in Saint Ann’s Bay. This is the same parish that spawned Marcus Garvey, a highly influential figurehead for black rights, whose views emanated from a particularly Afrocentric standpoint.

At the end of the 1960s, Rodney created the identity of Burning Spear, a banner which sometimes included his two harmony backing singers. The 1975 Marcus Garvey album was the first to bring Rodney to wider attention outside Jamaica.

Although Garvey didn’t exactly embrace Rastafarianism, Rodney wasn’t discouraged from absorbing his crucial influence. Even beyond its classic opening title-track, the album concerns itself with the political thinker’s legacy throughout, though often from an abstracted perspective. Nevertheless, the Garvey presence is all-pervading.

The album was recorded at Randy’s Studio in Kingston, with its resident Black Disciples band. The introductory Marcus Garvey song maintains a brisk trot, with Rodney singing in a deliberately halting, controlled quaver that is also found in the voice of Horace Andy. The harmony singers are Delroy Hines and Rupert Willington. The horns punctuate firmly, and Earl ‘Chinna’ Smith’s lead guitar makes tiny decorative embellishments. Keyboardist Tyrone Downie pushes insistently.

The second track is an even greater classic, Slavery Days easily ranking as one of the key cuts in reggae history. Glorious harmony vocals glide beside clipped guitars and lolloping bass. The latter duties are swapped between Robbie Shakespeare and Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett, two of reggae’s most influential four-stringers.

All of the band’s parts mesh perfectly, and this rolling motion continues to the finish. With Live Good and Give Me, the advantage of Carlton Samuels’ flute becomes apparent, his lithe phrases frequently licking up against the ears. Tiny triangle tinkles complete the feeling of a highly detailed production spread.

Burning Spear’s Marcus Garvey album hit Jamaica like a force ten gale, its legacy so great that in later years many fans mistakenly came to believe it was Burning Spear’s debut album (it wasn’t, two earlier records were released by Studio One).

It made an instant hero of Winston Rodney, and the album remains a cornerstone of the entire roots movement. Spear was accompanied by the Black Disciples, a baker’s dozen of the island’s best musicians, including bassists Robbie Shakespeare and Aston Barrett, guitarists Earl “Chinna” Smith and Tony Chin, and drummer Leroy Wallace. The Disciples helped the vocal trio bring their vast potential and musical vision to vinyl, one they’d threatened with previous releases, but never quite attained.

Producer Jack Ruby’s was equally important to the album’s sound, gracing it with a deep roots mix that accentuated the haunting atmospheres of the music.

Unfortunately, the listener experiences only wisps of that here in the UK and USA. The Island subsidiary Mango believed the production too threatening, or at least too commercially enviable, for white audiences, and thus remixed it into what they considered a more palatable form. However, Marcus Garvey is so powerful a record that, even in this diluted state, it remains a masterpiece.

If the music itself defined and glorified the roots sound, it was Winston Rodney which gave the movement’s philosophy voice. Rodney’s vocal talent is actually fairly minimal; his delivery more a chant than actual singing, but his intense passion overcame any deficiencies, with Rupert Willington and Delroy Hinds dulcet backing vocals counterpointing Rodney’s rougher tones.

A fervid Rastafarian, Rodney used Marcus Garvey as a shining torch to light the way to political and religious consciousness. The album’s twinned themes of cultural concerns and religious devotion combined to create a powerfully intertwined message of faith and political radicalism. “No-one remembers old Marcus Garvey,” Spear sings at the beginning of “Old Marcus Garvey”; by the time the song’s over, it’s unlikely anyone will forget again.

These musical mnemonics of Jamaica’s past heroes and history, which include the hit title track, of course, “Slavery Days,” another Jamaican hit, and “The Invasion” are amongst the album’s strongest tracks, with the three devotional numbers equally inspiring. Oppression may be the fate of many Jamaicans, both past and present, but by giving voice to those trampled by poverty, slavery, or politics, Spear’s underlying message remains one of hope.

10 Responses to “Burning Spear – Wolf Records – 1975”

  1. dan i Says:

    Wonderful music for anyone who doesn’t know it. Check ‘Garvey’s Ghost for the dub versions.

    Sadly Spear is currently deeply into a major conflict with reggae distributors who he suspects of defrauding him over the years. It is a sad tale and the following thread from blood and fire website highlights a lot of the issues involved.

    http://www.bloodandfire.co.uk/db/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=40813&hilit=spear

    Penguin, you may think twice about posting this album after reading…

  2. Penguin Says:

    Hi Dan thanks for the heads up on the forum. There is nothing written that I have not been aware of for many decades. After 23 years of working at Southern Record Distribution dealing with many reggae artists directly and also many labels that reggae artists deal with directly; the bootlegging claim is about the most used when trying to deal with disputes. Same in JA. Mikey Dread, Shaka and others have all had there moans to SRD and to labels that SRD distribute throughout the years about their work being bootlegged in some way shape or form. Also being told SRD have lied on sales statements etc etc. Bim was quite good with that particular claim. A lot of the reggae artists we dealt with seem to go through this stage, Norman Grant is an exception to this genral rule. I do not know if it a culteral thing, perhaps so, as most artists were paid a flat rate when writing and voicing a hit record, with no future royalties going there way. Now the artists have got their work back off whatever labels had it originally they obviously want to make as much profit as they possibly can, and of course that is absolutly fair enough. I would always hope that this site KYPP would gently lead the browser to collect more work from any artist or bands that have been featured on the site. Be it Burning Spear or Blood And Roses. If someone listens to this download and enjoys it I would hope that that someone would google the band name and buy a box set from the local high steet record dealer, Amazon or perhaps get many other Burning Spear LPs (some named on the text in the post above) from itunes. If I get hassle to take down the links from any artist or band member then I would do so imediately. If Winston Rodney or one of his representatives get in touch I will act in the way they instruct me to.

  3. dan i Says:

    Just thought it was safer to publicise it. Am sure SRD have had their fair share of this kind of issue, as you say, it is not new. Doesn’t surprise me either that Norman Twinkle Grant is an exception. He sets a great example of how to conduct yourself and ‘come correct’.

  4. Don B Says:

    Thanks for the posts. Great site. I have memories of climbing in through a (toilet?) window to see Burning Spear at the Westminster Central Hall in about 86-87 (?). I think the show was sold out but my attitude at the time to almost everything but squat shows was why pay when you can try to get in for free. I believe a few others had the same view. I think I made the most of it and danced for the majority of the show.
    Love to all.

  5. dan i Says:

    Every time I have seen Spear, it has been so full and so hot that people have passed out. Sounds like that Westminster gig would be just the same. The man has such energy when performing too.

  6. Don B Says:

    You know what, my memory here is that the Central hall wasnt very full. This was/is quite an ‘upmarket’ venue which is normally reserved for church music and the like I believe.
    Sorry to change the subject but Ive had trouble contacting this site through the ‘contact’ link at the top of the page. Ive found a live Disorder gig on one side of Sony BHF 90 tape cassette. Im afraid my ears are a little too sensitive for Disorder these days. Its marked ‘Weymouth, Preston Beach Road. 24/12/82′ and runs for the entire A side with a resonable sound quality. Unfortunatly the other side is marked Flux of Pink Indians ‘Northhampton/Putney 82′ but has been recorded over (Not by me I hasten to add) I would be willing to post it too you at my cost if you want to do something with it for posterity reasons. Again sorry for interrupting this thread.
    Love to all

  7. Steve Says:

    I’ve always wanted to hear what the original version sounded like. I’m really interested in hearing how well the 2010 remaster compares to this original, barring the obvious problem with the sound quality of a 37 year old vinyl

  8. baronvonzubb Says:

    Winston Rodney, still the best.
    A master
    Just check the horns on Marcus Garvey and Door Peep.

  9. Rasta Says:

    Side 2 is down :( Can you reupp this file?

  10. Rasta Says:

    Sorry it was only a temporary Server error. Thanks for the upload ;)

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