Burning Spear – Studio One Session
There are very few certainties in this world but one I always reckoned to be a fairly safe bet was Astral Weeks’ pole position in my favourite records ever list. How could anyone ever top that I always thought? That was before I heard Burning Spear.
I had always collected reggae 7”s primarily because I loved the sound and the medium, but also because I was under the mistaken impression that the perfect reggae album didn’t exist. I was wrong. Here it is. The untouchable Studio One Session. It’s the new certainty.
The album was recorded in Kingston by Coxsone Dodd with Lee Scratch Perry engineering in 1973. It was made at a time when their working relationship was falling apart, but stands as a kind of swansong to the groundbreaking sounds they made together.
This one is a landmark recording, an all-time high for both parties. Reggae could be a conservative genre and Dodd was difficult to work with. Lee Perry was a martial-arts master who brought quick hands and a huge degree of intuition to the table. Coxsone was the star and Perry the Aurora Borealis.
Through adversity, right at the whistle, a masterpiece emerged between them.
Burning Spear was the name chosen by Winston Rodney when he formed his group in 1968 with two harmony singers, Rupert Hines and Delroy Wilmington of The Heptones. His voice was his sole instrument and it’s a joyful one. Bob Marley, a friend and fan, recommended Coxsone as a producer.
The sound they conjured together is spellbinding. Rodney’s mellifluous voice is central. Oh, the sweetness of it. That’s the spark. When he sings, he soars. Fire! Add the harmonies and there are so many moments of layered vocal grandeur to behold, it’s breathtaking.
Only available on vinyl, I treasure this record. Stave off the chill. Get burning.