Awe­some mu­sic from the ar­chives: ‘Rocking Time’ by Burning Spear

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - TICKET STUBS - Donal Di­neen

Bob Mar­ley and Win­ston Rod­ney were born within a few weeks of each other in the same parish of Saint Ann in Ja­maica in 1945. From a ti­dal wave of ex­cep­tional voices that swept across the is­land in the 1960s, theirs still ring out as ar­guably the two most res­o­nant of them all. Their char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally ten­der and deeply soul­ful tones sprang from com­mon ground.

Rod­ney had taken the name Burning Spear by the time Mar­ley rec­om­mended him to pro­ducer Cox­sone Dodd and his Stu­dio One la­bel in 1969. Dodd was adept at lay­er­ing vo­cal har­monies in styles rem­i­nis­cent of the Amer­i­can soul mu­sic that in­spired so many of the artists who came knock­ing at his door. The suc­cess of The Wail­ers and The Hep­tones gave Dodd a blue­print for craft­ing tunes where the beat stirred danc­ing feet and the singers al­ways shone.

Burning Spear went on to en­joy far greater com­mer­cial suc­cess af­ter he left Stu­dio One for the Is­land la­bel but the record­ings he made in Brent­ford Road were ground­break­ing. There’s a raw­ness to them that only serves to ac­cen­tu­ate their in­nate spir­i­tu­al­ity. They also cap­ture his mel­liflu­ous soul-drenched voice in a way that was never bet­tered. Rocking Time is the sec­ond of two im­pe­ri­ous LPs from this pe­riod.

The singing on this record is a joy to be­hold. Dodd pitched Rod­ney’s voice with the bass and tenor back­ing vo­cals of Ru­pert Willing­ton and Del­roy Hinds. The mix is in­tox­i­cat­ing. To­gether they con­jure har­monies that are heaven sent.

The haunt­ing Weep­ing and Wail­ing is a high point. The lead vo­cals trem­ble with feel­ing and the ache in his voice is ut­terly dis­arm­ing. The prayer-like words are de­liv­ered with af­fect­ing pas­sion. This is a gospel song set to a rum­bling reg­gae beat. It’s a tune worth trea­sur­ing – a jewel and a keeper.

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