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