Though I’m a little familiar with ’70s Reggae most of the stuff I’m familiar with pre ’75 centres around the Wailers – I’ve heard very little that wasn’t by someone associated with them. And so I can’t say I know much about the history of the genre outside of what they were doing. (I have heard a couple late ’60s records by other artists/groups, though.)
So I do feel like I’m at a bit of a loss with Burning Spear. This is his third record. It generated at least one “standard” (in reggae terms). The music is pretty typical reggae from the period (as far as I know). The lyrics are often more political than I was expecting, which I greatly appreciate. Of course, there’s the religiosity too, which I don’t love, but that’s something that is part and parcel with this genre.
What’s cool si the size of the band: it’s bigger than what I’m used to – there are horns and a flute, the latter of which is often quite prominent in the mix compared to the other instruments. (More on that in a moment.) I’ve never hear reggae with a flute before, certainly not one this active. If it was mixed differently I might think this is like reggae Jethro Tull or something…
The horns are not mixed very high mostly, so you don’t always notice them. And I don’t honestly know if it’s a virtue or not. The flute could get distracting if it was mixed higher but the horns blend in with the organ at times (though on other tracks they have some prominence). The vocals are super far forward, which is the point I guess. (And the bass, too, of course.) It’s certainly weirdly mixed for other genres but not really for reggae. Anyway, it certainly makes you focus on Rodney.
It’s been a while since I listened to reggae and I have no idea if this is an absolute classic of the genre, so I’m hedging my rating a bit. But it’s definitely got more going on it musically than a lot of contemporary reggae, if you listen closely.