First Appeared at The Music Box, December 1999, Volume 6, #12
Written by John Metzger
While the rock world has warmly embraced Bob Marley (and rightly so), they've only modestly warmed to the joyful rhythms of other reggae artists such as Burning Spear (a.k.a. Winston Rodney). Spear's biggest opportunity for greater commercial success came and went with a brilliant cover of the Grateful Dead's Estimated Prophet for the tribute album Deadicated. Yet, he's managed to persevere, something he's obviously learned over the course of a career that spans three decades.
Spear's latest effort Calling Rastafari is a multi-layered journey through rhythm that traverses the topics of spirituality, politics, and personal introspection. As It Is is as much a history of Spear's recording career as it is a song about determination; while House of Reggae calls for peaceful African unity.
Much of Calling Rastafari is subtle, yet no less moving. There are no jaw-dropping solos or complex lyrics. Instead, Spear creates a swirling vortex of rhythm as the individual instrumentalists interact in the slipstream of consciousness to give the music shape and form. Horns punctuate and bounce through the songs with stirring radiance; the sound of a guitar occasionally fills the space between the beats with a peaceful, pliable beauty; voices interact with quiet harmony underneath Spear's gentle chants; and of course, the percussionists lock into hypnotic groove after hypnotic groove.
Calling Rastafari comes together as a cohesive whole that serves to further Spear's long-time vision of a better world. The song cycle is designed to take you higher, while reaching deep inside to make that connection between human life, Mother Earth, and each other.
42nd Annual Grammy Award Winner:
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 1999 The Music Box