Calling Rastafari

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Though it's been noted that Winston Rodney, better known to reggae devotees as Burning Spear, has but a few songs to sing, no one complains when he releases his latest collection of variations on those tunes. He has maintained an exacting standard of quality during 30 years of recording, and his performances on Calling Rastafari rank with his best work of the early '70s. Rodney himself and Sticky Thompson, the latter a veteran of literally thousands of reggae sessions, provide the signature primal pulse of hand drumming, which links Spear's current, sophisticated work to the nyabingi percussion of his Rastafarian faith. Though his lyrics acknowledge the fickle attentions of those seduced from his roots reggae by the more fashionable, computer-driven dancehall sounds of the past decade, Burning Spear is secure in his craft. His dreadlocks may be longer and his beard is now gray, but Spear shows no signs of musical age, as witnessed by vibrant tracks like Hallelujah and Let's Move, and the lion's share of his new compositions. From the first one-drop drum stroke to the final dub echoes of Holy Man, Calling Rastafari finds Spear entering the new millennium with a top-ranking set. Heartbeat.

FromEscape(Nov., 1999.) Subscriptions: $18/yr. (4 issues) from Box 462255, Escondido, CA 92046.