Burning Spear

Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1  

- Delroy Hines -- backing vocals

- Winston Rodney -- vocals, percussion

- Rupert Willington -- bass, backing vocals


  backing musicians (1976)

- Ashton "Family Man" Barrett -- bass

- Tony Chin -- rhythm guitar

- Tyrone Downie -- keyboards

- Bobby Ellis -- trumpet

- Vincent Gordon -- trombone

- Richard "Dirty Harry" Hall -- sax

- Bernard "Outer" Harvey -- keyboards

- Earl Lindo -- keyboards

- Herman Marquis -- sax

- Robbie Shakespeare -- bass

- Earl "China" Smith -- lead guitar

- Leroy "Horsemouth" Wallace -- drums, percussion





- none known





Genre: reggae

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Man In the Hills

Company: Island

Catalog:  ILSP-9412

Country/State: St. Anne's Bay, Jamaica

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: gatefold sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 1944

Price: $15.00

Produced by Jack Ruby, 1976's "Man In the Hills" wasn't nearly as impressive as the previous "Marcus Garvey", but song for song, I've always found it to be enjoyable.   It served as a good example of the group's low-tech, roots-reggae sound ...   Yeah, while most folks equate Burning Spear with Winston Rodney, in 1976 it was still a trio showcasing Rodney along with Delroy Hines and Rupert Willington on backing vocals.  Anyhow, if you were looking for the spruced up reggae sound that managed to make its way on to mid and late-'70s radio, you probably wanted to avoid this one.  As lead singer Winston's dry, raspy voice took a little getting use to (though I like it) and on tunes like the title track and 'Groovy' he occasionally sounded like he was singing with a mouth full of marbles.   Sure, there were a couple of stabs at modernizing their sound (the synthesizers on 'Black Soul), but for the most part this was pretty raw  with the songs seemingly serving as highly personnel recollections of their youth growing up in the hills of St. Anne's Bay, Jamaica.   Probably not something you'd want to play all the time, but every now and then it makes for a nice, melancholy soundtrack.


"Man In the Hills" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Man In the Hills   (Winston Rodney) - 4:00   rating: **** stars  

In spite of my run-in with the man, I have to admit I like his music.  Yeah, the title track was a great example of his vocal limitations - to my ears when he sings Rodney sounds like he's got a mouth full of marbles, but there's just something endearing about his low-tech, minimalist approach to the genre.   You also had to admire his sincerity.  I certainly believe it when he sings about how much better it is to live in the country than the city.   The tune was tapped as a Jamaican single:



- 1976's 'Man In the Hills' b/w 'Cultivation' (Wolf catalog number)   It takes awhile for the vocal to kick in, but YouTube has a nice January 1981 German live performance of the tune at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oZ335SUnBsE  






2.) It's Good   (Fullwood - Winston Rodney) - 2:45    rating: *** stars

Nice enough lyric, but Rodney and the backing singers sounded a bit rough and raw, even for their standards.  

3.) No More War   (Winston Rodney) - 3:19    rating: *** stars

Again, how do you criticize the sentiments on something like 'No More War'?   That wasn't to imply this was special in any shape or form.  The lyrics was pretty throwaway and  I think you could probably get a 12 year old to write a computer program or app to come up with something this generic.    

4.) Black Soul   (Winston Rodney) - 3:25    rating: *** stars

'Black Soul' was one of the more mainstream and commercial tunes he'd recorded.   It probably helped it you liked cheesy, mid-'70s synthesizer washes in your arrangements.  

5.) Lion   (Winston Rodney) - 3:14   rating: **** stars  

Always wondered what the lyric was about.   Interesting interplay between Winston and his male backing singers.  Island tapped the tune as a British single:



- 1976's 'Lion' b/w 'Door Peep' (Island catalog number WIP-6346)    YouTube has another clip from a January 1981 German television RockPalast performance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B85Fbe9k0qk  




(side 2)
1.) People Get Ready   (Winston Rodney) - 3:22
    rating: *** stars

No, it wasn't a cover of the Curtis Mayfield song, rather was a likeable, breezy reggae tune with some nice horn charts.

2.) Children   (Winston Rodney) - 3:44   rating: **** stars  

I'm no great expert at interpreting reggae lyrics, so this one's always been kind of a mystery to my ears ...  learn to fish when you're a kid ?   

3.) Mother   (Winston Rodney) - 3:37   rating: **** stars  

Always liked Tony Chin's scratchy guitar on this one and it had the album's best horn charts (kudos to 

Bobby Ellis, Vincent Gordon, Richard "Dirty Harry" Hall, and Herman Marquis).   

4.) Door Peep   (Winston Rodney) - 2:40   rating: **** stars  

Musically this may have been the album's most conventional tune, both in terms of lyrical content and music. Interestingly the tune was originally recorded by the group (just Rodney and Wellington at the time) back in 1969, appearing as one of their first singles:

- 1969's 'Door Peep' b/w 'Soul Shake' (credited to The Brentford All Stars) (Supreme catalog number ???)   YouTube has a 1988 performance of the tune at Paris' Zenith Theater:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CJDIdHJwjpU   

5.) Groovy   (Winston Rodney) - 3:53   rating: **** stars  

Strange, strange, strange ...  good example of Rodney's penchant for singing the same line over and over, twisting it into some odd and occasionally beguiling avenues.