Burning Spear – No Destroyer
Burning Spear was originally a duo that consisted of Winston Rodney and bass singer Rupert Willington. They auditioned for Dodd in 1969 which led to the release of their debut single Door Peep. They were then joined by tenor Delroy Hinds. The trio recorded several more singles for Dodd, and two albums before they moved on to work with Jack Ruby in 1975. Their first recording with Ruby, Marcus Garvey, gave them an immediate hit and was followed by Slavery Days. The group worked with Ruby on their third album, Marcus Garvey (1975), which was immediately successful and led to a deal with Island Records. Island remixed and altered the speed of some of the tracks, much to the annoyance of fans and the group, leading Rodney to set up his own Burning Music label for future releases where he would have full control, although further releases followed on Island including Garvey’s Ghost, a dub version of the Marcus Garvey album, and Man In The Hills. In late 1976, Rodney split from both Ruby and group members Willington and Hinds, and from that point on used the name Burning Spear for himself alone.
Few Jamaican singers have upheld the Rastafarian tradition as commendably as Winston Rodney. Almost exactly fifteen years after the release of his Grammy winning album Jah Is Real, the Spear makes a noteworthy return with an album of good quality reggae music. Without treading on new territory, No Destroyer remains faithful to the spiritual and musical principles found on his previous album releases, as he continues steadfastly in his own unique direction. This mindset is evident in several tracks, including Independent, where he expresses his musical and spiritual independence, and No Fool, a vibrant song that showcases the power of roots reggae music. The lyrics in these songs reflect Spear’s unwavering strength. The album closer, They Think, is another example of this, with its empowering lyrics of self-determination. However, it is likely that the attention will be drawn to a track like Jamaica, with its captivating riddim. In this song, Spear embodies the true Rastaman, recounting the history and culture of Jamaica. The title track, No Destroyer, and then Obsession are examples of songs that have extended mixes. It emphasizes Spear’s longstanding preference for authentic ‘live’ backdrops, captivating horn arrangements, and first-rate playing from capable musicians such as Karl W. Wright, Laurence Lewis, Linford “Lenny” Carby, Dave Selim Reichley, and a horn section consisting of Greg Glassman, Jason Jackson, and Jerry Johnson.
Although Spear’s performance may not reach the breathtaking and captivating heights of his work in the 1970s, it is generally impeccable. He effectively depicts himself as an artist in the lyrics of the funky groovin’ opening track, appropriately titled The Spear. The same level of excellence can be found in Cure For Cancer, a song in which he expresses his doubts about the ability or willingness of medical science to find a solution for cancer. Additionally, the heartfelt message in the tune Mommy, which was previously released as a single, is moving. Most of the songs on the album are typical for the man behind classic songs like Social Living, Slavery Days, and African Postman. It’s reassuring that after all those years in music business, the Spear still delivers the kind of songs that have undiminished appeal to listen to.
Burning Spear has rewarded the patience of his many fans with a captivating and enthralling album, putting an end to a long wait.