October 2008

Burning Spear - Jah Is Real
Burning Spear Music BM334
Format: CD
Released: 2008

by Shannon Holliday

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

Jamaican-born Winston Rodney, aka Burning Spear, has been creating original, powerful music since 1969, yet from the standpoint of artist's rights he has clearly been burned. Unpaid royalties, attempts to change his image or sell him out, and his barely making a living wage despite unrelenting touring, 11 Grammy nominations, and 40+ albums point to industry corruption and disgrace in the face of greatness. It's no surprise that Spear formed his own Burning Spear Music label in 2002, and his latest album, Jah Is Real, lashes out against the duplicity of the industry and cautions young newcomers to be vigilant and aware. Songs like "Wickedness", "Run for Your Life" and "You Were Wrong" reveal much about his struggle but also serve to highlight Spear's own confidence in himself, his message, his music and his destiny.

While clearly disgusted by such reprehensible treatment, Burning Spear is above all things as a Rastaman, and, as such, a fair share of the album praises Jah, preaches peace, and promotes positivity. Jah Is Real is Spear's best album in years, with signature horns, his sustained vocal wail, throbbing bass and rhythm lines, and an unrelenting, high-octane pulse.

Never forgetting his roots and culture, Spear has dedicated the album to his fans worldwide and gushed thanks for their support throughout the years. He is ever gracious, loquacious, humble. At 60, the Spear still burns. This album is a must.