Burning Spear | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Like Moses, Marcus Garvey, and Bruce Springsteen, Winston Rodney believes in a Promised Land. Rodney, who is better known in reggae circles as Burning Spear, has drawn upon Garvey's themes of African repatriation to create some of the most haunting and uplifting music I've ever heard. Spear's best music builds slowly and captures all the details of a long journey: you can close your eyes and hear the patter of feet on ships and plantations, the plaintive cries of uprooted families, the faint whispers of those too weak to continue, and the jubilant chants of those who keep the fires burning. Although his most recent releases haven't equaled his classic 70s albums on Mango Records, each one contains at least one song that makes my spine tingle. These days, with much contemporary reggae stuck between hopelessly cynical dread beat an' doom and hopelessly vapid ganja-flavored bubble gum, it's refreshing to note that Spear can still capture the dry, heavy voices of history and the rich voices of rebirth in the same song. Anyone who can make me think and dance at the same time gets my vote of confidence. Tuesday, Biddy Mulligan's, 7644 N. Sheridan; 761-6532.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Donna Cline.

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