Rolling Stone - 07/24/03, p.903 stars out of 5
- "...This reggae pioneer can still deliver roots reggae that works up a sense of political urgency while maintaining a muscular, good-timey groove..."
Vibe - 08/03, p.1563.5 discs out of 5
- "...Spear's minimalist message music lets the riddim move, the body dance, and the mind soar."
FREE MAN was nominated for the 2004 Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album.
Personnel: Burning Spear (vocals, percussion); Ian Coleman (guitar, bass guitar); Leebert Thompson, Robert Browne (guitar); Everton Gayle (saxophone); Chico Chin (trumpet); Barry Bailey (trombone); Stephan Stewart (keyboards); Chris Meredit (bass guitar); Leroy "Horsemouth" Wallace, Shawn "Mark" Dawson, Dillon White (drums); Christopher Burth, Uziah "Sticky" Thompson (percussion).
For decades, Burning Spear (aka Winston Rodney) has continued turning out the kind of quality roots reggae that so many die-hards feared had died out in the face of dancehall's popularity. Rooted in Spear's Rastafari faith, the dozen songs on this 2003 outing, released on Spear's own label, are the kind of crisp fare that Bob Marley might have been recording had he made it to the 21st century. A crack band featuring notable session cats Leroy "Horse Mouth" Wallace and Uzziah "Sticky" Thompson breathes life into these gems that address religion ("Hey Dready"), better times in the past ("Old School"), and social justice ("Changes"). Riding on a wave of crisp horn arrangements and crack rhythms, Spear uses "Not Guilty" to get his licks in for heroes like Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King. FREE MAN is yet another successful instance of Burning Spear doling out the kind of quality fare that almost made reggae the next big American movement in the late '70s.