Tag Archives: Bristol Archive Records

A reggae revelation

Most reissues that I’ve come across are new issues of already released albums or collections of hard to find singles. It’s a rare occasion when a label presents an album recorded way back, but not released. But Bristol Archive Records has done just that.

Jah Praises contains five previously recordings dating from 1979 by a group called Revelation Rockers, who would soon form the more well-known outfit Talisman.

This album is something of a time capsule and deals with the realities of life in 70’s Britain, a time of racism, mass unemployment, industrial unrest and poverty. A reality not far from today with riots and financial constraints around the world.

The cultural lyrics are accompanied by sparse arrangements with ruthless bass lines, a lonesome saxophone, keys, guitar, drums and fine tuned harmonies. And the relentless grooves hit you hard. Straight in the chest.

Each tune also clocks in over five minutes and evolves into an instrumental or dub exercise.

It’s a rare event to come across an entire lost reggae album, and this album should of course have been released in the late 70’s. And Bristol Archive Records has done the right thing to put it out more than three decades after it was recorded. It was long overdue, but well worth the wait.

Jah Praises drops on March 5 on LP and digital download.

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Bristol continues to rock

Earlier this year, a to me previously unheard of label caught my attention. Bristol Archive Records was the name of the label and the release was the worthwhile various artists’ compilation The Bristol Reggae Explosion 1978-1983. That 14 track set showcased the early reggae talents in Bristol, a city probably best known in the music industry for artists such as Massive Attack and Portishead.

Following the success of that album Bristol Archive Records have dug deeper into the city’s reggae heritage for the follow-up – Bristol Reggae Explosion Volume 2 – The 1980’s.

This album is in the same vein as the previous with a bunch of rare releases. But there are some notable exceptions. Several tracks are previously unreleased and it also includes a greater dub content. As the title indicates, the sound is also somewhat different compared to the rugged first version.

Bristol’s leading reggae band was, and maybe still is, Black Roots. They are represented with two tunes – the heavyweight roots piece The Father and the more commercial bubbling Pin in the Ocean, a tune produced by Mad Professor.

The other 13 tracks are by more or less unknown singers and bands. Some of them were featured on The Bristol Reggae Explosion 1978-1983. Joshua Moses, The Radicals and 3-D Production are for instance familiar.

Rise Up from Joshua Moses is rough UK roots at its best and it’s a mystery why this has been unreleased until now. Same goes for Alfred McIntosh’s seven minute dub exercise Wicked Dub.

Throughout the album you can follow the shift in the music’s direction – from unpolished and rough-edged to slick and sultry with more technology instead of live instrumentation.

Bristol Archive Records has once again managed to put together a stellar compilation with material I didn’t know I needed.

Bristol Reggae Explosion Volume 2 – The 1980’s is available on CD, digital download and as limited edition eight track vinyl with insert.

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Black Roots’ singles showcase a band in fine form

My first encounter with UK-band Black Roots was in a record store about ten years ago. The store had the original vinyl press of their album In Session up on the wall and I asked the clerk if I could have a listen.

I enjoyed the album, but since it was expensive I didn’t buy it and thought that I could spend my money on other records instead. About a week flew by and I regretted that I had neglected the album. I went back to the store, but the album had been sold and I haven’t seen an original vinyl press of that album since.

Luckily enough French label Makasound decided to reissue that particular album as well as an compilation with Black Roots’ material entitled On the Frontline a while ago.

Now another compilation dedicated to one of the – if not the – best reggae acts from the UK has been put out. This time by Bristol Archive Records in collaboration with Nubian Records – Black Roots’ own label.

Black Roots – The Reggae Singles Anthology assembles 16 well-mastered tracks spanning from the early 80’s up until 1988, when they were working with Mad Professor.

It includes all of their key early singles, their first EP in its entirety, the three track follow up, the original single mix of The Frontline from the BBC series of the same name and five tracks from later releases, such as singles from albums put out in 1987 and 1988.

Those five tracks are actually what make this album musically different from the Makasound releases. So the key question is – are the five tracks worth having?

The answer is yes. But, they are more pop oriented than the other material. And they sound a bit more dated.

A 16 page booklet full of previously unpublished photos of the band comes with the album. The initial run of CDs also has an added bonus – a DVD issue of the hard to find live show Celebration from 1986 with Vin Gordon on trombone. This show was recorded at the Bristol Studio and was previously only available on the original self-financed video cassette issue.

If you don’t already own the Makasound albums or other Black Roots material you should definitely head over to your local record store. Otherwise this album makes a great complement, especially if you’re early and receives the DVD.

Black Roots – The Reggae Singles Anthology comes as a limited edition double vinyl, CD and digital download.

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Dole Age shows Talisman at their peak

February saw the release of the heavyweight compilation The Bristol Reggae Explosion 1978-1983. That compilation included three Talisman tunes – Run Come Girl (live), Wicked Dem (live) and an eleven minute long 12” version of Dole Age that wetted the appetite.

Other versions of these together with eight additional tunes are collected on the new Talisman compilation Dole Age – The 1981 Reggae Collection put out by Bristol Archive Records.

These 11 tracks from this far too unknown six pieced Bristol-based group are a mix of live and studio recordings made in 1981. The majority of the tunes was recorded live at the Glastonbury Festival and at Bath University and has never been properly released before.

All of the live performances are over five minutes. The sound quality is amazing and it at times feel like you are part of a jam session, especially in Words of Wisdom that spans over 14 minutes.

There is no coincidence that some of the tunes were recorded at a university since Talisman’s lyrics often deal with politics and experiences in the Thatcherite 80’s.

Despite the group’s acquaintance with the cold 80’s UK there is incredible warmth in their performances, and the often present saxophone adds to that feeling.

Dole Age – The 1981 Reggae Collection hit the streets on May 9 and is available on CD, digital download and a limited edition vinyl that includes five different tracks. I highly suggest you acquire the CD or vinyl edition since they include very informative liner notes and an interview with saxophonist Brendan Whitmore.

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Bristol’s fantastic reggae legacy

The Bristol Reggae Explosion 1978-1983Black Roots are one of my all time favourite UK reggae bands. Their sound is in the same great tradition as Aswad, Misty in Roots and Steel Pulse – heavy as lead bass lines, groove and clear melodies. And Black Roots were apparently part of the Bristol reggae scene, a music scene that is now put on wax by Bristol Archive Records.

The Bristol Reggae Explosion 1978-1983 is according to the label the first and only attempt to document the local reggae scene from the late 70’s and early 80’s.

According to Bristol Archive Records none of the tunes – except for the Black Roots tunes – have ever been reissued and this is their debut in digital format.

It was certainly a long overdue deed. This is a historical document that includes great music and very informative liner notes about the Bristol reggae scene and the bands and artists that appear on the compilation.

Roots reggae dominates the 14 tracks by eight bands and artists and there are several highlights here.

Four Point Plan, by a band called Restriction that only released one four track twelve inch in 1983 mixed and engineered by Mad Professor at his Ariwa Studio in London, is a deejay lead masterpiece with some nice dub echoing going on.

Black Roots and Talisman are represented by three tracks each; two of Talisman’s are live recordings. All six are classic UK roots with solid brass arrangements.

Sharon Bengamin’s Mr Guy is lovers rock in the Janet Kay tradition and keeps things sweet and smooth.

Today DJ Stryda of Dubkasm keeps the Bristol reggae flag flying high, and this compilation shows that he has a firm foundation to rely on.

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