Tag Archives: Bristol

Black Roots’ better half

BLACKROOTS DUB STICKERED FOD093CDLast year’s On the Ground was Bristolian band Black Roots’ first album in more than 20 years and was rightly praised by critics and fans. The success has now spawned a dub counterpart to the original vocal version. Its title is simple and effective – On the Ground in Dub.

It collects 15 of the original 17 tracks. For some reason Capitalism and the title track didn’t make it for the dub version.

In classic dub fashion the music has been stripped down, rearranged and recharged, but without losing any of its bright and catchy melodies. This is partly thanks to the excellent and downright awesome horn section and partly thanks to the mixing style courtesy of Louis Becket, who hasn’t drowned the music with the usual dub effects.

The drums and bass are the mains ingredients, which gives the horns plenty of space to do their beautiful thing. It’s sweet with plenty of hooks, yet still militant.

The press release describes the album as a “a modern dub classic”. I can only agree. Definitely one of the best contemporary dub albums I’ve heard in many years.

On the Ground in Dub is now available on CD and digital download.

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Cool Runnings drop a 30 year old debut album

UK label Bristol Archive Records has once again located a number of unreleased tunes from the early to mid 80’s.

This time by Cool Runnings, a group that worked together during the entire 80’s, but only dropped one proper release – the rocking Robin Hoods of the Ghetto, included on Bristol Reggae Explosion vol. 2, and also on their self-titled debut album, that now sees the light of day 20 years after the members went their separate ways.

Cool Runnings collects twelve tunes in a smooth lovers rock style recorded between 1983 and 1985 at various local studios in Bristol along with a few of live tracks.

And the lovers style is well-suited for Winston Minott’s delicate, almost whispering, singing style. There are however a number of head nodding conscious-themed songs with heavier bass lines, We Must Go Home is one example, Children of Zion another.

The sound quality varies throughout the album, and it sometimes sounds like you’re in a closet, but you can’t have too high expectations on songs that have been lying around forgotten for almost 30 years.

Cool Runnings is now available on CD and digital download.

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The finest explosion in Bristol yet

In early 2011 I didn’t know much about the reggae scene in Bristol, a city in south west England with about a million residents. But thanks to the compilations Bristol Reggae Explosion 1 & 2 from Bristol Archive Records I’ve been enlightened about the city’s musical reggae heritage with bands such as Black Roots and Cool Runnings.

The third edition in the series is titled Bristol Reggae Explosion 3 – The 80’s Part 2 and digs deep in 80’s Bristol, even though a lone track from 1979 has been included. It collects 15 tunes, of which no less than eleven are previously unreleased, from a variety of mainly obscure singers and bands.

This set leans more towards roots reggae compared to the previous compilations, and the opening track Jah Praises from Revelation Rockers – who later changed their name to Talisman – sets the standard and mood. Talisman is also represented with the less roots oriented Takin’ the Strain and Lick & Run.

If you have heard the previous editions you might recognize some of the names on the album. Bunny Marrett, Joshua Moses, Alfred McIntosh and Ron Green are some of the artists that happily enough turn up once again.

Two of the strongest cuts are however from Zion Band – later Restriction – with the relentless roots scorcher Babylon Fire/Babylon Dub, taken from a scarce vinyl release, and Popsy Curious’ apocalyptic Chant Down Bobby Rome.

Even though part of the title indicates an 80’s vibe with lush synthesizers and bombastic syndrums, it’s far from the truth. Bristol Reggae Explosion 3 provides an overview of the many reggae styles found in Bristol, but with a rootsy edge.

Bristol Reggae Explosion 3 drops on CD, limited edition LP and digital download on March 19th.

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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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