April 19 was Record Store Day and for that very special occasion Reggae Archive Records reissued a limited edition version of the extremely rare compilation Handsworth Explosion II, a set collecting and revealing talents from the Birmingham area in the early 80s.
All ten tracks were produced by Fatman, founder of Black Symbol and the band’s musical director. The sounds are deep, dark and haunting. Especially tasty are the two socially conscious cuts from dub poet Benjamin Zephaniah, who has a melodic and effortless flow. Other acts included are Mystic Foundation, Man from the Hills, Black Knight and of course Black Symbol.
Handsworth Explosion II is a musical capsule and unveils underground acts that shed light on the early Birmingham reggae scene.
Reggae Archive Records have also partnered with Fatman and licensed the entire Black Symbol back catalogue. Together they aim for a comprehensive reissue program throughout the coming year, including a combined CD release for both volumes of Handsworth Explosion.
Black Symbol – a rather unknown Birmingham-based reggae band from the late 70s and early 80s – has re-emerged with a brand new album titled Journey. And behind the release is legendary frontman Fatman.
Journey is Black Symbol’s second album under their own name and the first in 30 years. It was produced by the Grammy-nominated Paul Horton, who has previously worked with Steel Pulse and Pato Banton. The sound he and Fatman have created owes a lot to 80s Jamaican roots reggae.
Burning Spear and Ijahman Levi spring to mind. So does ex-Gladiator Clinton Fearon. He and Fatman have a similar tone in their voice and they also share a sincere and honest country feeling. An up-in-the-hills kind of thing.
Journey is a spiritual and sometimes meditative journey with sublime harmonizing and beautiful back-up vocals courtesy of Empress Bev. Her touch truly gives the album a character of its own.
Highlights include the nyabinghi-flavored Bongoman, the uplifting What a Joy and Let it Shine, a track with a hint of gospel in its glorious chorus.
With this consistent album Fatman and Black Symbol continue a journey that started more than 30 years ago, a journey that hopefully will go on for many years to come.