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.
Bristol Archive Records has during the last year or so issued a bunch of heavyweight early UK roots gems, albums and tunes long forgotten, but well worth reissuing.
Their latest finding is Talisman’s debut studio album Takin’ the Strain, originally put out in 1984, and now released with five extra live cuts – one of which is previously unreleased. The CD version also comes with a booklet full of archive images and extensive liner notes based on the recollections of lead vocalist and guitarist Dehvan Othieno Sengor.
Talisman begun their musical journey in 1976 and started out under the name of Revelation Rockers, an outfit who recorded five tunes in the 70’s, actually recently released by Bristol Archive Records under the title Jah Praises.
Revelation Rockers’ set was jam-packed with powerful roots reggae, while Talisman’s debut album leans more towards pop, soul and funk.
Takin’ the Strain hasn’t aged with dignity, mostly due to synthesizer arrangements that expired in the mid 80’s. The funky proto-rap Burn the Bread and the video game sounding I’m Sorry are two tunes best left in the drawer.
Among the 14 tracks there are however several highlights, such as the title track and Ah Wah You Seh, even though I can’t forgive the quirky synthesizers.
The sound quality on the five live workouts isn’t great, but the nine minute long unreleased Slow Poison shows a creative band capable of jamming.
This might not be the best reissue from the Bristol Archive camp, but I celebrate their strive to dig out long lost music, even though some single tunes on this particular album might have been better left forgotten.
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.