The British Midlands is an area spanning central England and its largest city is Birmingham, a town that has produced several successful reggae bands, including Steel Pulse, Musical Youth and UB40.
Reggae Archive Records now aims to spotlight this area and its importance in reggae history. The Midlands Roots Explosion Volume One is the first in a series of compilations that will showcase some of the unreleased, forgotten and barely known musical gems from the vibrant Midlands scene.
The set kicks off with Steel Pulse, a band that put Birmingham on the musical map. Their first release – the scarce Kibudu – Mansatta – Abuku – was originally released in 1976 and is a fine slice of raw UK roots and hints at what was about to come.
The other 14 tracks are in the same deep and spiritual vein. Musical Youth is best remembered for their successful and lightweight Pass the Dutchie, which was a top hit around the world. Political, included here, is something completely else. Fredrick Waite Sr, formerly with The Techniques, sings lead on this uncompromising roots effort from 1981.
Capital Letters also show a different side of their musical spectrum. I Will Never showcase a darker side compared to their hit single Smoking My Ganja. It’s slow and dread celebrating their faith in Jah.
The Midlands Roots Explosion Volume One shines light on Birmingham and other cities that make up the Midlands as well as putting forward some of the lesser known acts that spent years performing and recording without achieving any level of success. The area was certainly a powerhouse of British reggae and this compilation includes many tracks worthy of far wider exposure.
Successful British reissue label Bristol Archive Records have increased their operation to include long lost material from other UK towns and cities via the newly established sister label Reggae Archive Records.
Its initial release is the lone album from Birmingham’s Eclipse, also known as The Eclipse Band. The original album title was Eclipsed, and has been reissued by French label Onlyroots on LP as Inner Reggae Rhythm.
To confuse things further the album from Reggae Archive Records is titled Corrupted Society and collects the original eight tracks plus both sides of the bands final single along with two previously unreleased live recordings with surprisingly good audio quality.
Eclipse were friends and contemporaries with Grammy winners Steel Pulse and were together for ten years, from 1975 until 1985. In that time they managed to release this Sidney Crooks-produced album and three 7”, a small and powerful legacy that definitely deserves to be recognised by a new and wider audience.
The material on the album was recorded and written over 30 years ago, but sounds surprisingly fresh, both musically and lyrically. Titles such as Corrupted Society, Immigration and Six Dead deal with familiar topics and are as relevant today as they were in the late 70’s and early 80’s.
Fans of early UK roots with household names such as Aswad, Black Slate, Black Roots, Misty in Roots and the aforementioned Steel Pulse won’t be disappointed with this set available on CD and digital platforms.
When talking about vintage UK roots reggae, groups such as Aswad, Steel Pulse and Misty in Roots usually come up. One of my all time favorite UK roots reggae outfits from the 70’s or early 80’s is however Bristol’s Black Roots, a group whose debut album from 1983 includes eight rock solid tunes.
Last year British label Bristol Archive Records teamed up with Black Roots’ own Nubian Records in order to drop the critically acclaimed Black Roots – The Reggae Singles Anthology, a set collecting several immensely strong tracks.
Now Bristol Archive Records have once more been allowed into the Black Roots/Nubian tape vaults.
This time it’s about a 25th anniversary deluxe CD edition of the group’s fourth album All Day All Night, a set where they teamed up with Mad Professor and moving away from their original sound for a more polished version, embracing new technology and production techniques to present a more – at the time – contemporary UK sound.
The music may have been brought up to date, but the lyrics concerned the same themes of social and historical justice that define the roots genre.
All Day All Night originally included twelve tunes, and this deluxe edition adds another six – five dub versions and an extended 12” mix of Pin in the Ocean.
All Day All Night is certainly worth reissuing, even if it sounds a bit more dated than their earlier and more roots oriented material. But even if lavish synthesizers are overused on some tracks, you can’t go wrong with the breezy nonchalant vocals in Realize or the mighty horn riff in Pin in the Ocean.
Bristol Archive Records have as usual paid attention to detail and to complement the re-mastered music, the booklet includes many previously unpublished photos of the band.
Available now on CD and digital download.
Black 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.
Lågkonjunktur, svininfluensa och katastrofvarningar kring nästa veckas klimatmöte i Köpenhamn. I finanskrisens kölvatten har också katastrofrullen 2012 lanserats och en mängd konspirationsteorier florerar.
Det är som att ragnarök närmar sig med stormsteg.
På reggaefronten har man ända sedan 70-talet stått på tårna inför den slutgiltiga undergången. Tänk bara på Cultures apokalyptiska Two Sevens Clash från 1977, där gruppen förutspådde harmagedon baserat på en förutsägelse av Marcus Garvey.
Men det apokalyptiska budskapet inom reggaen har också förmedlats genom skivomslag som skvallrar om en framtid vi helst inte går till mötes.
1980 gav Michael Prophet ut plattan Righteous Are the Conqueror. Omslaget vittnar om en tuff tid, medan låttitlarna har blandade budskap som Long Long Tribulation och Happy Days.
Brittiska Steel Pulse var inga muntergökar precis, i alla fall om man dömer gruppen efter skivomslagen. Plattorna Handsworth Revolution och Earth Crisis kom 1978 respektive 1984 och visar en dyster bild av världen. Earth Crisis kom under en period av starka motsättningar mellan USA och dåvarande Sovjetunionen och speglar tidsandan väl.
Ranking Joe kom 1982 med plattan Armageddon. Här har skivomslaget egentligen inte särskilt mycket att göra annat än med titellåten.
Krig förekommer även på skivomslaget till Mikey Dreads World War III.
Konspirationsteorier kommer alltid att finnas, precis som teser om jordens undergång. Frågan är bara när vi går lika långt som Jamaica den sjunde juli 1977 då man stängde skolor baserade på Marcus Garveys profetia.