The seventh release from London’s Horus Records is their debut album. It’s both self-produced and self-recorded at their own Arch studio in Tottenham and features several veteran singers, including Vivian Jones, David Jahson and Winston Reedy, formerly of The Cimarons.
It’s an excellent vintage-sounding showcase with five vocal versions and four dub cuts. It’s organic and sweetly skanking. Just check Shaka Black’s uplifting Pick Myself Up and its sparse version Four Quebec Lima Dub. Killer stuff.
Best of the bunch is however Nichola Richards jazzy Going Back Where I Belong with its slick organ and melancholic horns. Unfortunately, that particular song doesn’t come with a dub counterpart. But that might be arranged on coming singles. Let’s hope so.
Six piece London-based reggae band General Roots dropped their debut EP The First Attack back in 2013, a five track set that went straight to number two on the UK iTunes Reggae Album Chart.
After touring heavily they have now finally completed their debut album Walk Tall, which collects guest appearances from Top Cat, Horseman and Dennis Bovell, who has also been involved in composing.
Walk Tall is an instant grabber with its infectious melodies and gentle, yet pulsating, vibes. Highlights include the smooth Little Sun with its melancholic horns and beautiful harmonies, Fight For Ya Loving, which includes some killer flying cymbals drumming, and roaring Wrong Road, which comes with a Big Youth-like toast from Dennis Bovell.
Since their debut EP jumped directly to the second spot on the UK Reggae Chart, it wouldn’t be no big surprise if this album managed to at least conquer the same position.
The Midlands Roots Explosion Volume Two collects more of the same and offers an equally strong selection of unreleased cuts, scarce gems and readily available material. The collection shines light on some of UK’s finest, yet most overlooked, singers and bands showcasing themes of struggle, resistance, justice and equality.
Five of the 15 tracks are from bands making their debut in the series and it starts off just as its predecessor with Steel Pulse. Their rocking Bun Dem was originally released in 1977 and is a slice of classic British roots deserving far wider attention than the original 7″ has received.
Another strong cut is Musical Youth’s pulsating General. It certainly shows that this outfit was far more militant than their monster hit Pass the Dutchie.
This is British roots reggae at its roughest and fines. Luckily it’s Reggae Archive Records intent to put out enough volumes to properly document the stories of the bands, singers, musicians and labels in the Midlands. So stay tuned – more to come.
Producer Adam Prescott is a fresh new addition to the UK digital roots scene. He has received guidance from Mark Iration of Iration Steppas and has put out tunes with the likes of Cornel Campbell, Michael Prophet, Ranking Joe and Johnny Osbourne.
And finally his debut album has arrived. It’s a bass heavy eleven track set showcasing a broad palette of styles and grooves with both vocal cuts and instrumentals included.
Warrior is sound system music and kicks off with the one and only Brother Culture, who chats over a militant steppers style riddim. From then and there it’s a deep and dynamic journey with veterans and newcomers rubbing shoulders – Rod Taylor, Charlie P, Donovan Kingjay, Dark Angel and UK rapper Karizma are some of the talents lending their skills to the project.
Two of the best cuts are however instrumentals and Onlyjoe’s Papa B does a tremendous job on the funky Throwback and the dark Prophecy.
This varied set is deeply rooted in the UK sound system tradition, yet Adam Prescott manages to add his own contemporary flavour to it. It’s no coincident that he’s receiving consistent airplay on BBC Radio One and Rinse FM as well as support from Sir David Rodigan.
The album title refers to the band’s relocation from Leeds to London and their experiences from big city life. And with that as a backdrop they are both personal and philosophical with a great dose of energy and excitement.
The sound is deep and raw with monstrous horn riffs and reverberating bass lines, as showcased on the romping-stomping first single Music is the Girl I Love, the catchy Pressure and the uplifting Bad Girl. Those up-tempo blazers rub shoulders with the ambient Afraid of the Dark, the dread Enter the Chamber and the solid saxophone led instrumental Nocturnal.
With the signing of Gentleman’s Dub Club Easy Star Records continues to explore the UK reggae scene – they have also The Skints and Backbeat Soundsystem among their acts – and The Big Smoke shows that it will probably be a fruitful relationship between the UK and the U.S.
UK’s Lloyd Brown – one of the most consistent artist in the reggae industry – is no stranger to productiveness. He usually drops one album each year and sometimes two. And this is now the case.
On July 30 he dropped two albums – From the Old School and Twenty. And together they collect a whopping 32 tracks; 16 on each set.
Both albums have telling titles. From the Old School – with a sleeve influenced by The Harder They Come – carries vintage vibes with several relicks and influences from rocksteady and reggae from the early 70s. Twenty is the name of his 20th album and has a slightly more contemporary approach.
They present timeless reggae of the finest calibre. It’s soulful, natural and bittersweet. The quality is impressively uniform; as always one might add.
Lloyd Brown is probably best known for his sweet and smooth relationship outings. And there are plenty of love and romance on both sets. His honeyed voice is custom-made for singing about lost love, relationship mistakes and heartfelt apologies.
These two albums are beautiful and clearly recorded and produced with love and affection.
In June 2015 Brother Culture and Nick Manasseh released the excellent showcase album All a We and now it’s time for another rough and tough set from one of UK’s most consistent deejays.
Brother Culture has this time teamed up with Reggae Roast for the seriously weighty EP The Flava. It comes with five deadly tracks, including the anthemic Soundsystem. It kicks off with bouncy 80s vibes on The Flava followed by the uncompromising Bring di Weed with its earth-shaking bass line.
On Same Ol’ Story Brother Culture takes the role of a history lecturer with lyrics like “then World War Two led to Hiroshima when everything in the world get nuclear, the nuclear bomb led to the cold war, the East Germans build the Berlin Wall…” and “the invasion of Kuwait, it was the first Gulf war, Saddam Hussein against Bush Senior, the first Gulf war led to 9/11, when the place came down with flames and destruction, 9/11 led to Afghanistan, America went to wipe out the Taliban, but wars don’t finish, the wars don’t end, it’s the same ol’ story all over again…”.
Reggae Roast has over the past seven years brought forward several earth rocking singles and riddims and this compilation with material recorded with Brother Culture hits hard.
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.
In 2013 legendary UK reggae band Capital Letters got back together after an about 30 year long hiatus. They have since recorded a new album – Wolverhampton – released earlier this year. But their earlier material has also been reissued. Reality – an effort collecting 15 tracks originally recorded in 1985 – dropped in 2014 and their debut album Headline News has also been made available again.
Now it’s time for yet another reissue. Vinyard is Capital Letters’ second album and it was recorded and released in small quantities and with poor distribution in 1982. The new edition collects the original ten tracks along with unreleased material taken from the Headline News sessions and a few live studio recordings.
Capital Letters formed in 1972 and is probably best known for their raw and lyrically controversial single Smoking My Ganja and the band was among the first wave of talented reggae acts to emerge in the UK during the mid-to-late 70s. These bands absorbed the sounds of Jamaica and created their own take on reggae. Many of these acts strived for social change singing about the society around them, which was often marked by violence, racism and social inequality.
Vinyard is a prime example of UK roots with its many reality tales and Capital Letters deal with false politicians, unemployment and struggle set to tough drum and bass along with a pumping organ.
This album is rawer than its predecessor and it captures the sound of early UK roots nicely. The CD version comes with in-depth sleeve notes by renowned reggae writer John Masouri and you can read why Capital Letters have renamed Helsinki to Hell Sink I.
UK’s Reggae Archive Records has done it once again – released a previously unissued album of a band among the many unsung heroes of reggae music. Last year they dropped Capital Letters‘ Reality and now they have released a “new” album from Black Symbol, a set that collects singles, compilation cuts from the two volumes of Handsworth Explosion and unreleased material from the early 80s. This is an album that does their music justice and place them among other reggae greats from the UK.
The first thing that comes to mind when listening to this self-titled set is whether this is Burning Spear or not. Vocalist and founding member Fatman, who is just like Burning Spear from St Ann’s in Jamaica, has a similar vocal style and the music itself is just as haunting, political and spiritual as the material The Spear turned out in the 70s.
This is roots reggae at its best and Black Symbol doesn’t sound like any other reggae band from the UK. They were darker, slower and more uncompromising always being conscious and cultural often with religious and radical themes.
The CD version comes with 16 tracks, of which four are versions, while the double vinyl collects twelve tracks. Both do however contain sleeve notes based on interviews with original band members Fatman, Blobbo and Rhino plus archive photos provided by bandleader Fatman.
Black Symbol didn’t put out much under their own name back in the days, but they did much for the local reggae scene in Birmingham because of the two self-financed volumes of Handsworth Explosion. Hopefully this solid collection of confident and faithful roots will provide them with new fans and followers from the UK and beyond.