THE SKINTS are a UK based band who believe that mixing about 5 different genres of music can create brilliant unique sound, boy did they hit the jackpot. Their sound uses all sorts of genres including Reggae/punk/pop/rap & ska to make the sound that is ‘THE SKINTS’. Their new single ‘RUB-A-DUB’ is proof that mixing everything together makes a beautiful sound as this will get everyone’s feet tapping or skanking.
As well as having their new music video available below. We also have a copy of THE SKINTS exclusive live session recorded on the Radio 1 Mike Davis punk show here!
LAZY TALK are a five-piece coming f that old London town, fusing reggae, ska, indie and punk. They have already been picked up by Radio 1Xtra and will play support to the likes of Faithless and The Happy Mondays later in the year. Their debut EP is set for release on February 25th and the lead track is posted below by way of a teaser / taster.
I can’t find an awful lot more on the band at the moment, but feel sure that more will emerge as the year progresses and LAZY TALK get the airing that this track, at least, merits.
(You can see from the number of hits the video has had that LOUD HORIZON is a little late to the party, but hey …. ‘Luzaville,’ takes me back to my youth, so it’s definitely worth an airing here. Love it!)
I know – I’m a grumpy old confused cynic who really can’t be arsed trying to work out who is doing what on records such as this. But with their roots firmly planted in a fertile reggae base, there are a couple of tracks here certainly worth mention.
See, here’s my problem:
The artist credited on this four-track EP is SLEEPY TIME GHOST, resident Producer / DJ at Unit 137, a London based collective of producers, instrumentalists, vocalists, engineers and selectors. But then the sleeve-notes divulge the following:
Track 1: Ras Demo – ‘Rule Your Destiny.’
Track 2: Lionpulse – ‘Bad Days Are Gone.’
Track 3: Youthman Dub (Joe Ariwa)
Track 4: Lionpulse – Bad Days Are Gone (Hylu & Jago Remix)
So I’m not cool and trendy any more (was I ever?) – I may as well admit it rather than try to blag my way out and get all the details arse over tit!
But I love reggae music, and even more so I’m a real sucker for good dub music. This release then gives me eighteen minutes of joy – in the main. For regular readers will know my feeling on remixes. Couple that to my having the attention span of a rampant gnat and you may understand why I personally think we could have done with just two tracks here …. though I know there are many who will recoil in horror and invite me to a duel at dawn for such sacrilegious comment.
I’d go with the lead track which is a classy piece of roots-based reggae with mellow, hook-laden horns and gentle touch of dub. The vocals are warm and the delivery relaxed albeit that the lyrics are nicely crammed to fit the overall rhythm. And then the third track, ‘Youthman Dub‘ is just a wonderful slice of dub music. It doesn’t stray too far from the original and so it remains recognisable, but for me at least it carries more atmosphere and a bit of bite. Much as I enjoy the lead track, this one is what I’d buy the EP for, without doubt.
(The Soundcloud player below carries snips of all four tracks, so you can hear a little of what I mean here.)
(Released through Unit 137 on 18th February 2013)
BY THE RIVERS are a six-piece ‘New Age’ Reggae band from Leicester. – (not sure about the ‘new age’ tag, mind.) Whatever, since forming almost three years ago by long-time pals Nile Barrow and Jordan Birtles, the band have progressed to the stage (no pun intended) where thay have already supported the likes of THE BUZZCOCKS, MAXI PRIEST, MUSICAL YOUTH, DAWN PENN, SAXON SOUND, NEVILLE STAPLE, JOHN HOLT and THE SPECIALS on their fifteen-date UK Arena Tour in October.
From a personal perspective, I think it terrific that there are young bands like this carrying the reggae torch throughout the UK and perhaps with their ‘modern’ adaptation of the genre, BY THE RIVERS will engage many listeners who may otherwise not have tuned in to this style of music.
‘Take Control‘ (which also features a slowed down dub style mix by Fun Lovin’ Criminals side project Radio Riddler, as well as an acoustic version of ‘Don’t Stand Alone‘) is released on Monday 21st January through Komplya Records.)
With so much material available to work with, and with so many compilation albums having been released over the years, some of which featured 12” mixes, dance mixes and dancehall mixes, I’m surprised that it’s taken so long to produce an official album of BOB MARLEY and THE WAILERS in dub.
But it’s here now, and based on the fact that this album is entitled ‘In Dub Vol 1’ than I can only assume that there will be another / others to follow; which is fine by me!
It’s difficult to actually ‘review’ this one, because a) everyone will know the original version of just about every one of the eleven tracks as they’re all deemed ‘classics,’ and b) how do you convey the sound of ‘dub’ in mere words?
Suffice to say that if you’re a Marley fan, you’re going to love this one. Similarly, if you like dub music in its original basic form, you’re also going to love it. If you like neither, you’ve just wasted a minute of your life reading this guff!
Me? I love Bob Marley and have many albums in my personal collection. I also love dub music – so this one’s a winner as far as I’m concerned!
(Released through Island Records and available now – October 2012)
From the big corporate ones to the little DIY ones, both past and present there must be many, many thousands of record labels, across the world. For any number of reasons, a great percentage don’t hang around too long and I’d venture that to the man on the street, there are not many that are instantly synonymous with a particular genre of music.
There is one, however that can rightfully claim to buck that trend: mention TROJAN RECORDS to virtually anyone with an interest in music, and they are likely to immediately associate the Jamaican label with reggae music and its subgenres.
Launched in the summer of 1968, TROJAN RECORDS four years into their existence when Jamaica won their independence as a nation, and so as a ‘constant’ in the island’s recent history it’s fitting that they be closely linked to the 50th Anniversary celebrations.
And what better way of marking the event than with the release of a 5CD Box Set that pays homage to the artists that have brought the sunshine of the island into the lives and culture of so many around the world.
‘Freedom Sounds,’ runs to a total of one hundred and eight songs, spanning about six hours and twenty minutes! Naturally, it features all the names you’d expect, such as Bob Marley, Desmond Dekker, Toots & The Maytals, Jimmy Cliff, and Dennis Brown etc.. It highlights the great producers such as Lee’ Scratch’ Perry, King Tubby and King Jammy, and features several of the iconic studios where the music was made, such as the world famous Studio One, Black Ark and Dynamic Sounds.
The accompanying 52-page booklet was written by Record Collector Editor, Ian McCann and features detailed commentary on the history of Jamaica and its musical heritage. The set also contains a selection of celebratory A5 cards depicting various aspects of the Jamaican music industry over the past fifty years: labels, LP sleeves and artists. There’s also a ‘Jamaica 50 Trojan’ sticker plus rare photos.
Fans purchasing the box set will also receive an additional free download album when they register on the Trojan Appreciation Society website.
Pretty damn good so far ….. and we haven’t even got as far as the music!
Disc 1: ‘Songs Of Freedom.’
This disc consists of seventeen tracks focusing on the struggles, pride and ultimate goal of ‘freedom.’ There are some ‘staples’ on here, such as Bob Marley (no comment required); the softly sung ‘I Shall Be Released’ by The Heptones; the more bouncy and slightly dub-treated ‘Trod On’ by Culture; the more ‘commercial’ Third World and ‘Freedom Song,’ and the moody, slow-burning Burning Spear with ‘Shout It Out.’
There’s also a terrific extended version of ‘Get Up’ by Jackie Edwards that more or less splits its seven minute duration into ‘straight’ and ‘dub,’ interpretations. And, a rather pleasant surprise for me at least was the rather chipper rendition of ‘My My People’ by Judy Mowatt.
DISC 2: ‘Jamaican Hits.’
Of the twenty-three tracks on this one, many will be familiar to even those listeners who would not count themselves as particularly ‘reggae fans,’ due to their Chart successes over the years.
I don’t have either the sleeve notes at my disposal or the initial release dates of the tracks, but I’m thinking they are listed in chronological order or thereabouts, with the bulk of the first half concentrating on more of a ska / rocksteady sound. Which is all the better with me!
Desmond Dekker features twice in quick succession with ‘007 (Shanty Town)’ and ‘(Poor Me) The Israelites’ – he likes his brackets, does our Desmond! Toots & The Maytals, Alton Ellis and Jimmy Cliff will all be recognisable artists.
Interestingly, the track listing places ‘Wear You To The Ball’ by U Roy & John Holt, immediately before Eric Donaldson’s ‘Cherry O Baby,’ both of which were later covered with great success by UB40 and the latter even also by The Rolling Stones on their ‘Black and Blue’ album. (Much as I like early UB40, their version of the former was not a patch on this original!)
Moving on up the time-line, there is the classic ‘Marcus Garvey’ by Burning Spear, and Bob Marley’s ‘Trench Town Rock.’ The excellent ‘Police and Thieves,’ as was later covered brilliantly by The Clash on their debut album, appears in its original form as sung by Junior Murvin; the instantly recognisable chart smashes by Althea & Donna (‘Uptown Top Ranking’) and Sophia George (‘Girlie Girlie’) as well as Dennis Brown’s ‘Night Nurse’ also get a placing.
One that surprised me is the ‘World A Music’ track by Ini Kamoze – who is probably better known for a non-reggae based song, ‘The Hotstepper.’
Then we move onto a more ragga tip to close this disc with Chaka Demus & Pliers and their ‘Murder She Wrote,’ and Beenie Man’s excellent ‘Slam.’
DISC 3: ‘Pioneers.’
I have to confess that my knowledge of Jamaican music, (which I have until now actually been relatively proud of!) doesn’t extend to recognising just why the artists featured on this disc are qualified as ‘pioneers.’ But that doesn’t really matter, does it. The music is still first class – and from a personal perspective, many of these artists are not already featured in my 800+ songs classified as ‘reggae’ on my I-pod. I just checked!
So this one is particularly interesting.
Don Drummond & The Skatalites I am of course aware of, and their ‘Confucius’ appears here with its upbeat backbeat if you see what I mean. Ska at it’s best! Towards the end of the disc there are several ‘extended mix’ versions of songs, which basically concentrate on the instruments and occasional dub treatment to prolong the beats. But it’s quite magical. Truly!
But again, this disc springs a really pleasant surprise in the shape of ‘Flaming Rock Steady’ by Ernest Rangin. It’s like some kind of jazz guitar set to a reggae backbeat. It just skips along with a jaunty little pace and is just guaranteed to make you smile! Brilliant!
DISC 4: ‘Innovators.’
The track ‘Big May’ by Bunny ‘Rugs’ Clarke merits early mention here simply because it features the music of The Upsetters and ‘Return Of Django’ but this time with vocals laid across the top. It works.
Augustus Pablo brings his distinctive melodian sound to bear on ‘Last Of The Jestering’ (and I may be wrong, but I think King Tubby had something to d with the production on this one.) The Paragons (who I’m sure recorded the original version of Blondie’s hit ‘The Tide Is High’) give us the somewhat subdued, I think, ‘Man Next Door’ and Israel Vibration head off down the same route with the serious sounding ‘Weep And Mourn.’ Nice guitar sound and drums on this one though.
Dillinger, I always felt was forerunner of the ragga sound, way before it was known as such- something about his delivery. Whatever – ‘Bionic Dread’ is a fantastic dub track and a highlight of this particular disc.
(This is an extended dub version of that which appears in the Box Set.)
The Mighty Diamonds (who I think were the originators of Musical Youth’s big hit, ‘Pass The Dutchie’ albeit the initial recording was ‘Pass The Kutchie’ and had to be changed for a bunch of kids to sing!) give us a six minute version of ‘Your Heart’s Desire,’ which is probably about as ‘mainstream’ as reggae can get.
I have to say, that this particular disc is a bit on the slow side for me personally. It lacks the sunshine; or the sense of injustice. It kind of lacks conviction overall, and although Barrington Levy’s extended version of ‘Skylarking’ is seven minutes well spent, and in general reggae music can do no wrong, it fails slightly in comparison to the other CDs in this set.
There! I said it!
DISC 5: ‘Forgotten Treasures’
Aah! Back to the Sound of Ska! Opening with The Planners’ ‘It’s In The Plan,’ a kind of Fifties rock’n’roll vibe set to a ska beat, this disc gets off to a really bouncy start. Next are the brilliantly named The Spanishtonians with ‘Kord A Massie Massie.’ Full of horns and high pitched voices, it’s superb!
‘People Get Ready’ is probably best known in the Bob Marley version ‘One Love / People Get Ready’ but was originally done by, I think, The Impressions. So although maybe not the original version here, the song as performed by The Carib-Beats is instantly recognisable.
There are twenty-six tracks on this disc, so if I highlight just a few, you’ll forgive me – big ‘ups’ if you’ve stuck with me so far!
‘Whip Them’ is another upbeat sound from The Little Wonder Allstars. It features the sound of a flute incorporated into the ska beat and is light and playful in spite, I think of the lyrical matter. ‘West Board Jungle’ is a two minute instrumental by Paul Madden that is full of trumpet, Hammond organ … and cowbell! This is followed by the aptly named Ska Campbell and ‘A Taste Of Reggae,’ which is actually another instrumental that falls somewhere between ska and reggae itself. The keyboard sounds merging with the horns are a particular delight.
‘Bawling Baby’ draws the listener to it simply from the title alone. This track by Glen Adams & The Upsetters has the same sort of feel as say Dave & Ansel Collins and their ‘Monkey Spanner.’ Love it! (Actually, anything featuring The Upsetters will do for me, as it happens!)
There then follows a previously unreleased version of The Pioneers’ classic chart success, ‘Let Your Yeah Be Yeah.’ ‘Royal Cord’ by The Melodians will take you by surprise … you’ll have to listen for it, I’m afraid!
One of the bands that initially turned me onto ska way back in the day was The Ethiopians, and they appear here with ‘Socialism Train.’ They’re the sort of Godfathers of ska for me, so I’m glad they made it onto this compilation – though only just, with only five tracks remaining of the hundred and eight! (This one sounds pretty much like ‘Cherry O Baby’ – which came first? Hmmmm.)
‘Chase The Devil’ (another extended mix) by Max Romeo (he of ‘Wet Dream’ notoriety) and Prince Jazzbo may be better known for the samples used by The Prodigy on their early Nineties hit, ‘Outer Space.’
OK – so I think there’s maybe enough here to make a judgement? But basically, in summation: ‘Go get it!!’ In this dismal UK ‘summer’ this is probably the best dose of sunshine you’re likely to get!
(Trojan presents ‘Freedom Sounds’ is released on 6th August 2012)
(10 / 10)
(Shit! Just realised I’ve written 1760 words on this review! Thanks for reading!)
For many, ‘reggae music ’starts and ends with Bob Marley – which is a great shame as the genre has so much more to offer. I don’t intend that as any sort of slight on the great man ….. but in the current age of manufactured and ‘auto-tuned’ commercial music, there is just so much excellent music (and reggae in particular) that simply doesn’t get heard by the ‘casual’ listener.
One label trying to alter this is the fabulous Bristol Archive Records. For a couple of years now they have been re-releasing music that originally emanated from their city during the late Seventies / early Eighties – music from bands that garnered much critical praise for their ‘live’ shows, but due to their music being released on small independent / DIY labels, failed to gain the commercial and more widespread success that they undoubtedly merited.
One such band was / is TALISMAN.
Having previously released their early output in the form of the ‘Dole Age – The 1981 Reggae Collection’, Bristol Archive Records now turn their attention to the band’s first studio album, ‘Takin’ The Strain,’ which was initially released on vinyl format back in 1984.
And this is a perfect illustration of my earlier assertion that there is so much more to reggae music than simply Bob Marley.
The nine studio tracks on this album (there are also five bonus ‘live’ recordings) show a great degree of variation and innovation within the genre. Opening with the title track, the listener is dropped straight into a conventional, slow and deep traditional reggae vibe, with backbeat guitar and little dub interspersions – all held together with the whine of the Hammond organ and some unobtrusive brass backing.
‘Crime Of Passion’ opens with a highly toned guitar, akin more to what you’d expect from a traditional African instrument. This is offset with some bouncy bass and female backing harmonies. The guitar picking throughout is clean, concise and infectious. ‘Lick And Run’ is in fact quite ‘Marley-esque’ but differs in the percussion department, with excellent cowbell use. (I love the cowbell!)
‘Ah Wah You Seh’ is unique (certainly as far as my limited knowledge goes) and ingenious in the way TALISMAN have incorporated the violin throughout. Always maintaining the steady reggae beat, it at times takes on ‘classical’ feel, and at others a bit more of a ‘jazz’ vibe. Clever.
‘Lord Of The Dance’ features simple piano hooks and a brass section that can probably best be compared to an early (and good) UB40 style. Again, the inventiveness of TALISMAN shines through with those little piano lines mixed into a reggae backing. ‘Stride On,’ is more along the conventional route, and while still most enjoyable, I have to say is the track that I actually forgot about when thinking about what to say in this review. Good, but not as memorable as the other tracks.
‘I’m Sorry,’ brings the listener back to the more innovative side of TALISMAN, with this track featuring keyboard effects that mimic a tuba (?) the deep notes giving the song a slightly ‘cheeky’ sound as it competes with the slow beat and other space-like sound effects. ‘Calamity’ is pure sing-a-long reggae magic, and if this doesn’t get you bouncing out your seat and skanking around the room then maybe reggae just isn’t for you after all!
Closing track ‘Burn The Bread,’ probably stretches the accepted description of the ‘reggae’ definition. Yes, a reggae beat is there in the background, but the overall vibe created by the vocal delivery is more out of the Grandmaster Flash school than that of Bob Marley.
Of the five live bonus tracks, four are repeated from the original studio recording. The other, ‘Slow Poison’ was an integral part of the bands live set for many years.
(TALISMAN have recently reformed and are now playing gigs throughout the UK!)
(Released through Bristol Archive Records on 5th March 2012)
(10 / 10)
You know, in my ‘proper’ day-job, I spend a lot of time on my own. To relieve the boredom, I often contemplate what I’d spend my millions on should I ever win The Lottery. It’s kinda sad possibly, that a flash car and mansion would appear further down my shopping list than a jukebox and an authentic, original, battered old Jamaican Sound System and a huge pile of first issue Ska 7” vinyl singles!
Like that’s ever gonna happen!
So for dreamers like me the world over, compilation albums such as ‘Ska Madness 2’ are a bit of a Godsend. (This one is indeed a follow-up to ‘Ska Madness,’ just to remove any doubt.)
That said, I would imagine that fans of the genre are, like me, probably in possession of many if not all of the twenty tracks (plus two bonus songs accessed via the Skamadness.com website.)
And it’s for that reason I would suggest that this particular compilation would be a great ‘entry’ to the genre for anyone yet to discover the infectious rhythms of Ska music.
Many of what could be regarded as ‘standards’ appear here: Desmond Dekker & The Aces with ‘Israelites;’ Bob & Marcia with ‘Young, Gifted And Black;’ The Upsetters and ‘Return To Django,’ and ‘Love Of The Common People’ by Nicky Thomas.
However, there are also some pleasant surprises – even for me! I had forgotten for instance how catchy John Holt’s ‘Ali Baba’ is – I had always felt his work a bit ‘wishy-washy’ but this track proves he can skank with the best. There are also two versions of ‘Wear You To The Ball,’ (later to be covered by UB40) from U-Roy & John Holt as well as the original version by The Paragons.
It was the latter of those two who first recorded the song made famous by Blondie ‘The Tide Is High’ and their version as well as the original version by Tony Tribe of the song most associated with UB40, ‘Red Red Wine’ both appear on this album.
So it’s ‘educational’ as well as supremely enjoyable!
It’s also good to hear Symarip again. (I do believe there is also a ‘Best of’ album of theirs recently made available.) They were the first Skinhead band to promote the Ska beats, and were / are vastly underrated. Their ‘Skinhead Girl’ as appears here is a particular treat – as is ‘Ba Ba Boom’ by The Jamaicans. I confess to not having this one already, and can now see where Shaggy got his inspiration from so many years later!
The songs on this album were compiled and sequenced by Rhoda Dakar of The Bodysnatchers fame, so we shouldn’t be surprised by the quality showcased here.
It doesn’t disappoint as a collection of songs from a glorious era – I’m just not sure who it is aimed at.
(Released through Spectrum Music and available now – February 2012)
(8.5 / 10)
It’s not very often these days that new Reggae albums / collections come to the attention of the general music-buying audience. Unless you know where to look and listen, this is one genre of music that still genuinely remains ‘underground’ in most parts of the UK, so I get seriously excited when the brilliant BRISTOL ARCHIVE RECORDS decide to turn detective and track down tracks like these; tracks that had their city and others beyond, bouncing to the infectious grooves and bass-laden sound-systems back in the day!
Black Roots, 3-D Production and Joshua Moses all appear again, although ‘Rise Up’ by the latter and which opens the album, is a previously unreleased song. As indeed is ‘Wicked Men’ by Alfred McIntosh – a seven-minute dub track that could go on for twenty-seven minutes as far as I’m concerned!
And this is a real bonus with ‘Volume 2’ – the good people at the label have listened to feedback on their first reggae compilation and included a few more dub tracks on this one. Like ‘Re-Arrange (Version)’ by 3-D Production and Alfred McIntosh’s second contribution, ‘Ah It Dis.’
A couple of ‘rarities’ have also been unearthed, dusted down and given an airing: Cool Runnings apparently ran only 200 copies of the superb ‘Robin Hoods Of The Ghetto’ and the Bunny Marrett track ‘Times Are Getting Harder’ was his only vinyl release and remains very scarce and sought after in that particular original format.
It’s interesting to trace the development of the UK reggae sound over the years and the compilation closes with Dan Ratchet and Teknikal’s ‘Raggamufin Girl,’ which has a distinctly more commercial appeal.
Personally speaking, I’m pretty ‘old school,’ but happy to embrace the new ….. albeit ‘the new’ in this case was from 1989!
Don’t be fooled by the compilations you’ll see in the bargain-bins at your local supermarket. THIS is the credible stuff. The REAL sound of UK reggae before it was hijacked and diluted by today’s ‘mainstream’ artists who seek not to popularise the genre, but to gain chart recognition on the back of the real innovators!
Yeah – you can probably tell, Reggae does it for me!
(Released through Bristol Archive Records on 17th October 2011)
(10 / 10)
Here’s a thing – I was never into NIRVANA. Just couldn’t get the whole grunge thing at all. Does that make me a bad person?
I am however, big on my reggae music.
Both the above then go to make this album a really interesting listen. See, with this year being the twentieth anniversary of the release of ‘Nevermind,’ UK producer Prince Fatty in collaboration with Mutant Hi-Fi thought it a good idea to sort out an album of Nirvana covers, all done in a reggae style.
Having worked with LITTLE ROY for a long time, Prince Fatty reckoned the Jamaican vocalist who in turn had played with some of reggae’s megastars (try Prince Buster, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh for starters) would be ideal for the vocal duties.
So this is it – ‘Battle For Seattle’ is a compilation of ten Nirvana tracks, the majority of which I was blissfully unaware of and so was able to judge the album purely as a stand-alone reggae album. Obviously I had heard the original recordings of the ‘big hitters’ such as ‘Heart-Shaped Box,’ ‘Come As You Are’ and ‘Lithium’ on various Rock radio stations, but the others ….. no idea!
Of these more recognisable tracks, ‘Come As You Are,’ transfers best to the reggae genre, perhaps because the original doesn’t growl as much as the others. But it’s the other songs that impress more. ‘Very Ape’ for instance incorporates a sort of Middle Eastern flavour and key changes. The delivery is sharp and the backbeat really bouncy.
‘Sliver’ plays very much on the Hammond organ and female backing vocals. This could quite conceivably have been reggae standard, blasting out of some huge sound system in downtown Kingston. ‘About A Girl,’ brings in some deep sounding horns on top of the organ and female harmonies, while ‘Son Of a Gun,’ incorporates an excellent touch of dub.
Yeah – I can’t say this album would entice me to educate myself in the music of Nirvana, but it will encourage me to search out more from LITTLE ROY.
(Released through ARK recordings on 5th September 2011)
Bristol Archive Records are cementing themselves more and more as one of my favourite labels with each successive release and this one is simply ‘the dogs …!’ It just makes you want to turn up the volume, turn up the bass and turn down the windows of your house / car while you let this blare! (Funny how ‘force-sharing’ you music with others makes it even more exciting, eh?!)
BLACK ROOTS were Bristol’s leading exponents of reggae, releasing a steady stream of LPs and singles – mostly on their own Nubian label. The majority of these singles are now brought together on one single CD and a Limited Edition double vinyl album. Both formats include a sixteen-page booklet with previously unpublished photos, made available through the full cooperation of the Nubian label.
The Anthology, as you would naturally expect chronicles the band’s releases from their creative peak of the 1980s and what appeals to me is that the tracks are in the main listed in chronological order which lets the listener hear how the band’s sound progressed over the years.
And there is indeed a difference between the opening track ‘Bristol Rock,’ which was released in 1981 and the closing number ‘Start Afresh,’ from seven years later, which carries the more commercial sound of reggae as it began to morph into the popular Dancehall and Ragga styles of that time. This track in particular has the most infectious groove going on. If your body ain’t bending and bouncing to this one, then you’re probably dead.
There is such a strong selection of songs (sixteen in all, spanning some eighty minutes or so) with absolutely no ‘duffers’ at all! And it’s really good to hear the band’s versatility within the overall reggae genre as they incorporate a healthy amount of ‘dub’ into their songs, while also showing a more ‘sensitive’ side as they turn their hand towards the more Lovers Rock side of things on ‘Seeing Your Face,’ and ‘Suzy Wong.’
Of course they don’t stray from the traditional roots of reggae with old-school vibes and references to ‘struggle,’ ‘freedom,’ ‘Babylon,’ ‘Jah’ et al. Attention to social comment is not ignored with the likes of ‘Juvenile Delinquent,’ and there is also the more commercially acceptable side of reggae on the likes of ‘The Father.’
You wanna dance? Slap on ‘Pin In The Ocean, ’ and just see if your feet don’t move!
But for me, it’s the Dub that does it. So here’s the full 12” version of ‘Chanting For Freedom’ for you.
Chill and enjoy!
(Released through Bristol Archive Records on 5th September 2011)
(10 / 10)
**BLACK ROOTS reformed last year and with loads of gigs planned, they are set to make Reggae popular once again.**
I wouldn’t normally use LOUD HORIZON to actually ‘plug’ forthcoming releases other than through a ‘review’ article, but I’m going to make an exception in this case because:
a) I love BLACK ROOTS;
b) British reggae always was, and still is, vastly underrated;
c) Although a CD / DVD version will be available, this release is also on a Limited Edition double-vinyl (with insert) basis, which is pretty cool;
d) It is on the BRISTOL ARCHIVE RECORDS imprint who do a wonderful job of promoting and revitalising the music heritage of their city, and
e) I can!
Here’s the background to the release as described by the label, interspersed with some classic video.
Thirty years after they released their first four track EP Black Roots’ singles output is finally showcased on “Black Roots – The Reggae Singles Anthology”. Released on September 5th, by Bristol Archive Records in collaboration with Nubian Records this 16 track album spans the band’s creative peak of the 1980s.
Black Roots were Bristol’s leading exponents of reggae, constantly touring throughout the UK and Europe. They also managed to release a steady stream of LPs and singles mostly on their own Nubian label. Now for the first time the majority of those singles are brought together on a single CD and limited double vinyl LP.
The music 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 later releases such as their collaborations with the Mad Professor.
This release wouldn’t have been possible without the full support of the Band’s own label, Nubian Records, who have allowed us free reign of their archives, the result being a 16 page booklet to accompany the CD that is packed full of previously unpublished photos of the band, the limited double vinyl issue comes with a similarly illustrated LP size insert.
As if a 16 track selection of some of the finest UK reggae wasn’t enough the initial run of CDs have an added bonus, the first DVD issue of the impossible to find “Celebration”. A great live show from 1986, recorded at the Bristol Studio and previously only available on the original self financed video cassette issue. Taken directly from the video master this performance catches the band in fine form, joined by a horn section that includes the legendary Vin Gordon on Trombone the ten tracks are evenly split between their then pending “All Day All Night” album and their earlier more roots orientated material. Seeing them on stage 25 years ago really brings home how versatile the band were. Fortunately the original line-up of Black Roots reformed last year and with plenty of gigs in the pipeline everyone will be able to experience their live shows again.
As is usual Bristol Archive Records have paid meticulous attention to detail and, not only do you get a selection of great music, sleeve notes, a booklet packed with great photos, and a bonus live DVD, but we truly believe the music has never sounded so good on CD.
BRISTOL ROCK 4.15 (Bunny Marrett/Arranged by Black Roots) 1981
TRIBAL WAR 4.22 (Black Roots)1981
THE FATHER 3.30 (Black Roots)1981
THE SYSTEM 3.58 (Bunny Marrett/Arranged by Black Roots)1981
CHANTING FOR FREEDOM 8.45 (Black Roots)1981
CONFUSION 3.28 (Black Roots)1981
WHAT THEM A DO 5.57 (Black Roots)1981
THE FRONTLINE 3.43 (Black Roots)1984
MOVE ON 6.07 (Black Roots)1983
JUVENILE DELINQUENT 4.23 (Black Roots)1984
STRUGGLING 5.14 (Black Roots)1984
SEEING YOUR FACE 4.17 (Black Roots)1986
CONMAN 3.22 (Black Roots)1986
PIN IN THE OCEAN 6.38 (Black Roots)1987
SUZY WONG 4.57 (P. Ecclestone)1987
START AFRESH 5.55 (Black Roots)1988
Although not released until September of this year, pre-orders are now being taken at bristolarchiverecords.com at the price of £15 + postage for the vinyl package and £12 + postage for the CD / DVD version.
This is an inspired choice of release from the forward-looking (or perhaps that should be backward-looking) Bristol Archive Recordings. Having previously issued two albums of retrospective compilation material showcasing the punk and reggae scenes within Bristol around the latter half of the Seventies / start of the Eighties, they now concentrate their attention on the vastly underrated reggae stalwarts TALISMAN.
Although TALISMAN were deemed worthy of support slots with bands the calibre of The Clash, Burning Spear and even The Rolling Stones, a major record deal was never forthcoming. As far as I can ascertain, the sum recorded output from the band amounts to two singles and a couple of albums released in 1984 and 1990.
However, talent like this should not remain inaccessible, and Bristol Archive Recordings have now made available those two much sought-after singles (‘Dole Age’ and ‘Free Speech’) as well as seven carefully selected tracks from the band’s classic shows at Glastonbury and Bath University to comprise the seventy-two minutes of this wonderful album.
Admittedly, reggae does sound at its best when pumping out some massive sound system on a gloriously sunny day. But we don’t get many such days up here in Glasgow (and my crappy music system and even my I-pod are currently knackered!) but I can tell you, it still sounds magnificent on the van stereo and my laptop.
There is lovely warm feeling about this brand of reggae. The sax and keyboards see to this. But the whole album also incorporates substantial helpings of dub along the way, often integrating it as a mid-song breakdown. Tracks like ‘Run Come Girl’ feature the ‘harp’ (mouth organ) in the haunting manner made more commercially acceptable by the likes of Beats International (‘Dub Be Good To Me’) about a decade and a half later.
The live tracks have never been properly released before and although the crowd sounds are muted / sparse, it somehow makes the tracks even more special in that they feel that bit more intimate – that they are being performed just for you.
Of course there are also a few tracks that seem to transpose into big jams. ‘Words Of Wisdom’ for instance spans almost fourteen and a half minutes, with some great drumming / sax combinations given the dub treatment while vocalist Lazarus Taylor skanks his way through set, delivering his deliciously reverb-drenched lyrics with clarity, conviction and authority.
I genuinely can’t believe just how atmospheric this album is – it really transports the listener back to a time of dingy basement parties and oppressive, fuggy air. If your perception of ‘old skool’ reggae is based upon say UB40’s version of ‘Red Red Wine,’ then you really have to listen to this album and sample just what it was like back in the day. (Look! I sound like your Father!)
If you were indeed around or experienced the vibe at the onset of the Eighties, then you‘ll be equally enthralled by this release, which serves as a reminder that the UK reggae scene, while it remained steadfastly in the ‘underground,’ was in fact an equal of the burgeoning but more exposed Punk movement.
It also perfectly illustrates that UK reggae had more to offer than just Aswad, Steel Pulse and Misty In Roots.
(Released through Bristol Archive Records on 9th May 2011)
** The album will be released on CD and Download basis, but there will also be run of Limited Edition Vinyl Albums which will include five different tracks – including the 12” mixes. **
REVIEWS OF OTHER RELEASES FROM BRISTOL ARCHIVE RECORDS CAN BE FOUND BY CLICKING ON THE FOLLOWING ALBUM TITLES:
BRISTOL: THE REGGAE EXPLOSION
Following on from their superb ‘Bristol: The Punk Explosion’ compilation of earlier in 2010, Bristol Archive Records have produced the equally compelling ‘Reggae Explosion 1978 – 1983’ long player. These fourteen tracks reflect on a time when Jamaican musical influence was more ‘roots’ based – at a time before the more aggressive and explicit derivation of ragga took hold and along with hip-hop and all its sub-genres became the most popular ‘imported’ music to the UK.
This compilation devotes three tracks to both BLACK ROOTS and TALISMAN, with two to both JOSHUA MOSES and RESTRICTION, with another four local artists contributing one track each.
BLACK ROOTS are probably the best known of the Bristol reggae bands of that era. They toured the UK extensively throughout the early Eighties and even recorded the signature tune for the BBC TV series ‘The Front Line’ in 1984, which I guess highlighted their popularity and acceptability of the genre at that time. It is their ‘Bristol Rock’ that rather appropriately opens the album. As their name would indicate, their take on reggae music is very ‘roots’ based. It’s smooth and laid-back, with as with all music of this type, is instantly infectious and dance inducing. They also wade in with the 12” mix of ‘Tribal War’ which has a tinge of African beat about it, while their final track, ‘Juvenile Delinquent’ was re-mixed by DJ / producer Jah Woosh and was well received (within the context of the reggae world at least) in the dancehall world of the mid-Eighties.
The three TALISMAN tracks are the longest on the album. The first of the three is a ‘live’ recording of ‘Run Come Girl,’ and features a sort of wailing, harmonica type sound – similar to that used in later years by Beats International on their ‘Dub Be Good To Me’ hit. ‘Wicked Dem’ is also a ‘live’ recording and the best indicator I can give here is to UB40’s ‘Signing Off’ period, with the sax mixing seamlessly with the backbeat and dub style drum sound. And it is this particular ‘dub’ sound that features so well on the epic, eleven minutes of ‘Dole Age’ (12” mix.)
JOSHUA MOSES also leans in this direction throughout the latter half on the first of his two contributions, the ultra-rare ‘Africa (Is Our Land)’ whereas his other track ‘Pretty Girl’ illustrates more of a gentle ‘Lovers Rock’ style.
‘Nights Of Passion’ by THE RADICALS would most likely fall within that same category, as would SHARON BENGAMIN who on ‘Mr. Guy,’ exhibits a similar style and mood to that which afforded Janet Kay a mainstream chart hit with ‘Silly Games’ in 1979. Similarly, BUGGS DURRANT and ‘Baby Come Back (Home)’ reminds me of the Barry Biggs hit from a couple of years earlier, ‘Sideshow.’
However, it’s the ‘dub’ style of reggae that always hooked me back in he day – and still does, I have to say. 3D PRODUCTION use this style in part on their ‘Riot’ track. Heavy bass lines are straightened out, with the organ and vocals getting slight reverb tweaks. But it’s the two contributions from RESTRICTION (‘Four Point Plan’ and ‘Restriction’) that have me heading straight up to my loft after I finish writing this piece, and looking out my old vinyl copies of Blackbeard albums!
This is a superb compilation, which although it obviously focuses on the Bristol scene of that time, simply highlights what was going on in the inner cities up and down the length of the UK at the same time as, and ultimately dovetailing with the Punk scene.
Which brings me back nicely to the earlier release on this label which concentrates on that particular counter culture. BOTH these albums from Bristol Archive Recordings are well worth adding to any collection!
Go check ‘em!
(Released through Bristol Archive Recordings – and also on limited edition vinyl pressing – on 21st February 2011)
(10 / 10)