Jah Praises (British Reggae Unreleased Classics) ARC242
- Jah Praises
- He Who Feels It
- Wicked Dem
- When You're Away
1979 was a good year for reggae and British reggae in particular. Lover's rock went mainstream with Janet Kay on Top Of the Pops and Aswad, Steel Pulse and Linton Kwesi Johnson all building on their debuts with strong second albums. Meanwhile the healthy live circuit gave bands an opportunity to make a living from music. One of those bands was Bristol's Revelation Rockers who although founded in 1976, would not find real success until slight line-up changes and a change of name to Talisman which would see them become established as one of the UK's finest live acts.
Until recently Bristol Archive Records had believed that no recordings of Revelation Rockers existed, so when we were handed a master tape we couldn't wait to get it transferred and as the first people to listen to these tracks in nearly a third of a century we knew we'd discovered something rather special. The five songs on this album aren't some rough demo tracks best forgotten, but a fully realised UK roots album worthy of standing alongside anything released at the time.
The reason why these tracks weren't released in '79 is long forgotten - perhaps it was the change of name or personnel, possibly the lack of funds or interest from record labels or maybe it was just that the music and Talisman took a slightly different direction. Whatever the reason, Bristol Archive Records is belatedly putting things right with the 5th March 2012 release of “Jah Praises” Revelation Rockers entire recorded legacy as a vinyl only LP, just as it would have been in '79. This record is a time capsule, dealing with the reality of life in late seventies Britain, racism, mass unemployment, industrial unrest and poverty.
The title track is a paen to Jah driven by a relentless bass line backed up by horns, the sort of song that was almost compulsory for any seventies roots album. From praising Jah, the music tackles the loss of cultural identity caused by the legacy of slavery, “Give me back my culture, give me back my roots”, the track “Culture” makes it's message clear. Perhaps borrowing a lyrical idea from the Wailers “Who Feels It Knows It” makes it clear you can't truly relate to how others live their lives until you've actually experienced a similar situation yourself, a lesson still very much relevant today. “Wicked Dem” is a song that would go on to become one of the signature tunes of Talisman. Here we have it's earliest recorded incarnation, very different from the version we all know, rawer, sparser, slower and heavier, but just as hard hitting and able to hold it's own with the later Talisman cuts. The album ends with a change of mood, a love song, yet there's nothing soft about “When You're Away” as it's driven along by a heavy contemporary backing with the added benefit of horns.
It's a rare event to have the opportunity to hear an entire “lost” reggae album, even rarer when the music is this good. This record is essential for all fans of UK roots reggae and beyond, rewriting the story of what was happening on the Bristol and UK reggae scenes in 1979. Long overdue it may be, but Revelation Rockers finally get to secure their place in the music's history.