Bristol Archive Records Blog

Brilliant Reggae Review


 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)

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