Bristol Archive Records Blog

Talisman Album Review 10/10


TALISMAN: ‘Dole Age.’ The 1981 Reggae Collection.

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. **


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