Bristol Archive Records Blog

The Bristol Reggae Explosion

The Bristol Reggae Explosion 1978-1983
Kingston, Handsworth, Notting Hill…even Coventry. These are names which spring to mind when you think of ska and reggae in the late ’70s and early ’80s. But, as this CD is pure evidence to, Bristol also had a historic and steadfast reggae scene. This album is a powerful introduction to artists over 14 tracks, each with their own unique take on reggae. There’s a real journey on this album, from Buggs Durrant and his sublime pop sound reminiscent of Donna and Althea, to Joshua Moses in his vocal ‘Africa (Is Our Land)’ for Rastafarian politics. Black Root’s ‘Tribal War’ a close to dub music, heavy and gloriously hypnotic. If you want some grim 1980s socially conscious music, check out Black Roots’ ‘Juvenile Delinquent’, a reference to the infinite rude boy tracks of Trojan Records music in the 1960s. There’s even Live number ‘Wicked Dem’ by Talisman, a uplifting political number in which the lead singer declares anti-racism and pro-CND. “We are no capitalists” the song makes quite clear. So there’s music you can dance to, and music you can smoke to, and music you can get fired up to. Political reggae and fun reggae.

The album is well-crafted, plenty of care gone into flagging up years, writers and record labels to give representation and respect to the original writers. Some of the tracks are rarities, remastered from tapes of limited number vinyl, ensuring this is a delight for any hardcore reggae fantastic to own something long since out-of-print. But it still holds the strong reggae charm of being an album you can simply out on in most environments and let it play through, filling any room in feel-good vibes. The album is wonderfully bookmarked, opening with the early Peter Tosh-sounding Black Roots and their anthem ‘Bristol Rock’, the perfect introduction to a Bristol reggae compilation. But it ends on Talisman’s ‘Dole Age’, leaving the album on the historic note that this scene strived and these songs were written under Thatcherite politics with 3 million unemployed. They serve as documentation of the atmosphere and mood at the time, and evidence as to how they fought back and empowered themselves with music. It’s all too easy to make parallels with 2010 and modern reggae/ska/punk bands but certainly I think in the coming months I’ll be listening to 3D’s ‘Riot’ for a lot more reason than simply historical curiosity.

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