Bristol Archive Records Blog

Album Review – The Reggae Explosion




-  Genre: ‘Reggae’ –  Release Date: ’21st February 2011′-  Catalogue No: ‘ARC191cd ‘

 Our Rating:


Mike Darby’s Bristol Archive label has brought us several essential compilations over the past 12 months. The first celebrated the eclectic but brilliant post-punk dishes served up by the Fried Egg label. The second shone the spotlight on the white hot excitement of the city’s bristling Punk scene and, most recently, we were treated to ‘Avon Calling 2’: a fine, if very belated sister act to the original ‘Avon Calling’ which was very highly praised indeed by no less a figure than the late, great John Peel.

All of the above made it very clear that Bristol responded with verve and energy to the DIY gauntlet originally thrown down by Punk. However, as artists as seismically different as The Pop Group and Portishead have since proved, Bristol also knows a thing or three about grooves and shaping the way we dance today, so it’s no great surprise to discover that the culturally-diverse city also boasted an impressive Reggae scene during the feverishly creative years 1978-1983.

It might be because Bristol never produced a heavyweight ‘white’ Punk outfit capable of bringing the Punk/ Reggae interface to the masses the way The Clash or The Ruts did that much of this music remained of resonance only locally at the time, but it’s undeniable the major labels made little or no effort to seek it out either. As a result, it was down to a handful of discerning local labels (Nubian, More Cut, Restriction and Shoc Waves (sic)) to document the time on vinyl. Incredibly enough, none of the tracks have since been readily available on CD, never mind digitally.

Hindsight, of course, brings its own rewards, but it seems baffling that songs such as ‘Baby Come Back (Home)’ by BUGGS DURRANT or SHARON BENGAMIN’S ‘Mr. Guy’ never cleaned up on the radio. The first offers sweet Bob Marley-style pop and the second winsome lovers rock in the Janet Kay or Susan Cadogan vein and both had enormous crossover appeal. Ditto the supple, silky skank of THE RADICALS’ ‘Nights of Passion’.

Great all these track are, though, it’s the earthier, Roots-style Reggae purveyed by the likes of BLACK ROOTS and TALISMAN that’s at the heart of ‘The Bristol Reggae Explosion’. To these ears, both of these bands were every bit the equal to the likes of Steel Pulse or Misty in Roots and they bequeath us several fantastic tracks here. The 12” mix of Black Roots’ ‘Tribal War’ is a memorable anti-violence/ pro-unity anthem set to a slow, but robust skank, while their ‘Bristol Rock’ is the epitome of militant and melodic. TALISMAN’S bouncy and eminently catchy ‘Run Come Girl’ comes from their 1981 Glastonbury Festival appearance, while their tough, ratchet-y ‘Dole Age’ single sounds as relevant and prophetic three whole decades on.

Elsewhere, JOSHUA MOSES brings us a splendidly righteous Rastafar-I anthem ‘Africa (is our Land)’ with production from the eminent Dennis ‘Bluebeard’ Bovell (Matumbi, The Slits’ ‘Cut’ LP), while RESTRICTION’S toast’ n’ dub masterpiece ‘Four Point Plan’ almost gets lost in a heady Ganja fug. Perhaps even better still is 3-D PRODUCTION’S ‘Riot’ which – with sounds of sirens and breaking glass riding uppity bass and drums – taps into the mood of unrest in the months prior to the 1981 Brixton riots.

Coming housed in an appropriate mid-80s carnival sleeve of the Jah Revelation sound-system in full effect, ‘The Bristol Reggae Explosion’ is a magnificent collection of well-dread treats from a series of home-grown shoulda-been Roots-Reggae stars.   It’s not only the latest in a series of unmissable compilations from this quality-first archival label, but most of its’ content wouldn’t have seemed out of place should they have arrived with a Trojan Records imprint. And I think that speaks for itself.

Reviewed by Tim Peacock

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One Response to “Album Review – The Reggae Explosion”

  1. Minormager NO 1 Says:

    Portrait of the 1985 Handsworth Riots – Pogus Caesar – BBC1 TV . Inside Out.

    Broadcast 25 Oct 2010.

    Birmingham film maker and photographer Pogus Caesar knows Handsworth well. He found himself in the centre of the 1985 riots and spent two days capturing a series of startling images. Caesar kept them hidden for 20 years. Why? And how does he see Handsworth now?. The stark black and white photographs featured in the film provide a rare, valuable and historical record of the raw emotion, heartbreak and violence that unfolded during those dark and fateful days in September 1985.

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