Bristol Archive Records Blog

Archive for the ‘Album/Single Reviews’ Category

Album Reviews

Sunday, July 29th, 2012

Reggae, roots, dub, lovers and how to do a compilation

It’s been a real pleasure discovering a label like Bristol Archive Records, that was brand new to me and seeing them to my mind at least grow and incorporate new elements and sounds with each new release. Their journey has led me from post punk Bristol (1977) to modern days via a newly re-energised Black Roots release which is actually covered later on in this piece). The label’s aim has always been; ” To showcase music from the diverse Bristol music scene and provide a historical account/document of all things Bristol that should never be forgotten. Many of the artists and releases are rare, unknown or never before released, with the original vinyl releases generally being limited to runs of 1,000 copies or less.” And you know what, as a music fan I just love the spirit of this label.

In fact that gets me thinking back to one of my previous incarnations, running a record shop in Cardiff, one where we built up what was probably the best collection of reggae this side of the Severn bridge, but even we missed what was going on not 50 miles away, probably down to the small pressings of the original material.

As I have said in numerous reviews of the Bristol scene, (all here on Uber Rock) I cannot believe the quality of the music I am now getting to hear in retrospect, each one as strong as the last. So what of the latest clutch of releases?

Dan_Ratchet_Jah_Poor_PeopleFirst up Dan Ratchet- ‘Jah Poor People’, well this LP is now getting a full release 26 years after conception, and you have to ask why?

The roll call of collaborators involved with the album include amongst others Aswad and Misty in Roots, for the London sessions and then over in Jamaica we have Earl “Chinna” Smith and Sly Dunbar in probably the most famous reggae studios in Kingston – Tuff Gong amongst others. With a pedigree this strong it was always going to be spot on, and it is, roots reggae with a lovers rock lilt and what makes this LP even more special is each track comes with the Dub version, (which reminded me a lot of Aswad’s ‘New Chapter in Dub’s’ similar feel) effectively giving you two LP’s for the price of one. Definitely an LP for any reggae fans collection.

Black_RootsNext up we have the aforementioned Black Roots- ‘On the Ground’ LP, now this is definitely something to be excited over as this the first new material from the band in 20 years and this new incarnation of the band certainly don’t disappoint. The messages within the music are as relevant now as ever, and it makes you realise how closely times today are mirroring what was going on back in the late ’70′s early ’80′s. Cultural and social commentaries and political viewpoints or standpoints are what made punk so relevant, what launched grunge and what gave birth to metal in the first place, and while you might not realise it all music forms its own sub-cultures, genres within the overall banner of music, all of which need to be appreciated in their own right. (Whether you then dismiss them, is down to your personal choice)

Listen to ‘I Believe’ that opens up this release, it’s simply stunning, also take a listen to ‘Pompous Way’, ‘Slavery’ or ‘Militancy’, and then tell me you are not impressed….Go on I dare you. To pick yourself back up during these times of cuts and similar bullshit give ‘Long, Long Ago’ a listen, or “Oh Mamma Africa” a listen, here you have two absolute stunners simply celebrating life. Roll on any upcoming live performances, because this music deserves to be heard in the dancehalls of the world.

Fashion_In_Fine_StyleFinishing up this feature I have to bring something that’s fresh for me, via this release from another of the major reggae labels Fashion, and a compilation called ‘Fashion In Fine Style – Significant Hits Volume 1′. Very much following a blueprint and how reggae has changed and evolved through the ages, my own preference is for the roots style particularly from the early 1980′s, the decade where this collection actually starts with Dee Sharp’s ‘Let’s Dub It Up’. What this LP actually does is take the listener through a voyage of discovery, from an initial lovers rock feel, but then moving in a more roots direction and then further onwards into true dancehall and sound-clash sounds before moving onwards to ragga, even pulling in some jungle remixing, before finishing with some classy dub. I have to admit that sound-clash and ragga is not for me and the jungle stuff lost me a bit, but overall this is a cracking compilation, especially for a starter in the wider genre who has no preference in style, boy what a place to start your reggae collection!

Review by Nev Brooks

Taken from:

Black Roots – ‘On The Ground’ Album Review

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

Garry from SAN PR is always sending through new bands to look at and check out, so when he sent through a copy of On The Ground, the new album from reggae unit Black Roots, I was intrigued to know what was going on. Opening stating it’s not the usual sort of thing that they deal with, I too was a little out of kilter when first checking out the album, but as always, went into it with an open mind to see what was going on. Despite the original line up of the band not being together for over twenty years, the band have managed to get back in the studio and produce a 17 track album which puts them straight back into that Black Roots groove, offering up reggae sounds to accompany the most chilled out moments, whilst charging their message with political and sociological views. I figured the best way to deal with this was to crack on the album, turn up the bass, and see what I thought.

From the opening moments of I Believe there’s one thing clear, this is some seriously funky and groovy reggae style stuff, offering up a chilled out and laid back beat which is going to accompany a sunny afternoon to perfection. Despite the chilled out tones of the track, there’s also a serious message coming across through the lyrical content, keeping you listening to what’s going on and engaging with the band throughout. Pompous Way continues this approach, once again building the track around the elements you’d expect from a reggae track whilst still managing to keep that serious message flowing out of the track. I love the political side to reggae music as I’ve always felt it creates a contrast within the music, almost as a form of peaceful protest against society as it stands. ‘If It No Broke, No Fix It’ echoes out across the track as the key message here, and something which applies to the style of music in question at the same time, showing that when you’re dealing with class, just let the music do the talking for you – and they’ve done it well.

Long Long Ago presents us with a more upbeat approach to things, immediately getting you swaying from the word go and creating a sense of movement throughout the track. Whilst it’s clichéd to say it, this is a track which is going to bring back images of sunshine, white beaches and all things summer. Despite these immediate images in your mind, you’ve got to appreciate the story being told through the track, talking about a time gone by in rural Jamaica and transporting you there to show you what it was like. It’s funny how people always talk about the power of music to take you to a different place, and what you’ve got here is a band who are doing just that with the record, taking you to their place and showing you what life was like and why their views are what they are. Returning to the more serious message, Militancy once again brings back the power of the music as a political tool and shows that reggaes roots are indeed still as firmly rooted as they’ve always been. Layered with simple yet effective guitar lines, deep and meaningful lyrics and that signature slow drum beat, this is another head nodding and mood evoking track which is going to secure these guys a slot as being firmly back on the scene.

Progressing through the tracks through Earth Lan, I Am Flying, Slavery, Oh Mama Africa and Hide Out, each track presents us with that signature reggae approach whilst each time presenting a different view point or perspective, showing that whilst some may perceive reggae as a simple sound, it’s way more complex than first meets the eye. On The Ground comes around as a serious high point on the record, standing out as a track which is going to allow the band to reach an audience that might not usually listen to reggae, presenting a sound which is once again upbeat, full of dance beat tempos and a calm inducing backing melody, all the elements combining to form a track which personally, I’ve listened to repeatedly since getting hold of the album.

Call Me Out, No Fee, Struggle, Landscape and Without Direction each continue to lead you through the album, each time presenting more bass heavy reggae rhythms and layered vocals, forming a melodic and rhythmic sound which is impossible to resist and allowing you the time to simply take in what’s going on here rather than forcing you into doing anything. The laid back brass tones of the reggae sound echo out across the mix, adding depth to the sound and forming a mix which will sooth the mood of anyone who listens, immediately brightening up the mood of all who hear it.

Another serious highpoint on the album is Capitalism, another track which is packed with a message we can’t afford to ignore, showing that there are bands out there who aren’t afraid to comment on the state of society and write music about it. Yes there is a political message but the laid back approach of getting it out there means you don’t feel it’s forced upon you, allowing you to listen to the message, make up your own mind and go from there. The same can be said for the closing moments of Come And Sing, closing the album with a track which leaves things on a high note and your mood in the best possible state. Once again offering up some soft beats, slow tempo reggae beats and jams, the final track on this album asks you to forget the divide in society, and simply join in with the band to sing and enjoy (or that’s what I took from it anyway!). The final track seems to epitomise the band to me, showing that there’s no need to be aggressive or kick off about things, but that simply creating music which sooths and passes on a message is enough.

I didn’t know what I was going to think when Black Roots were first sent through to us, but I’ve loved this album from start to finish. 17 tracks is a hefty album to cover, and sometimes I would struggle to work through each of them – but with this one it was enjoyable listening to every single one on the record. Is this music that’s going to change the world, I don’t know. What I do know though is that this is an album which is going to appeal to existing reggae fans and convert new fans to the band, offering you an album which is going to chill you out, make you think, but most of all, enjoy.

To find out more about Black Roots, check out their Facebook page HERE.

Words: Dave Nicholls

Out Monday May 7th – Black Roots

Saturday, May 5th, 2012

Black Roots

All Day AII Night (Deluxe Edition)

Bristol Archives CD/DL


Recorded for the Nubian label in 1985,

Black Roots recruited Neal Fraser, The Mad

Professor, for mix duties and the trombonist

Vin Gordon for authentic brass weight. The

result of this more professional approach

was a cleaner, punchier sound, less rootsy

than previous work – an inexplicable move,

as those earlier tunes had generated BBC

sessions and a commission for the theme

music for the TV sitcon The Front Line. lt’s

mostly conscious tunes all the way, and

so magisterial is the 12″ cut to “Pin ln The

0cean” that it’s difficult for anything to

match it, although the “Face Dub” (the flute

and trombone version to “Seeing Your Face”)

is as good as anything to be found on Mad

Prof’s Dub Me Crazy series. Black Roots are

currently working on a new album.


The Columns I Soundcheck I trrewire | 0r

Forget Banksy, Brooksy gets ready to paint Bristol red (and gold, green and black)

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

Do you know, it’s been a fascinating journey and probably the first time I’ve ever looked at the musical scene from one particular area and watched the styles and type of music change in relation to what’s happening both culturally and socially, from an outsider’s viewpoint so to speak, not being part of it, not being led, but forming my own opinions (granted in retrospective), something all of us at Uber Rock believe in passionately.

The first album of this trio of long-lost releases from Bristol Archive records is ‘The Bristol Reggae Explosion 3 – The ’80s Part 2′, like its predecessors, a stunning piece of work for all reggae aficionados, roots reggae at its very best. Some of the bands I’ve reviewed previously – Talisman, Joshua Moses and the Revelation Rockers – all supplying some classic cuts that yet again beg the question, why didn’t they break out further and stand alongside some of the UK more recognisably class acts such as Burning Spear and Aswad, moving out of their community and into the mainstream awareness?

But this LP has also introduced me to others such as Cool Runnings, The Radicals, Vibes, all on a par with anything I have heard previously but, stand out track on this one for me is by a guy called Alfred McIntosh, a stunning dub track called ‘Pain’. I can’t recommend this LP enough for anyone with a passing interest in the genre, or even just an open mind!!!!

Moving on to Joshua Moses – ‘Joshua To Jashwa’ and, being a solo artist, you tend to wonder how they get their ideas across to the band, and what and where is that band formed from: with the culture so vibrant at the time in Bristol finding like-minded musicians to express them must have been a lot easier than it is now, I just wish I’d attended some of the St Pauls Carnivals in the early ’80s!!!!

So, on to the music: as is the want with Bristol Archive Records a mixture of rarities and never before put together and released as one. This LP though has a more dub-centric feel with dub versions of ‘The Suffering’ and ‘Rise Up’ sitting alongside the originals, dub being one of the driving forces for some of the more modern Bristol artists such as Roni Size, Massive Attack and Portishead giving birth to their own genre in turn at a point in the future, Trip Hop. This is a powerful album; it lulls you in then you start listening to the lyrics and realise how shaped the music is by the culture and the society that is shaping it. Standouts for me this time are ‘Distant Guns’, Children of the Light’ and ‘The Suffering’. Again, highly recommended.

Finally on to the last of the three releases here, Smith and Mighty – ‘The Three Stripe Collection 1985-1990′, and you see a distinct change: this isn’t reggae, this is music that has been influenced by the rave generation of the time; you see the music change from the influences of dub, bringing in the American influence of techno, hard house, acid house, music driven by the influence of the club, designed to enhance an altered state of mind through various substances. Music of the moment but, to me, without any longevity, music that fades outside the club environment. This to me is music that has lost a musical soul, it’s not musician-led but programmed, looped and repeated by the new gods of the time (’80s/’90s) producers and DJs!!!

Why is this reviewed here, you might ask yourself? A rhetoric answer would be The Prodigy and Chase and Status first and second on the bill at Download 2012!! Whatever you feel about it, it’s happening. Listening to this you can pick out where the embryonic Prodigy first started to appeal – anyone remember ‘Charly’? But you can also see where Ronnie Size, Gary Clail et al started to mutate their sound from as well as seeing how the music would be transformed by both Massive Attack and Portishead.

As a rock fan I hate the sort of music on this disc, but as a music fan I can only look back and see how many bands it has influenced so some kudos must be given.

Roll on the next Bristol Archive Records release: keep up the good work, what a journey through Bristol’s history.

Taken from:

This says it all! Buy the record people.

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

Various: The Bristol Reggae Explosion 3 (Bristol Archive)

The third of this series of compilations of 80s reggae from Bristol, and it does seem that the keepers of the Bristol reggae archive are saving the best for last. If part one was an introduction of sorts to the now only dimly recalled bands and vocalists that were keeping Stokes Croft skanking three decades ago, and part two a reminder of some of the more musically developed tracks that were emerging from the scene then, part 3 delves into some quality songwriting and some of the really quite astounding reggae/jazz crossover that fully deserve a wider hearing today. Second track, Bunny Marrett’s ‘I’m Free’ is a verging upon actual genius example of this. The tune is carried by a double bass and piano, with some bongos to add percussion and moving away from the more recognised approach to reggae musicianship gives the track a remarkable air of originality, adding depth to Marrett’s vocal as it does so – something like Burning Spear fronting Count Ossie’s band, awash with spiritual depth and with its jazz groove providing a dash of invention.

Talisman’s ‘Taking The Strain’ is a slightly ahead of its time (1983) roots tune of the kind that Aswad would take into the charts later in the decade, and its infectious keyboard riff could very well have found a larger audience at the time. Ron Green is credited with dubby instrumental ‘Then Came You’ whose resonating drum sounds piledrive their way across the track, and the album press release makes a request for more info about Zapp Stereo, whose ‘The Mission’ resembles PIL jamming with Pigbag’s brass section amidst a storming array of sound effects. None of the other 15 tracks are anything less than inspired and, credit where its due, Volume 3 is the album which takes the Bristol reggae archive away from just historical curiousity to a vital listen entirely in its own right.


Taken from:


Thursday, March 1st, 2012

Joshua Moses                                              4/5

Talisman                                                       4/5

Bristol Reggae Explosion 3                       4/5


The Joshua review is killa:


‘This is one of the must – have reissue albums of the year’ 4/5   RecordCollector

The Bristol Reggae Explosion 3 – Killa Review

Monday, February 27th, 2012


It’s hard to believe that this series is up to volume three, documenting the music being made in one city, in one genre. They’re onto mostly unreleased music but the quality is still there, there was clearly just too much around to find a market at the time. These are the boom years of British reggae; the very end of the seventies and up to the middle part of the eighties. After that, the fire kind of went out, though isolated examples from later have value. The Rastafari movement and Roots reggae gave a spiritual and political impetus to the music being made but, as people moved back to love songs, things lost their stepping force.

Talisman feature large, three times if you count their previous incarnation as Revalation Rockers, with strong cuts. Bunny Marrett has an affecting demo, sounding like it was recorded in a cave and none the worse for it. Joshua Moses, a man who failed to get more than two tracks released in thirty years, has a great live cut, Stick It Up, sounding filthy but actually lambasting hypocrites and parasites, it captures the groove of live reggae. Some dub gives colour, from Alfred McIntosh and Babylon Fire – Ron Green is the best of the set though, groovy, dubby, echoey. The strangely named Popsy Curious has a classic in Chant Down Bobby Rome, a hypnotic repetition of “Brother are you ready, Sister are you ready, Ready to chant down Babylon”. Kind of sums up Roots for me. Zapp Stereo bring more dub, while Cool Runnings (presumably named for the eighties film about the Jamaican bobsleigh team) are nothing less than excellent. Popsy reappears on The Vibes Lovers Rock contribution – a sweet thing, before Dan Rachet ends the set with more Lovers. At seventy minutes, this third compilation isn’t a moment too long – an astonishing achievement!

A continuing record of an era when British musicians eclipsed Jamaica, I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t enjoy this, reggae aficionado or not. This is a really great compilation – if this much was going on in the early eighties in Bristol, it makes me want to take a time machine back there. This is the next best thing.

Ross McGibbon

Joshua Moses Album Review

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

Joshua Moses

Joshua to Jashwha: 30 Years in the Wilderness Bristol Archive ARC250CD


**** (pick)


The Bristol Archive label continues its project of documenting the long-neglected Bristol reggae scene with this odds-and-ends assortment of recordings by Joshua Moses. Moses began recording in 1978, and soon became a local favorite. However, when Bristol Archives contacted him to begin the project of compiling a retrospective album, they found that he had kept no copies of any of his many recordings. Joshua to Jashwa: 30 Years in the Wilderness is therefore the product of extensive detective work, and includes the only two Moses tracks ever to have been commercially

released: “Africa Is Our Land” and its dub version. Where the rest of this material came from is a mystery, but reggae lovers everywhere owe a huge debt to those who dug it up‹this is top-quality roots reggae. Moses’ voice is smooth and strong, sometimes strongly reminiscent of Johnny Clarke’s, and his songs are simple and straightforward but powerfully engaging.

Those who have been following the Bristol Archive’s aggressive release schedule over the past few years will recognize “Rise Up” from the excellent Bristol Reggae Explosion, Vol. 2 compilation, but there is even better material here: excellent live versions of “House of Dread” and “Protection”; the weirdly chugging “Steel”; his adaptation of Aswad’s “Promised Land” rhythm into the original song “Jah Time Has Come”; the ska-inflected “Bobby Wrong.” At the peak of his powers Moses was both deeply rooted in the traditional reggae verities and a truly unique vocalist and songwriter‹a combination both counterintuitive and wonderful.

Despite one or two minor clunkers (check out the bizarrely unbalanced sound on “Nothing to Lose” and the messy pseudo-delta-blues of  “Distant

Guns”) this album should be considered an essential purchase by all serious reggae lovers.


Taken from All-Media Guide from the USA

Talisman ‘Takin The Strain’

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

TALISMAN: ‘Takin’ The Strain.’

For many, ‘reggae music ’starts and ends with Bob Marley – which is a great shame as the genre has so much more to offer. I don’t intend that as any sort of slight on the great man ….. but in the current age of manufactured and ‘auto-tuned’ commercial music, there is just so much excellent music (and reggae in particular) that simply doesn’t get heard by the ‘casual’ listener.

One label trying to alter this is the fabulous Bristol Archive Records. For a couple of years now they have been re-releasing music that originally emanated from their city during the late Seventies / early Eighties – music from bands that garnered much critical praise for their ‘live’ shows, but due to their music being released on small independent / DIY labels, failed to gain the commercial and more widespread success that they undoubtedly merited.

One such band was / is TALISMAN.

Having previously released their early output in the form of the ‘Dole Age – The 1981 Reggae Collection’, Bristol Archive Records now turn their attention to the band’s first studio album, ‘Takin’ The Strain,’ which was initially released on vinyl format back in 1984.

And this is a perfect illustration of my earlier assertion that there is so much more to reggae music than simply Bob Marley.

The nine studio tracks on this album (there are also five bonus ‘live’ recordings) show a great degree of variation and innovation within the genre. Opening with the title track, the listener is dropped straight into a conventional, slow and deep traditional reggae vibe, with backbeat guitar and little dub interspersions – all held together with the whine of the Hammond organ and some unobtrusive brass backing.

Crime Of Passion’ opens with a highly toned guitar, akin more to what you’d expect from a traditional African instrument. This is offset with some bouncy bass and female backing harmonies. The guitar picking throughout is clean, concise and infectious. ‘Lick And Run’ is in fact quite ‘Marley-esque’ but differs in the percussion department, with excellent cowbell use. (I love the cowbell!)

‘Ah Wah You Seh’ is unique (certainly as far as my limited knowledge goes) and ingenious in the way TALISMAN have incorporated the violin throughout. Always maintaining the steady reggae beat, it at times takes on ‘classical’ feel, and at others a bit more of a ‘jazz’ vibe. Clever.

‘Lord Of The Dance’ features simple piano hooks and a brass section that can probably best be compared to an early (and good) UB40 style. Again, the inventiveness of TALISMAN shines through with those little piano lines mixed into a reggae backing. ‘Stride On,’ is more along the conventional route, and while still most enjoyable, I have to say is the track that I actually forgot about when thinking about what to say in this review. Good, but not as memorable as the other tracks.

‘I’m Sorry,’ brings the listener back to the more innovative side of TALISMAN, with this track featuring keyboard effects that mimic a tuba (?) the deep notes giving the song a slightly ‘cheeky’ sound as it competes with the slow beat and other space-like sound effects. ‘Calamity’ is pure sing-a-long reggae magic, and if this doesn’t get you bouncing out your seat and skanking around the room then maybe reggae just isn’t for you after all!

Closing track ‘Burn The Bread,’ probably stretches the accepted description of the ‘reggae’ definition. Yes, a reggae beat is there in the background, but the overall vibe created by the vocal delivery is more out of the Grandmaster Flash school than that of Bob Marley.

Of the five live bonus tracks, four are repeated from the original studio recording. The other, ‘Slow Poison’ was an integral part of the bands live set for many years.

(TALISMAN have recently reformed and are now playing gigs throughout the UK!)

(Released through Bristol Archive Records on 5th March 2012)

(10 / 10)

Taken from:

Talisman – Takin The Strain

Thursday, January 26th, 2012
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CD Reviews
Written by Nev Brooks
Saturday, 21 January 2012 04:45

Talisman_Taking_The_StrainFor those with an interest in reggae this is a bit of a landmark recording. It was originally issued on vinyl way back in 1984, and was in fact Talisman’s first studio LP. The band themselves having been mainstays of the Bristol scene since around ’76, albeit with differing personnel through that time. And it’s also perhaps worth pointing out that on the original release of ‘Taking The Strain’ Talisman were in fact a three piece.

This trio of Desmond Taylor (Dehvan Othieno Sengor), Dennison Joseph and Donald de Cordova were supplemented for the recordings by a host of local musicians as well as the engineering and co-production talents of Richard Lewis (UK Scientist), a mainstay of the British reggae scene.

The earlier release through Bristol Archive Records ‘Dole Age’ (reviewed here) showed a band coming to the top of their game in 1981, it contained their first two seven inch singles but also seven live tracks from classic shows at both Glastonbury and Bath University. ‘Taking The Strain’ then builds on this showing a band full of confidence, not afraid to experiment and more to the point highlights some superb musicianship.

So what does it sound like? I have to say this is roots reggae at its very best, on a par with the best to come from Steel Pulse, Aswad and the like, I’d go so far as to say that it pushes one of my personal faves Black Uhuru hard. What instantly comes to mind are the little touches by UK Scientist, the slightly slowed dub bass on some tracks, the crystal clear sound, the guitar wrapping around the vocals and the not so obvious use of keyboards!!!!!

And do you know what? This album gets even better with the addition of a bonus live performance from the London Lyceum from a support slot with Eek-A-Mouse back in 1985. Stand out tracks for me then are ‘Lick And Run’, Stride On’ and ‘Crimes Of Passion” but in all honesty there’s not really a weak track here.

From the bonus tracks ‘Slow Poison’ is absolutely burnin’ in the words of a certain Mr. Marley, listen to that brass section!!!

Overall then a very worthy addition to any music collection.