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Posts Tagged ‘roots reggae bristol 1981’

Talisman – Dole Age – More Album Reviews

Friday, April 15th, 2011



Hot on the heels of the Bristol Reggae Explosion (1976-83) compilation comes another gem from Bristol Archive Records. Talisman may not be the first band that springs to mind when one talks about UK reggae, but as this 1981 collection of rarities and live recordings show, they had not only a strong fanbase but a powerful sound to accompany the early ’80s. Tracks that have since been nigh-impossible to find, the collection offers an insight into the band’s studio material in the form of four 7” translations and seven live recordings from Glastonbury Festival and Bath University.


Opener, Dole Age, is clearly a soundtrack to the early ’80s, but haunting lyrics about “wasting our lives” and questions about survival translate to 2011’s economic times. It’s reggae’s incentive element to speak politically, especially when at the time reggae was slowly moving into more pop areas for Lover’s Rock. Some bands tried to water down their sound both politically and musically to appeal to the charts. Second track, Free Speech, is also a strong song about speaking one’s mind, rejecting oppression and control. Whilst UB40 may have named themselves and made allusions to dole queues, Talisman mark their studio releases as statements, as protest music that really speaks to an intelligent mind.


Stride On, one of the live recordings, has a more upbeat tone in its sound than the 7”s, but still stays true to their political elements, a damning attack on the hypocrisy of those power. Talisman declare “unity is strength” in the true legacy of Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. The live tracks have a fantastic energy to them, the sound of the appreciative crowd in the distance and Lazarus Taylor humming with charisma and control as he keeps the energy flowing whilst introducing songs. The key to reggae is the flow of a track, but Taylor makes sure the whole set has a flow. Which means once we get deep into the seven golden live recordings the album we are caught within a beautiful smooth stream. Unlike some live recordings you can come across, this album sounds fresh and tight, capturing the glare of the band in their lyrics and presence of protest reggae. Also to note is the fact these tracks clock between 5 and 14 minutes, but there doesn’t seem to be the pretence one finds with progressive or psychedelic rock of similar length songs. Indeed, the tracks have a drifting tide attached to them


This album is an insight into reggae from the early ’80s. If you prefer your reggae with a hint of protest and a declaration for unity and community (“live not for yourself”), then make sure you hunt down more Talisman and especially this collection. If you like early Steel Pulse or Delroy Wilson then this is the perfect addition to your music.


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Talisman – ‘Dole Age’ (Bristol Archive Records)

Following on from their recent ‘Bristol Reggae 78 – 83′ collection, this release provides a belated showcase for one early eighties Bristol reggae band who, while their talents weren’t quite reflected in actual success in the then mainstream certainly received significant recognition from the rock world, supporting both the Clash and Rolling Stones on occasion as well as numerous headline live shows, some of which are documented here .

Talisman do seem unlucky to have found themselves overlooked when it came to securing any kind of label contract, as it does seem that on the strength of the previously unreleased studio tracks from 1981 here they might actually have made the crossover into the top 40 had they received something more in the way of promotion. Their combination of roots sounds and some sharply turned out Two Tone influenced numbers would’ve made something of an impression, but Talisman only released two singles and it wasn’t until 1984 that their first album appeared. They were a stunningly good festival act though, as the seven live tracks on this CD can testify. Anyone with an interest in Old School reggae will find a place for this in their collection.

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