Bristol Archive Records Blog

Talisman Album Reviews

Takin’ the Strain (Bristol Archive, 2008 [org. released 1982])

Talisman was a multiracial British reggae band that gained quite a following around its home base in Bristol, England in the early ’80s. During this fertile time in UK reggae, acts like Aswad, Steel Pulse, UB40, Matumbi, Misty In Roots and Black Slate were making headlines, while Talisman remained more of a regional draw. Their anonymity wasn’t due to a lack of talent or quality material, though. Their sound is comparable to these more well-known groups, mixing the pop accessibility of UB40 with the UK lovers rock tradition of Matumbi and the more edgy roots of Misty In Roots or early Steel Pulse and Aswad. Takin’ the Strain features three of Talisman’s best tracks: the funky Aswad-y roots of “Ah Wah You Seh,” the harmonic yet politically biting “What a Calamity” and the quirky, digi-synth “I’m Sorry,” which incorporates video game sounds, explosions and all manner of offbeat effects. Also strong is the title track and the soulful Third World sound of “Stride On.” Really, the only misfire is “Burn the Bread,” a cringe-worthy early rap song that earns an “A” for innovation but an “F” for the resulting ear damage. Despite this bump in the road, Takin’ the Strain is a wonderful snapshot of the extremely enjoyable ’80s reggae sound. Rediscovering a group like Talisman is like finding a forgotten $20 bill in your jeans. Now, go use that $20 to buy this album, stat! Learn more at


Track Listing
1. Takin’ the Strain
2. Crime of Passion
3. Lick & Run
4. Ah Wah You Seh
5. Lord of Dance
6. Stride On
7. I’m Sorry
8. Calamity
9. Burn the Bread 

Jam Rock (Bristol Archive, 2008 [orig. released 1985])

Although not quite as strong as Takin’ the Strain, Jam Rock is a strong album that provides a fuller representation of the group’s sound, incorporating pop (“Crime of Passion,” “Lick & Run”), lovers rock (“Call on Me,””Those Problems”) and edgier roots (“Big Ship,” “Look Weh a Gwan”). Strangely, three of the tracks from Takin’ the Strain are repeated here: “Crime of Passion,” “Lick an Run” (AKA “Like & Run”) and “Disco Queen” (AKA “Lord of Dance”). Highlights include the more pure roots of “Big Ship” and the bouncy yet militant “Rock for the Nation.”


Live Bath 1981 (Bristol Archive, 2008)

This live set from Talisman was recorded in 1981 at Bath University and was previously unreleased — an amazing fact, since this could very well be the band’s best album. There are no weak spots to be found on this blistering showcase for the Talisman’s skills. Live will no doubt appeal to the more hadcore roots reggae fans, as it features a darker, edgier sound that Talisman’s studio releases — although there’s still a melodic accessibility to the material. Musky saxophone riffs permeate the atmospheric tracks, giving it an early (pre-”Red Red Wine”) UB40 sound. The song titles — from “Wicked Dem” to “Free Speech” to “Slow Poison” — indicate the heavier mood and lyrical content. “Dole Age,” the group’s first single, has a buoyant singalong chorus that’s subverted by a brilliant sufferer’s message packaged as a plea from people trying to beg their way into a concert that they can’t afford. “Nothing Change” is an atmospheric chant bemoaning, “Every day’s the same: nothing change.” “Free Speech” is an uptempo, urgent track about struggle and oppression. “Words of Wisdom” is a 14-minute tour-de-force warning of false propecies and bridge burnings. Only “Run Come Girl” has more lighthearted, partying lyrics, although it’s still got an edgier sound than most of the group’s other recorded work. Live Bath 1981 is a long lost gift for roots fans. Do yourself a favor and pick it up.


All the above reviews taken from

Takin’ the Strain




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