Black Roots - In Session
Makasound - #MKS 20 - October 15, 2007
Made in U.K.
Reviewed by Seb on October 31, 2007
If I say 'Black Roots' there's a good chance you'll reply 'Sugar Minott' but there's anoher Black Roots in the reggae world, a UK-based band formed in 1979. Even if this band is kind of underrated today, it was one of the most promising groups in the early 80s. Good enough to be broadcasted two times on the famous John Peel radio show in 1982 and being critically acclaimed by the press for their first two albums, 1983's 'Black Roots' and 1984's 'On the Frontline' :
The Guardian wrote : "The best of the new British reggae bands". Black Echoes and other in-depth magazines wrote: "The next great hope for reggae in this country" and "one of the most polished and uplifting reggae albums we had the pleasure to hear". Makasound reissued both albums in 2004 under the title 'On the Frontline' (MKS 09).
This CD includes the Peel sessions along with six other tracks recorded between 1979 and 1980. Indeed, as soon as I started listening to the music, I've had the same feeling as the day I discovered the Aswad BBC sessions. The sound is neat and highlights the real talent of the musicians who play as a band and not as a disparate bunch of individuals. The different approach between the Roots music produced in Jamaica and the UK Reggae is immediately apparent. The way the songs are played is not as rough as the JA style and you don't find many major chords here. As stated in the quotes from the UK press, the style is polished. If you don't like the UK sound of the late 70s - early 80s then just pass this by.
The tracks presented here are equally good but If I had to choose my favourites it would probably be 'Tribal War' - not on the same riddim as the famous Little Roy's one - and 'What Them A Do'. Both are beautiful songs. There is no doubt Aswad had been a great source of inspiration to this Bristol band. The songs structure is often similar. A short intro with a keyboard or guitar solo on the main theme, then strong harmonies all along. But Black Roots isn't a pale imitation, more a fellow traveller. The studio tracks are well-crafted but in my opinion the live versions are stronger - maybe because they have been recorded later.
Black Roots would have known a far better success if they had signed on a big record company such as Greensleeves back in the 80s. Makasound has made a great job by reissuing their early work. Overall this is a great album and an excellent companion to 'On the Frontline'. The CD runs for over an hour but you won't want to skip a single song.
This is British reggae at its best.
Seb - Roots Archives, October 2007
Edited by Leggo Rocker