Black Symbol are among the unsung heroes of British Reggae. During their heyday in the early 1980s, they not only released a handful of their own songs as singles, now highly sought after, but financed and released the two volumes of “Handsworth Explosion”, records that documented and showcased so many talented local acts. They played countless shows, funded numerous recording sessions for local bands and singers and did everything possible to promote the music they and their fellow artists were creating.
Although their reputation within Birmingham was and still is second to none, their self-released records lacked the promotional muscle of major label backing and enjoyed modest sales, not escaping beyond the specialist reggae market.
There can be few British bands whose back catalogue is so unknown by the masses and so deserving of an album release. Better late than never, three decades and more since they were recorded, Reggae Archive Records have gone through the singles, the Black Symbol tracks included on the two volumes of “Handsworth Explosion” and unreleased songs, to compile an album that will do Black Symbol’s music justice and rightfully secure their place as one of Britain’s most important and original reggae bands of the 1980s.
When it came to naming this album “Black Symbol” was all the title it needed, a name resonant with meaning that truly fits the music within. The CD version contains 16 tracks of which 4 are versions, whilst the high quality double vinyl contains 12 tracks including versions and is cut for maximum dynamic range. Where they exist on the master tapes we have taken the opportunity to use slightly different mixes on the vinyl and CD and whilst the CD contains tracks from the two volumes of “Handsworth Explosion,” these are omitted from the vinyl as they can be readily found on our vinyl reissues of those LPs.
The music itself is roots reggae at its best, clearly British, but firmly anchored to the childhood home of the band’s core members in St Ann’s on Jamaica’s North coast; like Birmingham another hotbed of Reggae creativity and talent. Although all tracks were recorded at Outlaw Studios in the heart of Birmingham, this music is among the most Jamaican sounding of any British recordings. There is not a conscious attempt to mimic a Jamaican sound, it’s in the group’s DNA and just naturally permeates their sound. Unlike so many other British reggae groups, they didn’t take The Wailers as a template and instead created something new and entirely unique.
Two thirds of the vocals have overtly religious themes, spiritual, uplifting, joyful, a timeless celebration of belief; these songs are inclusive rather than exclusive and lift your spirits whatever your faith or none at all. The rest of the vocals have political themes, equally heartfelt and everything is delivered with total conviction. The versions are no mere afterthoughts, but perfectly realised companion pieces with all the weight and vibes anyone could wish for.
The double vinyl LP comes in a deluxe gatefold sleeve and both it and the CD version contain sleeve notes based on interviews with original band members; Fatman, Blobbo and Rhino plus archive photos provided by bandleader Fatman. The album will be released on all formats by Reggae Archive Records on 16th March 2015 and is sure to be one of the highlights of the year for all fans of roots reggae and British reggae.
The music of Black Symbol can also be found on Reggae Archive’s previous releases, “Handsworth Explosion Volume One” and “Handsworth Explosion Volume Two” as well as featuring on our forthcoming release “The Midlands Roots Reggae Explosion Volume One”. Fatman has also released a new album under the Black Symbol name, “Journey” which is available on our sister label Sugar Shack Records.
ARTIST: Black Symbol
TITLE: “Black Symbol”
RELEASE DATE: 16th March 2015
LABEL: Reggae Archive Records
DISTRIBUTION: Shellshock / SRD
FORMAT: Double Vinyl (Gatefold Sleeve), CD and Digital Download
CAT NO: RARC016V / RARC016CD
BARCODE: 5052571058916 / 5052571058923
GENRE: Reggae, Dub
To Preorder visit: https://reggaearchiverecords.bandcamp.com/album/black-symbol
We can officially announce that Capital Letters 2015 album will be called ‘WOLVERHAMPTON’ . Rise up the Black Country!
Talisman played a show in Birmingham 8th November 2014 at The Custard Factory. Fatman from Black Symbol came to check out the vibes.
Dehvan (Talisman centre), Fatman (right) – The Black Symbol Anthology Album will be released by Reggae Archive in March 2015
Night Doctor come on board with Reggae Archive Records for an album and 12″ rerelease of their big tune: http://youtu.be/E7m8rX9L3aY
Here’s the very brilliant vocalist from Sceptre – Jean McLean with the reissue LP on our label
Yesterday 29th August Mike Darby Head of Reggae Archive, recorded an interview in Amsterdam with Theo Van Bijnen. Theo started his radio shows on reggae in 1967 and in every way must be the John Peel of reggae in Holland and Belgium.He celebrates his 1800th show this month – you can check out the interview on Monday 1st September – http://www.theovanbijnen.nl/luisteren-listening1-1.html
Legendary figure in the UK Reggae scene Winston Edwards with whom we are discussing a Studio 16 label retrospective featuring classic tracks from Brown Sugar, Glen Sloley and Love & Unity to name a few.
Capital Letters – Smoking My Ganja (Rootikal Remix EP) – Reggae Archive Records
Format : Digital Download / Vinyl 12”
Overall rating : 5 Stars
Reggae Archive Records, the Bristol based record label that puts so much effort in reissuing worthwhile UK produced Reggae music and sometimes even manages to surprise avid fans of the genre with never before released material, gives these fans something special with the release of a brand new 12″ Vinyl EP (also available as digital download).
In the mid-to-late 1970s Wolverhampton’s roots champions Capital Letters, together with outfits such as The Cimarons, Black Roots, Reggae Regular, Black Slate and Steel Pulse, forged a style that was rooted in what was heard from ‘Yard’, but informed by the musicians’ own immediate environments. With “Headline News”, the band delivered an impressive debut album for the Greensleeves label. The original 10-track vinyl LP featured archetypal UK roots rocking that still sounds good today as it did back in 1979.
One of the tracks featured on side A of “Headline News” was the ganja man anthem “Smoking My Ganja”, a previously released storming powerhouse of a record (with “Natty Walk” on the flipside) that broadly appealed to the disillusioned youth through its militancy and decidedly pro-marijuana message. A different version of the “Smoking My Ganja” song appeared on the earlier this year released “Reality” set, which consists of never before released material and remixes. It’s “Smoking My Ganja” along with the album’s title track “Reality” that were given to Rootikal’s David Hill, who together with Nick Manasseh took the original multi tracks and remixed them to full effect. On “Smoking My Ganja (Rootikal Re-Rub)” the pop sensibilities of this slice of ska flavoured UK Reggae gold are gone. The foreboding bass line leaps off the speakers as never before and the vocal sounds darker and rootsier. The “Rootikal Dub Plate Cut” is hypnotic and relentless, while the drum & bass mix of “Rootikal Deep Riddim Rewind” goes back to basics with the song pared down to the essentials.
On the other side things get started with two versions of “House Breaker”. The latter is an instrumental — also discovered on the session tapes of the aforementioned “Reality” album — which makes its debut here. It’s the drum sound complemented by the awesome pounding bass that instantly attracts attention. Especially the “Rootikal Rewind” version is truly wicked and wild and provides deep and heavy dub vibes. Without any doubt “Reality” was one of the highlights of the album that bears its name and that tune returns in a majestic way, thanks to the skilful hands of David Hill and Nick Manasseh. The listener is treated to a vocal, which is proper ‘old skool’ UK Roots Reggae at its very best. A real big tune, followed by its simply great to hear dub counterpart.
A must-have release, which especially vinyl aficionados shouldn’t ignore!!