The History of British Reggae

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Jimmy Becker – News

Last week Bristol was visited by Chicago native and great Harmonica player Jimmy Becker. With a background in the blues, Jimmy discovered reggae in the mid-seventies and his passion took him to Jamaica where he lived during that period and into the early eighties. Through talent and perseverance Jimmy found himself featured on numerous reggae sessions at legendary studios such as Channel One, Joe Gibbs and Harry J’s, his playing can be heard on releases from legendary acts such as Big Youth, Black Uhuru and the Gladiators. Following his stay in Jamaica Jimmy became a full time member of pioneering American reggae outfit The Blue Riddim Band joining them onstage at their legendary Jamaica Sunsplash shows: the second of which received a Grammy nomination when released as a live album. As well as playing for others, Jimmy also financed and produced his own Jamaican recording sessions between 1981 and 1986 using many of Jamaica’s leading musicians who he’d previously worked with including; Sly Dunbar & Robbie Shakespeare, Carlton “Santa” Davis, Ansell Collins, Earl “Chinna” Smith, Dean Fraser, Bongo Herman and Robbie Lyn to name just a few. Jimmy has now selected 16 of those tracks and compiled them into an album entitled “All Mi Bredrin” which will be released by Reggae Archive Records later in 2016 accompanied by sleeve notes telling Jimmy’s unique story, many archive photos and a selected discography of his session appearances. We are also in discussion to release music from the Blue Riddim Band’s extensive archive, more news on that front soon.
Martin Langford Feb 2016

Albums of the year – 2015

A nice piece of news and recognition. The Midlands Roots Explosion Vol One 2xLP and cd has made The Record Collector top album releases of the year. We would like to thank all the Birmingham and Midlands elders who agreed to contribute and put this wonderful piece of work together. Bless Up! and best wishes to everyone and your families in 2016.

Happy Christmas

Merry Xmas from all at Archive Towers. Thanks for your support in 2015 and here’s looking at another action packed set of releases in 2016. Blessed love . Mike, Martin, Steve, Sam, Nick and the rest of the team

Rare Steel Pulse video

Steel Pulse with ‘Roller Skates’ filmed in Bristol 1984:

Record Store Day 2016

Statement from Sugar Shack Records.
As the parent company in the group that incorporates Reggae Archive Records and Bristol Archive Records we will not be participating in Record Store Day 2016. We have made a decision that the corporate intensity demonstrated by the major labels to essentially high jack which was once a good idea, has destroyed our enthusiasm. As such we won’t expose ourselves to the risk of letting our fans down by not being able to guarantee that a record will be manufactured in time for the event. We will do our best to continue to release amazing records in 2016 (some will be scheduled very soon) but nothing will appear as part of Record Store Day 2016.
Mike Darby

Steel Pulse Film

Check this link from our friends Steel Pulse and see if you can help

The Midlands Roots Explosion

Man what a day – Back up to Birmingham and Newtown to be specific. We spent the morning interviewing these amazing people – the story will unfold with the soon come arrival of The Midlands Roots Explosion Vol 2 – in the meantime check this:
Left to Right: Amlak Tafari (Amlak, Reggae Revolution, Yellow Wall Dub Squad, Steeel Pulse)
Owen ‘Hulk’ Broomfield (Unity, H.I.M.)
Jeremiah Glaspole Thompson (Afrikan Star, Amara, Truths & Rights, Studio 2, Reggae Revolution)
Neville Whittingham (Eclipse)
David ‘Skins’ (Afrikan Star, Studio 2, Reggae Revolution, Johnny Two Bad, Xova)
Mike Darby (Bristol Archive Records, Sugar Shack Records, Reggae Archive Records)
Photo (c) Martin Langford

Birmingham trip today

Great trip back to Birmingham today – working on The Midlands Roots Explosion Vol Two and Three. We met Paul from Senator, Symbol from Black Symbol, Robin from Friendly Fire Band – here’s a pic with Tanni from Groundation ( More news soon on Groundation material from back in the day)

United Reggae Review of The Midlands Roots Explosion

Sugar Shack records have been trading since 1985. So they sure took their time before releasing this treasure trove of sweet sounds. The main achievement of ‘THE MIDLANDS ROOTS EXPLOSION’ Volume 1 is that it leaves you lusting for Volume 2. It’s that good.

The Midlands Roots Explosion Volume OneReggae Archive Records and Sugar Shack undertook an eagled eyed survey of middle England’s bygone era to compile this collage of classic clips. It’s set when some first dared to sing with pride about their roots and culture. This was not an entirely popular choice on the part of a minority in a foreign land. In fact, it may still not be an entirely popular choice in contemporary general election gripped Britain.

The set opens with Steel Pulse’s daring ‘Kibudu-Mansatta-Abuku’, in both original and instrumental formats. Oozing with roots credibility, this is exactly what made the band’s name a beacon thereafter. Then comes ‘Redemption Day’ by Man From The Hills and ‘Blood Fi Dem’ by Eclipse, with themes of righteousness and giving thanks and praise featuring heavily.

I always thought that Musical Youth (of ‘Pass the Dutchie’ fame) were some kind tutored novelty act. But hearing the fifth track ‘Political’ – changed that. It’s fantastic lively score pleading ‘we want work, politicians give our children a chance’. The lead vocal (of Fred Waite) splits the air here, before the ladies come stomping in via Sceptre’s ‘Ancestors Calling’. It’s so sweet it’s hard to believe there’s a political message therein. But no mistaking it when Benjamin Zephaniah lets rip with ‘Unite Handsworth’ – a pounding political preacher with lyrics adorned by righteous roots music. Great sounds and great messages prevail.

Then Oneness strike out with a deadly beat on the future of ‘Rome’, before Sugar Shack’s favoured Black Symbol slide in with a spiritually spacey ‘In The Name Of Jah’. Groundation’s lengthy ‘Fa-ward’ offers spiritual and political direction before the lovely brass embellished Mystic Foundation’s female lead vocalist chills the blood on ‘Instruments’ – that is ‘the instruments they used to kill us in Africa’ – another truly top take on this album.

The high standard is maintained with Iganada’s ‘Slow Down’ space-age sound backdrop, warning of the perils of too much pace in proceedings in a world of spirituality and magic – ‘live upright’ is the message and flying saucers is the musical image! But no problem, because Capital Letters ‘I Will Never’ brings you back to earth with a bump, promising to ‘never turn my back on you Jah’, set to a slower but still grounded roots reggae rhythm. The penultimate piece is the higher pitched Carnastoan’s ‘Mr. Workhard’ , before Zephaniah slows down the pace via ‘Free Man’, bringing this classic compilation – from the black dispossessed of middle-England 1970s and 80s era – to a close.

This album’s content both easily compares with and shows some influence on todays’ practitioners and pacesetters – from Alborosie to Protoje. Occasionally you get a good track or two on a compilation. But this issue is packed with sugar and spice and too many things nice.

The main drawback to this sometimes vibrant, sometimes moody, often rebellious and all the while seductively soothing CD, digital and double vinyl issue is that it ends after 15 tracks. I am really looking forward to Volume 2.