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Talisman – Dole Age – The 1981 Reggae Collection

May 11, 2011 by  

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Talisman – Dole Age – The 1981 Reggae Collection

NAME: Talisman
ALBUM: Dole Age – The 1981 Reggae Collection
DATE: 9May2011

LABEL: Bristol Archive Records


FIVE WORD REVIEW: Raving On With The Avon


LINE UP: Keyboards Mr Bill Bartlett Bass and Vocals Dennison Joseph Guitar and Backing Vocals: Leroy Rydim, Lead Vocals (Guidance): Des (Lazarus) Drums: Donald Sax: Brendan


WHAT’S THE STORY?: It’s 1981. Thatcher rules, England rolls up for the dole. Racial tensions rise and the inner-cities are a single spark from fire. Complete the following sentence: “Hey man, we need to check out some proper reggae, let’s take some papers and some high-grade leaf and head to Bri….”*

If you said “Brixton”, then you need to get with the programme, whitey, because we’re heading to the West Country for the infectious sounds of Bristol’s Talisman. Sadly forgotten since disintegrating under the weight of constant line-up changes, they have been rediscovered thanks to Bristol Archive Records – a dedicated and worthy crew; as much local historians as record label. There’s so much of the 80s that should remain buried, but this Time Team of Tunes have uncovered a real gem.

It’s a timely release, and not just because it comes 30 years after the release of their singles ‘Dole Age’ and ‘Run Come Girl’, which along with their B-sides form the studio half of the album. And not just because the classic line-up are reforming for a set of live shows starting in May. More significantly, we’re in the early years of a Tory government for the first time in 3 decades, and most of us have either forgotten, or never knew, how it feels.

At a time when the only direct protest song permeating popular culture is a semi-comedic youtube rap labelling Andrew Lansley a tosser, and students are protesting the demise of free education while the line “got so many clothes I keep ‘em in my Aunt’s house” blares out of the soundsystem, it’s almost startling to hear Talisman label Thatcher a “criminal… handing out policies like a ten star general”. It’s a sad song in hindsight, too – they sing of “2 million” on the dole when soon it would be half as many again – but a sax hook and a singalong chorus cast some sunshine on a dark decade.

Second single ‘Run Come Girl’ is another solid commercial reggae tune, a slow-paced romancer with bluesy harmonica and more than a hint of Dawn Penn’s 1967 rocksteady classic ‘You Don’t Love Me’ in the chorus, while the slow-paced ‘Free Speech’ has a slinky, Shadows-y guitar line and a refreshing, subtle Latin vibe – but it’s the seven live tracks that impress the most. Recorded at Glastonbury 1981 and Bath University, it’s an audio document of a band at the peak of their prowess, released just as their songs have a truly resounding relevance.

*Yes, this review is written by a white man. How did you guess?

SOUNDS LIKE: Aswad, Steel Pulse, Peter Andre.

YOU’LL LIKE THIS IF: You like genuine, good quality, passionate reggae.


Submitted By Martin Headon



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