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The Midlands Roots Explosion Volume One

The Midlands Roots Explosion Volume One

The Midlands Roots Explosion Volume One

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Pure honey from the Sugar Shack.


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.

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