For this year's Record Store Day, Reggae Archive Records released a limited edition vinyl version of “Black Symbol present Handsworth Explosion Volume Vol. Two.” Now ahead of the release of a CD combining both volumes of this unique musical project, we are pleased to make “Black Symbol present Handsworth Explosion Vol. One” once more available on its original format, vinyl.
As with the second volume, the original of this release suffered from limited distribution and despite the valiant efforts of band members to promote the album, literally travelling around the UK's record shops with boxes of LPs, the original release sold in very limited numbers. It has justifiably become one of the most sought after and expensive British reggae LPs and one where the music more than lives up to expectations.
Black Symbol provided other local Handsworth based bands with the opportunity to record their songs properly in the well equipped Outlaw Studio and then gave them the platform of this album with each band getting two tracks to showcase their talent.
This volume leads off with Sceptre whose equally rare and indeed excellent album “Essence of Redemption Ina Different Styley,” is also seeing a long overdue reissue via Reggae Archive Records. Their contributions here are the superb “Ancestors Calling” with its refreshing female lead and maintaining the quality, “Living on Strong”, and both tracks firmly in the roots reggae camp.
The band Zephaniah maintain the roots vibe with the classic sounding “Freeman” before switching style with “Music Business” which is exactly as it sounds, a comment on the music business, a business that has never looked kindly on reggae. Fortunately the altruism of Black Symbol means we can all get to enjoy the band's commentary.
Truths And Rights add some variety to proceedings, diverging from the roots band template used by most of the others and delivering their tracks in what was the latest DJ style at the time with “New Language” and a tale of a lost family with “Saddest Moment.” Both vocals are underpinned by great heavyweight backing tracks and neither sound at all dated, even though very obviously of their era.
Singer Gerald Love produces himself on two of his own compositions “Jah Children” with its mellower edge to the roots message and on “Scandal Man.” His music offers a more polished approach and perhaps has a slightly more commercial feel, but none the less doesn't feel out of place in this company.
Last and by no means least are Black Symbol themselves; one of the finest reggae bands the UK has produced. Here we have a hint of the Burning Spear sound on “Travelling” which is joined by “Spiritual Reggae”, a brace of classic roots tunes ably demonstrating the quality of one of Birmingham's best kept musical secrets.
The tracks on this on album have a consistency of quality rarely found on compilations. This album lifts the lid on a scene that was overflowing with talent and yet rarely documented. We can be grateful that thanks to Black Symbol, we have this small window into that scene. “Black Symbol present Handsworth Explosion Vol. One” is released on vinyl LP in a reproduction of the original sleeve by Reggae Archive Records on 20th October 2014.