Like any style of music that is fortunate enough to find itself out of mainstream attention, never in fashion so never out of fashion, roots rock reggae is timeless in its appeal and context. An album of new material can sound as appropriate now as it would have done in the 1970’s, 1980’s 1990’s and through into this millennium. A signature bass line, rhythms that are guaranteed to have the most cynical listener “winding up their waist” and deeply conscious lyrics of slavery, emancipation and injustice, are instantly recognised trademarks of the movement.
This latest release from Talisman is a perfect example of the timelessness of this sound, and how music can be used as a force to coerce the listener into thinking more deeply how they and others coexist together. From the opening ‘Things Ah Get Tough’ and ‘Season for Freeman’ the listener is taken on a journey into the sound of Bristol street music, the resonance of urban communities and the soundtrack that binds them together. A recent support slot for a UK tour by The Selector has surely helped audiences begin to acknowledge Talisman.
For those of us who are fortunate enough to be able to immerse ourselves in dub, many of the tunes on “I-Surrection” are followed by their dub counterpart mixed by David Hill of Rootikal Productions. These versions should in no way be merely dismissed as meaningless filler, as these stripped back versions are considered by many to be the definitive way of exposing the sound, or, to paraphrase Lee “Scratch” Perry, think of this as “x-ray music”. Dub can facilitate total immersion in the music, it can allow the listener to explore how the music was shaped and it can welcome the listener in to its most insightful depths. ‘Praise Jah’ is a sumptuous hymn that keeps the mood light but buoyant. Again, the lyrics concern themselves with hope for the future whilst cleverly evoking the spirit of roots rock reggae of the past.
‘Hey Yout’ (Melodica Version)’ is a call for the youth of today to take up the mantle, saturated in dub aesthetics, whilst ‘Help Yourself’ is characterised by a palette of dynamic organ stabs punctuating the distinct chugging rhythm. Throughout “I-Surrection” the sound is given further potency and mass with luxurious layers of brass from the Matic Horns.
Talisman recorded their first full length album “Taking the Strain” in 1984, and this is only their third release, despite disbanding and subsequently reforming in 2011. Original members Dennison and Dehvan have kept the spirit of their original band very much alive whilst keeping the essence of Talisman deeply relevant to the present day. If it were not for the fact that a number of contemporary names are mentioned within the lyrics (Stephen Lawrence and Smiley Culture) the listener could be forgiven for assuming they were listening to a release from thirty years past. This is not to say the music has not progressed over that time, but that the strength of roots rock reggae is being upheld by bands such as Talisman.