Takin' The Strain
Bristol Archive Records
March 5, 2012

Track list
  1. Takin The Strain
  2. Crime Of Passion
  3. Lick & Run
  4. Ah Wah You Seh
  5. Lord Of The Dance
  6. Stride On
  7. I'm Sorry
  8. Calamity
  9. Burn The Bread
  10. Slow Poison (Live 1985)
  11. Takin The Strain (Live 1985)
  12. Calamity (Live 1985)
  13. Ah Wah You Seh (Live 1985)
  14. Lick & Run (Live 1985)
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)
Vocals : 4 Backing : 4 Production : 4 Sound quality : 4 Sleeve : 4
Bristol Archive Records continue to put out classic recordings from Bristol's reggae scene. This time it's a CD (deluxe edition) -- also available as digital download -- of Talisman, a band whose core consisted of Desmond Taylor aka Dehvan Othieno Sengor, Dennison Joseph, and Donald de Cordova. Before Talisman's first album "Takin' The Strain" was released, the band had existed in various guises since 1976, when Revelation Rockers was founded with Desmond Taylor on lead vocals & rhythm guitar, and Dennison Joseph on bass. It took slight line-up changes and a change of name to Talisman, before they managed to establish themselves as one of the UK's finest live acts.

For the recording of their 1984 released debut vinyl LP "Takin' The Strain" -- done in RightTrack studios in Redland, Bristol -- the three core members were supplemented by a host of local musicians as well as the engineering and co-production talents of Richard Lewis aka UK Scientist, a mainstay of the British reggae scene and also producer of all the excellent and somewhat mythical Zapp Stereo recordings. The re-issue of Talisman's original "Takin' The Strain" LP in digital format, available on both CD and download, is enhanced by the addition of five live cuts recorded at London's Lyceum in 1985. As well as live performances of "Takin' The Strain", "Calamity", "Ah Wah You Seh" and "Lick & Run", there's also a live version of "Slow Poison" included, a track that didn't make it onto the original issue, but was a key part of the band's live sets for many years. Unfortunately the sound quality of "Slow Poison" isn't that good, which somewhat spoils the pleasure of listening to this great tune. However the other live recordings could have been left out as they, compared with the studio recordings, don't add anything that's truly worth hearing. It would have been better if the compilers would have included songs from Talisman's second album, "Jamrock".

Most of the first eight tracks of this collection are solid tracks, which can easily be reckoned among the best the Bristol reggae scene had to offer in the first half of the '80s. Talisman treats the listener to well arranged and well played roots reggae music, that doesn't necessarily follows the downtrodden musical paths of the time. It gives some of their musical efforts, like for example the quirky "I'm Sorry", another dimension and a special vibe. Here we have to mention Takin' The Strain", "Crime Of Passion", "A Wah You Seh" and "Calamity", as these are the tracks we've enjoyed most. From a musical point of view it doesn't make much sense to come up with a soul tune like "Burn The Bread" on a reggae album. Definitely not our cup of tea.

This nice CD release from Bristol Archive Records comes with a booklet full of archive images and extensive sleeve notes based on the recollections of lead vocalist and guitarist Dehvan Othieno Sengor.