Dole Age: The 1981 Reggae Collection

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Originally formed in 1977 as Revelation Rockers, Talisman were one of the iconic players in Bristol, England's little-known but very rich reggae scene. Although they achieved significant success in the U.K. and snagged opening-act slots for such important acts as the Clash, the Rolling Stones, and Burning Spear, Talisman never managed to get a contract with a major record label and their recorded output between 1977 and 1984 amounted to only two singles. Dole Age compiles the A and B sides from both of those singles (the deluxe LP version boasts extended 12" mixes of those tracks) and adds seven live tracks from the period. While the quality of this material is consistently high and the release should be snapped up by fans of U.K. reggae, it's fairly easy to see why Talisman had trouble keeping the interest of major labels: their sound is accomplished but at times a bit featureless, occupying a fuzzy area somewhere between the dry severity of early Steel Pulse and the smooth roots pop of middle-period Aswad. That said, there are some great songs here: the swinging "Wicked Dem" recalls the sound of UB40 at around the same time, while "Free Speech" bustles along nicely in a 2 Tone mode and the live "Calamity" boasts both sharp hooks and an elephantine rockers groove. Talisman were clearly at their best in a live setting, and were particularly good at incorporating dubwise effects on-stage, as is nicely demonstrated by the excellent "Nothing Change." This is very good stuff, but probably mainly of interest to specialist listeners.

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