Sunday, 3 June 2018
Steel Pulse - Handsworth Revolution (1978)
Released in 1978
Possibly British roots reggae’s finest ever. This stunning 1978 debut album is remastered here to an exceptionally high quality. Bass heavy but not Sound System booming, it sounds just perfect.You get the original album - the magnificent “Ku Klux Klan”, the always evocative “Prodigal Son”. “Handsworth Revolution”, “Sound Check”, “Prediction”, they are all there. Like most "roots" reggae bands from the mid to late seventies, their message was one of social justice, cultural awareness and Rastafarian religious fervour. As a UK based band, many of their songs were written in direct response to the social milieu of Britain in 1977. Handsworth, of course, is an area of inner Birmingham, not Kingston, Jamaica, so that leant a slightly different perspective to their music.
By late 1978, the band had supported Bob Marley & The Wailers on a worldwide tour and were playing large outdoor gigs like "Rock Against Racism", as well as the small to medium size UK venue circuit. The band were at the forefront of the punk/roots reggae crossover that so dominated the UK music scene in the late 70s. Pretty much every punk gig would have roots reggae being played over the sound system before the band came on. Many punk compilations since have contained either "Ku Klux Klan" or "Prodigal Son". They are so much sonic reminders of that time. They had a unique sound - rootsy but with catchy hooks and a melodic tone to the vocal delivery, and a rhythmic musicality as opposed to speaker-pounding heavy backing. Yes, there is a full bass sound, of course, but there is more to Steel Pulse than just that.
Also included on the "Deluxe Edition" re-issue of the album are 12” versions of many of the tracks and dub versions, all of which are excellent. Then there are some impressive BBC session cuts, which show how good a live band they were. Just check out the wonderful sound and performance on “Prediction”. I was lucky enough to see them live in 1978. Great memories.