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2023/4 Albums Thing 359 - Steel Pulse “Tribute To The Martyrs”

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Released exactly a year after their debut “Tribute To The Martyrs” picks up exactly where “Handsworth Revolution” left off. It’s one I’ve only relatively recently (4 years ago to be precise) acquired my own copy of. It was one of those records I used to hear from down the hallway at home. I owned “Handsworth Revolution”, Miles owned this one. No point in us both buying it, this was 1979, there was too much good stuff to get so doubling up was a waste of our meagre resources. Eventually though I needed my own copy.

We’ve lost Michael Riley from the line up but otherwise it’s the same musicians and Karl Pitterson is still in the Producers chair. Loosely the album is themed around martyrs, both overtly in song like the title track, “Uncle George” and “Biko's Kindred Lament”, in the lyrics with references to the likes of Toussaint L'Overture (a former slave who led a revolution in Haiti) and on the cover, whose Mount Rushmore style image features caricatures of George Jackson, Steve Biko, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, Paul Bogle and Haile Selassie.

We kick off with “Unseen Guest” which recounts the prayer of condemned man (“Jah Jah watch over I, Evil watcha gonna do ?”). The music is the equal of their debut, clean, bright, aimed equally at the head and the feet, Ranking Roots reggae. But this isn’t the roots sound of JA. Like Bob Marley, Steel Pulse were working in a more rock/pop vein to get that message out to a wider audience. Make ‘em dance, make ‘em think.

Elsewhere the subject matter diverges, “Sound System” is a tribute to the joys of standing swathed in ganja smoke in front of towers of homemade speakers while the selector drives the groove; “Jah Pickney (Rock Against Racism)” carries a very obvious political statement of intent with it’s chant of “We’re gonna hunt, the National Front”; “Babylon Makes The Rules” and “Blasphemy (Selah)” carry the traditional Rasta religious messages.

“Tribute To The Martyrs” is very close to being the equal of “Handsworth Revolution”. The one thing that separates the two is that “Tribute To The Martyrs” just isn’t “Handsworth Revolution”, that’s all. But that doesn’t make it any less than what it is, a superb British Reggae album.

Uncle George - https://youtu.be/3laBTblAd94?si=O3Hku9UM9ScHnyOH

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