Thursday, April 25, 2013

REVIEW: Shoc Wave - A Bristol Story (various artists)

I love albums like this -- a collection of songs by various artists in various styles, most of which I haven't previously heard or I'd heard by forgotten about. Shoc Wave - A Bristol Story  is billed as the story of Shoc Wave Records, however, at its most basic level it is the sound of a specific place, Bristol, and a specific period, the late '70s to the '90s, and styles or artists ignored by the mainstream pop world.

Shoc Wave Records was helmed by Gene Walsh, a Dominican immigrant, and Fitz Watson and Melford Gardener.  Its sweet spot was acts that were ignored by mainstream labels and unable to finance their own releases.  Reggae and soul acts were staple genres, but the releases included roots, dancehall, soca, lovers rock, disco and pop.  Clearly, quality was more important than genre.  Bristol Reggae Archives has collected 19 representative tracks for inclusion in Shoc Wave - A Bristol Story.

The album begins with two lovers rock tunes, including  "Mr. Guy" from Sharon Bengamin" --

Punky new wave/ska gets a delightful slot from The Rimshots' "Stuck In A Boat", which is one of my favorite songs in the compilation, and "I Don't Wanna Be A Hero" (a background note is that the lead singer of The Rimshots was Mike Darby, the man behind several Bristol labels, including Bristol Archive Records -- hey Mike, more Rimshots releases, please!).  Roots reggae is represented by, among others, this fine track from Bunny Marrett --

"Get Down (Cause I Love Your Body)" from Nite Watch showcases the label's disco side, as does "Dancing Easy" by Sweet Energy.   Ska is provided via Black Flames, and lovers rock from Buggs Durrant (ahhh, those horns!) --

Felix the Cat delivers dancehall nuggets.  Sweet Energy comes back with the bass heavy R&B cover of "Family Affair" (and I think it wears better than Sly's version) and the funky, groovy "One Day".  The tropical party that is Socca comes from "Live Jam" by Joshua.  Deep funk is represented by Haswell's "Prissy Miss Maybe".  Quite fittingly, the compilation closes with head man Gene Walsh's Calypso "Independence Fever".

I suspect that even Sly would appreciate this version --

Shoc Wave - A Bristol Story is out now, and is available on CD and digital download.

Bandcamp for album
Bristol Archive Records
Facebook for Bristol Archive Records

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