Review: ShocWave

VARIOUS ARTISTS: Shoc – Wave: A Bristol Story
Bristol Archive Records

Long before Massive Attack, Portishead and others of that ilk, Dominican expatriate Gene Walsh had a dream of establishing a record label in his adopted hometown of Bristol to promote the music of the local African-Caribbean population – and beyond. He eventually ran Shoc Wave from 1979 until 1991.

There are few compilations dealing with labels for Black music in Britain, and probably none with the diversity of this set, ranging from the sweet lover’s rock reggae of Sharon Bengamin to the pop-tinged rock of No Deposit. Elsewhere there is smooth 80s soul and funk, the tough, punky, 2-Tone inflected sound of The Rimshots (whose line-up included Bristol Archive boss Mike Darby), roots reggae, a couple of intriguing dancehall – soul hybrids, even a little disco, and, in a nod to Walsh’s homeland, a lively cover of the WCK jump-up soca tune ‘Live Jam’ performed by Joshua Moses.. Proceedings close out with the label’s first release, ‘Independence Fever’, Gene’s own late 70s take on Dominican cadence.

Much of the music is reggae based but if nothing else, it puts the music in a wider context in a way that more focussed compilations do not. Reggae purists may find it slightly annoying n the way it jumps around between styles, but anyone who has ever attended a Caribbean carnival in one of Britain’s cities will probably find it all very, very familiar – the best possible way!
Norman Darwen

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