‘Black Story’ Initiative Launches With Iconic Titles By Aswad, Ms. Dynamite And More

The ten albums – also including acclaimed titles by Linton Kwesi Johnson, Madeleine Bell and others – span the cultural timeline of U.K. Black music.

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Aswad - Photo: Michael Putland/Getty Images

Black Story is a breakthrough initiative created to tell the history of Black artists that shaped U.K. music. Universal Music Recordings (UMR) celebrate not only the culture, but the scenes, the sounds, and the artists which shaped Black U.K. music, shining a light on the incredible artists of the past decades moving towards the current era.

UMR now announce the release of 10 iconic albums from a selection of significant and culturally important artists on vinyl – some for the first time.

The Black Story initiative aims to tell the stories of these iconic artists that shaped the landscape in a seismic way in their own time, and to communicate their importance to younger generations that may not be aware. A collection of releases to celebrate the artists who walked and broke through the system, so that the current UK superstars could run.

With a series of 10 vinyl album releases spanning the cultural timeline of Black music – from pioneers Aswad (Aswad), Linton Kwesi Johnson (Forces of Victory), Madeline Bell (Doin’ Things), Michael Smith (Mi Cyaan Believe It), Millie Small (The Best of Millie Small), Vivian Weathers (Bad Weathers) to the likes of Ronny Jordan Meets DJ Krush (Bad Brothers), Terri Walker (Untitled), Ms. Dynamite (A Little Deeper) and Unknown T (Rise Above Hate), ‘Black Story’ is a seminal collection that seeks to reissue and press for the first time on vinyl some of the best and most culturally important music that has shaped our history. Read more about the Black Story initiative here.

More on the ‘Black Story’ albums being released on vinyl:

Ms Dynamite: A Little Deeper
UK icon Ms. Dynamite released her stunning debut album, A Little Deeper, in June 2002. The album won the Mercury Music Prize that year, beating David Bowie – Ms. Dynamite would donate the £20,000 prize to the NSPCC.

She also won two Brit Awards and three MOBO Awards that year, cementing her status as one of the most gifted breakthrough artists of her generation. Featuring two top-10 hit singles “It Takes More” and “Dy-Na-Mi-Tee.” Released on limited edition purple vinyl to celebrate Black History Month, this has been out of print for many years.

Ms. Dynamite - It Takes More

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Unknown T: Rise Above Hate
A debut vinyl pressing for the lauded debut album and top 15 hit from arguably the most distinctive voice in UK Drill, Unknown T. Originally released in 2020, this sixteen-song mixtape draws heavily on UK drill sonics yet also trap, uptempo hip-hop, r ‘n’ b and Afro, and features guest collabs with Young T & Bugsey , AJ Tracey, M Huncho and Homerton crew artists KO and V9 on all star track.

Madeline Bell: Doin’ Things
One of the best known voices of the 60s, Madeline Bell rose to underground fame as backing vocalist to the likes of The Rolling Stones, John Lennon, Elton John, Pink Floyd, Stevie, Wonder, Donna Summer, Dusty Springfield and many more. She was also the voice of 70s band, Blue Mink, who has six top 20 hits including the smash, “Melting Pot.”

Moving from the US to the UK after touring all over America and Europe, she established herself as one of the most in-demand vocal session musicians in the world. A seminal talent that deserves a new spotlight with this first-time vinyl reissue of the album, originally released in 1969.

Millie Small: The Best of Millie Small
Released in 1967, The Best Of Millie Small is a collection of the finest moments from the Jamaican singer and songwriter, known for her worldwide 1964 hit “My Boy Lollipop”. The song reached number two in both the UK and US charts and sold over seven million copies worldwide.

Known as the ‘Queen of Ska’, Millie, through her hit single, helped greatly in introducing Jamaican music to a wider, international audience. It was also the first major hit for Island Records (although it was actually released on the Fontana label because Island’s Chris Blackwell did not want to strain its then-meagre resources!) and helped the label to achieve its mainstream success. A red colored vinyl reissue for this extremely rare LP.

Aswad: Aswad
The stunning debut album by the legendary British reggae band, released in 1976 on Island Records. Their early material is arguably the finest roots reggae to emerge from the UK, and served to highlight the plight of immigrant Jamaicans in the unfamiliar and often hostile environment of 1970s London. This album has been long out of print on vinyl.

Can't Stand The Pressure

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Linton Kwesi Johnson: Forces of Victory
Having exploded onto the UK scene in 1978 with the dark, angry masterpiece, Dread Beat & Blood, Brixton ‘dub-poet’ Linton Kwesi Johnson returned in April 1979, with Forces Of Victory – the record that would cement his growing reputation as a major new talent.

In 2003 David Bowie included Forces of Victory in a list of his 25 favourite albums – Confessions of a Vinyl Junkie… commenting “Some of the most moving poetry to be found in popular music. The quite achingly sad “Sonny’s Lettah (Anti-Sus Poem)” is alone worth the price of admission … this must be one of the most important reggae records of all time.”

LKJ was recently featured in the Steve McQueen film Uprising, about the 1981 New Cross fire that led to civil unrest, and Small Axe. McQueen’s series of stunning films about the experiences of West Indian immigrants in London. The album has been out of print for many years.

Vivian Weathers: Bad Weathers
Reissue of the superb album by Vivian Weathers, originally released in 1978 on Virgin Records spin-off reggae label – Front Line, sadly the only album made by this gifted singer-songwriter, who played bass on Linton Kwesi Johnson’s albums. Another long out of print vinyl record.

Michael Smith: Mi Cyann Believe It
An incredibly talented, politically ferocious dub poet who, tragically, lived long enough to release only one record. Born in a rough section of Kingston, Jamaica, Smith grew up in a reggae culture immersed in the toasting style of I-Roy and U-Roy, the heavy dub innovations of Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and King Tubby, and the political attitude of Bob Marley. He raged against a Jamaican political machine, that seemed to fail the majority of its people, also highlighting the devastating impact of racism in the Caribbean and on West Indian emigres.

Smith’s poetry came to the attention of Linton Kwesi Johnson and, with help from Dennis Bovell, he brought Smith to England to record an album of dub poetry backed by a superb band that included members of Bovell’s Dub Band, the British reggae group Aswad and legendary trombonist Rico Rodriguez. Released on Island Records in 1982.

Ronny Jordan Meets DJ Krush: Bad Brothers
Debut color vinyl pressing for this sought-after collaboration album between 90s acid jazz titan Ronny Jordan and Japanese trip-hop legend DJ Krush. This is the first reissue on vinyl since the original mini-album release in 1994 and it offers six captivating examples of hip hop meets jazz, recalling some of the seminal acid jazz and soul/jazz/funk/trip-hop adventures of the 90s. Special guests include Guru of Jazzamatazz cool rapping on “Season for Change” and Dana Bryant’s laidback spoken word on “Bad Brothers.”

Terri Walker: Untitled
A first-time reissue of UK Soul and RnB legend Terri Walker’s Mercury Prize nominated debut album Untitled (2003). Celebrating its 20th anniversary the album includes the singles “Drawing Board,” “Ching Ching” and “Guess You Didn’t Love Me” – featuring Mos Def. As well as the Mercury Music prize nomination, Terri Walker was also nominated for four MOBO awards. Terri became heavily involved in the UK Garage scene. She contributed vocals to tracks for the likes of Shanks & Bigfoot and Jaimeson whilst still creating her own brand of urban soul music. Hailed as one of the UK’s brightest soul talents this reissue on transparent blue vinyl recreates the original gatefold artwork of the album.

Shop the ‘Black Story’ vinyl collection.

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