Live At The Counter Eurovision 79 (People Unite) by Misty In Roots is, for my money, the quintessential live album.

The spoken introduction to ‘Mankind’ is timeless wisdom, beautifully delivered, the ultimate start to proceedings. I’m not alone in hearing John Peel play that and having a moment that continues to this day. Famously sampled by Andrew Weatherall on his ‘Perpetual Dawn’ remix (less famously and simultaneously by us, Unitone HiFi, and no doubt others) it leads into a set that captures the energy of a blinding live gig without the usual dull signifiers and tricky additions in post production.

It’s fair to say that while Misty in Roots may have been unfairly overshadowed by the equally excellent and considerably more marketable Aswad, Steel Pulse, Matumbi etc, they truly did the hard yards on the Rock Against Racism/benefit/protest circuit. I never saw them put on a sub-par show. People Unite Records also released The Ruts deadly debut 7” ‘In A Rut’ in 1978, and Misty In Roots were masters of the punk support slot. Like LKJ they had a way about them that made people listen, and diverted the energy away from aggression and frustration.

With 2 Tone kicking off in my home area the Midlands, and an open-minded and inclusive punky reggae party going on all over the shop, Live At The Counter Eurovision 79 was ubiquitous, loved enough to become a talisman of the times. Part of its charm is that it is by no means a perfect performance or recording of the Workers Collective benefit show in Brussels, but it somehow conveys all the vital atmosphere of a live session in a way that still bears repeated (seriously repeated!) listening. In this for me it’s pretty much unique.

The vocals delivered by the Tyson brothers and Delbert McKay manage to be both powerful and prophetic as well as playful and percussive. And with 3 guitars, keyboards and an implacable rhythm section it’s full band business – there are no chinks in this armour.

The original cover is a masterpiece of simple, effective LP design. Why would you ever change that for the re-issue?  The Kaz Records re-issue was spotted in my bunker by Danny Lemon and will be going towards his rejuvenated collection once I’ve digitised it (cover is weak but the 1990 remaster is tough). Misty In Roots went on to produce a veritable swag of deep UK roots killers through the 80s but Live At The Counter Eurovison 79 remains the pinnacle for me. Down, down, down in the Ghetto Of The City….yes indeed.

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