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Friday, February 01, 2008

Dub Review - February 2008

The Dynamics

Version Excursions


It shouldn't work, but it does work and as soon as the needle drops you know you are hooked into this Francodubsoul phenomenon; via a series of de rigueur dinked seven inch singles over the past twelve months they have smoothly insinuated their sounds onto the more discerning dance floors worldwide with a well chosen series of dubbed out forgotten slow jams and funkified former leftovers, as well as the surprising dirtied up refix of White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army" there's the transformation of the Stones' once vapid "Miss You" now given a bumping botoxed beat, razor chop guitar and a street drawl nearer Sly than Mick. By the end of the set they even have the justified balls to tackle Curtis Mayfield's otherwise untouchable anthem "Move On Up" whilst touching on Pharaoh Sanders, Led Zep, Cymande and Bob Dylan on the way.

Joe Higgs

Life of Contradiction


Joe Higgs was an artist whose reputation was largely built via his musical association with the Wailers and the Wailing Souls as their musical mentor for despite his 40-year involvement in music his solo output was sparse. However this single album, originally recorded in 1972 for Chris Blackwell at Island but not released until 1975 in the UK on the Grounation label, has proved over time to be untouchable stone classic masterpiece of both his songwriter's craft and vocal delivery and has rightly cemented his place in reggae's foundation. Consisting of a newly penned tunes and re-makes of his sides cut with Roy Wilson at Studio One, including "There's A Reward" – the obvious template for Paul Simon's dalliance with Jamaica that resulted in "Mother & Child Reunion" – and "Song My Enemy Sings". On the album Higgs used the Now Generation band including Earl 'Wire' Lindo, Mikey Chung and Val Douglas with the addition of "guitar decorator" jazzman Eric Gale who, under his disciplined arrangements provided the sympathetic bed these "messages" required. The two extra tracks on the CD release. "Let Us Do Something" and its instrumental "Freedom Journey" by Joe Higgs and Karl Masters was originally released on Joe's own Elevation label in 1972.

King Tubby & the Aggrovators

Shalom Dub


Due to the Universal takeover of Sanctuary, home of Trojan, this release has been delayed from 2007. Its the first CD reissue for the album, other than a bootleg version from a few years ago, since it first appeared in the UK on the Klik label back in 1975. There were sixteen tracks on that piece of vinyl then and they are faithfully reproduced here now with the addition of eleven contemporary bonus tracks – including the great "Behold". A mix of well known rhythms such as "Move out of Babylon" and "Natty Dreadlocks inna Greenwich Farm" together with less known cuts which are sure to delight the searcher for true Tubby's versions, for all these tunes feature dubbed out vocals, the sweetest being the duos of Derek Morgan and the late Hortense Ellis. "Wonder Why (Dub)" was one of Tubby's favourites, in fact its all dub of a sublime and relaxed order - rather than of the "mash dem down" variety. One for the lovers of the finer things in dub and an album to be placed in Tubby's all time top ten.

Light of Saba

Thy Kingdom Come / Solitude


Two vintage roots tunes from Phillip Whyte, singer, guitarist and percussionist in the Light of Saba collective from the late seventies, of which "Thy Kingdom Come" is the pick; a desultory Rasta plaint chanted in the style of a Yabby You or I Jahman Levi that's lifted by a beautifully wistful trombone interlude provided by Calvin 'Bubbles' Cameron. This is a thoughtfully produced package including a bio of Philip Whyte on the jacket and can be previewed on the label's website at www.kingston-connexion.com

Maximum Sound

Dub to Jamrock


The past ten to fifteen years has seen a new domination of 'riddim' coming out of Jamaica, largely to serve the re-emergence of the DJ as the dominant force out of dancehall – hence the predominance of chat on the one riddim albums which seem to occupy 50% of the reggae market these days. Although the seven inch market has been drying up 'versions' are still top be found on the flip of singles, though many are 'dry' with little to no dubbing other than efx. There have been few worthy dub sets in recent times, Phillip 'Fatis' Burrell's Exterminator label provided a couple of exceptions, and here Maximum Sound's Frenchie pulls together a set of mixes sourced from the 'b' sides of his label's output all mixed in a contemporary minimal dub style by some of today's leading exponents of dancehall including Bobby Digital, King Jammy's, Steven Stanley, Lynford 'Fatta' Marshall, Richard 'Shams' Brownie, Colin 'Bulby' York, Dub Organiser and the boy Frenchie himself.

Prince Jammy

World at War


More bass than drum this is a startling product of early Scientist engineering dubs freed from the house production style at Studio One and under the tutelage of jazzman and electronics specialist King Tubby. The raw material for many of these tracks is the self-produced album by Jimmy Riley, Put the People First, "Since I Fell for You" becomes "Invasion of Iraq" and "Free Free" is reconstructed as "Ethiopia Dub" where Robbie Shakespeare's bass rides on top of the mix with shakers snapping, metallic rimshots firing irregularly and spasmodic guitar chops dropping from nowhere – it's a spooky ride through a dark sonic forest. "Rockfort Rock" materialises as "Dub Ovation" with the surprise of a sudden horn brass riff from which Vin Gordon's trombone departs once or twice in low register to underline a doomy mood and another Studio One rhythm "Darker Shade of Black" is rinsed out as "Jah Instruction" but as with all the tracks here the purity of the bass vibration dominates the mix, which is largely efx and gimmick free.

Reggae On Top All Stars

Chalice Dub Part 2


Compared to the earlier brutality or Roots Dub Part 1 this is a comparatively relaxed affair, the All Stars remain Dougie 'Conscious' Wardrop as lead engineer and dubmeister together with UK reggae legend and label head Hughie Izachaar plus vocalist Barry Isaacs. Although all titles are herbally induced dubs – " Lifting The Chalice Dub", "Sensi Mek You Smile Dub", "Pay As You Smoke Dub", "Chanting With 100lb. Cali Dub" etc - with provenances immediately untraceable without a too sick knowledge of the UK nu roots scene, I can testify that zero THC absorption is required for a pleasurable passive listen. Built at the Conscious Sounds Studio in Hackney al the tracks here are the kind of bass-fuelled upful steppers to be found in haunts of the modern sound system.

The Sound Dimension

Mojo Rocksteady Beat


Perversely, and in fine JA style, the follow up to Soul Shake Vol. 1 is not Vol.2 but 'versions' the title to another original Studio One compilation "Mojo Rocksteady"! Sound Dimension were the Studio One house band named after the tape-based echo unit built by British Technician Ivor Arbiter that effectively gave birth to much of the signature sound created by Clement Dodd and Sylvan Morris down at Brentford Road – delay, reverb and echo and if desired 'the sound of a full concert hall'! This is probably an even stronger set that its earlier companion what with "Drum Song", "Real Rock", Rockfort Rock" and "In Cold Blood" all making an appearance amongst fourteen other tracks all displaying these immaculate musicians at their best between 1967 and 1970; with the earlier arrangements from keyboard king Jackie Mittoo and the later tunes courtesy of Leroy 'Heptone' Sibbles these tunes have spawned countless versions since their first airings and still sound fresh and funky today.

Tapper Zukie Productions

Rootsman Connection


A solid set of dreadwise roots tunes from late seventies Kingston produced by David Sinclair aka Tapper Zukie, DJ turned mentor to young artists with funding from UK and US success via association with the punk movement, notably Patti Smith and the Sex Pistols. Tapper was able to build a youth and community centre in the Greenwich Farm district and launched the Stars label as a platform for his own tunes and to showcase the talent of local youth. Horace Andy, Errol Dunkley and Cornell Campbell all make up to standard appearances, but it's the lesser known artist who may be the attraction here; Tapper himself intros Jah Mikey's driving steppers DJ clash "Tapper Roots on the Ball" with a rumbling bass dominating the mix, Tullo T's "Morgan the Pirate" has the sweet harmonies of the Might Diamonds smoothing the ruff monotone delivery that was the early dancehall DJ style of choice and the Vibes Tones ruminate on questions that still linger today on "Leaders of Black Countries". Zukie himself and Stars stalwarts Junior Ross and Frankie Jones also contribute.


Ticklah vs Axelrod


The conceit in the title, without schizoid intent, is that Ticklah and (Victor) Axelrod are one and the same person although the latter is perhaps better known in afrobeat incarnation providing keys for Brooklyn's Antibalas, credits on Ms. Winehouse's unimpeachable 'Back to Black' monster, membership of the Dap Kings and co-producer of "Dub Side of the Moon"! As Ticklah though it's a more of a rootical direction with the occasional exemplary dubbed out latino diversions, including a re-rub of Eddie Palmieri's smokingly sultry salsa classic "Si Hecho Palante" with vocals from Mayra Vega. Easy Star All-Stars axis is represented by ex-acousticpsychopunk Tamar-Kali who gets tamed on the one drop nodder "Want Not" and Rob Symeonn contributing to the lyrically and ethically trite "Pork Eater"; but it's the dubs here that provide the real sonic protein all engineered at the Don't Trip Studios in Brooklyn, the Borough is fast becoming dub's Stateside epicentre.


When Rhythm Was King


"Designed for the masses" and not collectors according to the sleeve blurb and would that the masses succumb to the basslines strung through this wonderful collection of the work of Sylvan Morris at the engineers desk at Studio One; according to Michael Veal's "Dub" Morris created a bass speaker with two holes at the back and mic'd them up from the rear to capture the deeper sounds. There are some notable alternate and unreleased takes here to tease the connoisseur, such as the extended version to Dennis Brown's "Created By The Father" and the original mix of Bob Andy's "Unchained", but why spend an hour or two digging all these tunes (Wailing Souls' "Back Out", Dillinger's "Natty Kung Fu", Bassies' "Things Come Up To Bump", Al Campbell's "Take A Ride" etc) out of the crates and gating up your gear for a killer compilation when this will admirably suffice. Then again if you want tune conversion here is the best place to start.