It’s been a while since I’ve listened to any dub on the turntable. KEXP radio has a great reggae/dub show on Saturday mornings that we sometimes hear when out and about, and the dub was still echoing in my head when I wandered over to Vortex last weekend to flip through the vinyl. A couple of Augustus Pablo records caught my eye, most notably King Tubbys Meets Rockers Uptown, an album that is considered one of the very best dub albums of all time. As an added bonus this was one of the early, original Jamaican pressings, and given the more than reasonable price I knew it was a good pickup.
King Tubbys Meets Rockers Uptown was released in 1976 from the famous King Tubby’s Studio, a joint effort of tracks produced by Augustus Pablo and remixed by King Tubby (also featuring Robby Shakespear of Sly & Robbie fame on bass). Musicologist Michael E. Veal describes it as “…a high point in the development of dub, providing one of the enduring album-length classics of the genre” in his comprehensive 2007 book, Dub: Soundscapes & Shattered Songs in Jamaican Reggae (p. 122), and I have to agree with him.
I love this old-school style of dub – the songs are simple and the dub effects aren’t overdone. There’s certainly some echo and spacey sounds, but the rhythm is still there to give the songs the structure they need to keep from degenerating into an effects mess. The horns are an important part as well, providing the occasional emotional uplift and break you out of your dub trance. The opening track, “Keep On Dubbing,” is one of the all-time classics of the genre, particularly standing out because of the integration of vocals into the song, giving it a more unique feel and making it easier to distinguish from much of the rest of the record that is purely instrumental.
This is one of those great albums that you can drop the needle on and just “forget” – there won’t be that one song that comes on that you don’t like but you need to get through anyway. It’s relaxing music, perfect for slowing down your hectic life just a bit and drowning out all the noise.