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.
I just don’t have the words to really describe dub albums. I even read a book on dub recently, Dub: Soundscapes & Shattered Songs in Jamaican Reggae by Michael E. Veal, and though it helped me understand the roots of the genre, I still can’t effectively talk about it. I simply know what I like, and I know I like dub and that Hometown Hi-Fi Dubplate Specials 1975-1979 has some great chill music on it. Are you new to dub and want to check it out? This is as good a place to start as any. King Tubby is one of the dub greats alongside Scientist and Lee “Scratch” Perry. You can’t go wrong with any of these guys and their records will show you the way, mon.
It’s been a long week or so. Holly and I spent the weekend in San Diego, and then I came home while she stayed in California on business for the rest of this week. So tonight (I’m writing this on Friday evening) was about having dinner together, drinking some wine, and chilling out. Well, and going to Dairy Queen for a sundae and a Peanut Buster Parfait. And then chilling out. And what better to chill to while eating DQ than some dub.
We stopped by Port of Sound Record Shoppe in Costa Mesa on Monday, and I was really impressed with the store – broad selection, well organized, and well stocked in a wide range of genres. This is where I picked up the previously reviewed Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew and a handful of other records, including Sly & Robbie’s King Tubby’s Dance Hall Dub – Middle East Dub. This was a shot in the dark for me, but generally speaking I’ve enjoyed the dub I heard, and as it turns out this was a good pickup. When you want to hang out on a sunny almost summer evening with some cocktails, ice cream, or whatever strikes your fancy, dub is a great accompaniment and helps set the mood. The mood of relaxation as you let the work week wash away. And enjoy your parfait.
I can’t give you much of a description of King Tubby’s Dance Hall Dub – Middle East Dub other than to say it’s reggae-ish, all instrumental, and reminds me a bit of some of my buddy DJ Lucky’s funk sets. The pacing is smooth, and it’s hard to tell where one track leaves off and another starts. Just a nice smooth groove. Perfect for a summer night.