Prince Jammy Presents Strictly Dub

Immigrant Dub
Basement Dub
Brooklyn Dub
B.Q.E Dub
Interboro Dub
Old Country Dub
42nd Street Dub
271 Utica Dub
Bronx Fashion Dub
Strictly Dub
Mother Dub
Dis Dub Rule

Born in Kingston Lloyd James is famed for his domination of 1980's Dancehall as 'King Jammy', producer and Sound System owner, but before his coronation Jammy was a 'Prince' and known as a producer and mixer of dubs.

This CD is taken from an obscure dub album that briefly surfaced in the early 1980's on the US imprint 'Jammy's Records' and is rightly regarded as a minor masterpiece of Jammy's mixing style. By this time dancehall was just beginning to rise and dub was to see its last burst of mainstream popularity with another King Tubby protégé: Scientist and his tangles with Vampires & Space Invaders! The two protégés even had a 'Big Showdown' issued on Greensleeves in the UK. Jammy started his music adventure as a builder of amplifiers for the Sound System business - indeed the large number of Sounds around the island provided a good source of income for repairs and builders of specialist amplification and the like. Jammy lived in the Waterhouse area of downtown Kingston where his reputation as an equipment builder soon grew and he then went on to run his own Sound.

But in the early 1970's Jammy was to be found living in Canada and it was on a holiday taken back in Jamaica that proved to be a turning point when Bunny 'Striker' Lee persuaded him to take on a role as Tubby's main engineer as Philip Smart, the current incumbent, was about to emigrate to New York. Jammy duly became Tubby's right hand man at Dromilly Avenue. Together they worked on Yabby You's famous late 1970's productions - indeed one dub plate from the period starts with Tubby saying 'Jammy! Cut the right.' Working in Tubby's studio meant that he was in the centre of the ever growing Jamaican reggae business and it wasn't long before Jammy started to develop his own career.

Jammy's work as sole producer and mixer started with original, all male, line up of Black Uhuru from whom he released their debut album, 'Love Crisis', and a dub volume called 'Jammy's In Lion Style Dub'. Tracks like Uhuru's take on Bob Marley's 'Natural Mystic' and their own 'African Love' (both Jammies) put Black Uhuru on the reggae map. A line up change and a new link with Sly & Robbie would see Black Uhuru feted as the next reggae cross-over act.

The late 1970's saw reggae dominated by 'rockers' and 'steppers' rhythms with furious drumming driving the beat. Bob Marley had created an international reggae sound that was scoring outernational chart success. By the end of the decade, in Jamaica, the beat was slowing down and was developing a rhythmic precision that would open up the door to computerised reggae in the mid 1980's. It was not only the music that sought a new direction but lyrically the focus was far more about day-to-day issues and events in down town Kingston rather than global spiritual and political aspirations.

It's also no surprise that as these changes to the 1970's 'rockers' and 'steppers' styles developed a new 'dancehall' style and that Prince Jammy would be in the vanguard of this musical change. Jammy's mixing work on Horace Andy's 'In The light dub' and Gregory Isaacs' 'Slum Dub' set his reputation for a clarity and precision in his mixing style Prince Jammy's weren't theatrical in a Tubby's way, more controlled and with more attention to detail. Both albums are rightly regarded as key pieces in any serious dub collection.

About this set. 'Strictly Dub' is a completely instrumental dub set and features no vocals or even fragments of vocals similar to Jammy's 'Slum Dub' and his Black Uhuru dub set 'Jammies In Lion Dub Style'. It's an album that can be best enjoyed on headphones and a little of what you enjoy... The mixes are carefully constructed and all allow the original rhythm to dominate, with very few rhythm drop outs that were so beloved of late 1970's mixing. They mark a move away from the sweeping flourishes of King Tubby's style to a more controlled and almost minimalist mixing style. 'Strictly Dub' stands out as one of the earliest dance hall rhythm dub albums.

Jammy produced, arranged and mixed this album using some of Kingston's A Team session players with the horn players Bobby Ellis & 'Deadly' Hedley Bennett coming to the fore on 'Old Country Dub' and '271 Utica Dub'. The drum and bass partnership on this set, 'Sly' Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, were themselves developing their own Taxi imprint which created huge dancehall success and propelled them onto the international scene with sets for the likes of Grace Jones and Bob Dylan.

The album features many classic reggae rhythms recut plus a couple of originals. 'Immigrant Dub' is a cut of what was known as the 'Bobby Bowa' rhythm that Well, Pleased & Satisfied used on 'Open The Gates Bobby Boy' (Total Sounds 1977). 'Basement Dub' is a recut of Bob & Marcia's Studio One classic 'Always Together' rhythm (1969). Festival Winning 'Baba Boom' (Treasure Isle, 1967). One of the originals is 'B.Q.E. Dub' on which Scully's hand drumming is to the fore. 'Interboro Dub' is a recut of the Three Tops' 'Do It Right' rhythm (Treasure Isle, 1967). 'Old Country Dub' is a cut to the rhythm from Hugh Mundell's 'Jah Fire Will Be Burning' which was a Jammy production from 1980. It was a Big Shaka tune at the time and the horns drive the dub forward in formidable style. '42nd Street Dub' is Jammy's cut of Baba Brooks 'Shank I Shek' (King Edwards, 1964). It was a rhythm that was popular in the early 1980's and Nal Rowe's Zodiac imprint carried several cuts of the rhythm with the 7th Extension's 'Hard Times' being the best known. Indeed to my ears it sounds like it might be the same cut as here. '271 Utica Dub' sees Jammy licking over the Studio One 'College Rock' (by Big Willie) rhythm (Ironside, 1972) with a powerful horns line marking the rhythm drop outs. 'Bronx Fashion Dub' is the other original and is a really solid dancehall rhythm dub with a really slow beat and a harshness of sound that was typical of the era. The title track 'Strictly Dub' sees Jammy updating the classic 'Ali Baba' rhythm (Treasure Isle, 1969) with a fat sound but keeping faithful to the original's directness. It's a set that despite the beginning of a new musical era looks back to the classic rhythms of the late 1960's and early 1970's.

Bonus tracks: Both these bonus tracks are from a couple of years later and point strongly toward the future of reggae with the heavy rhythms dominating and dub flourishes and mixing kept to a minimum. 'Mother Dub' takes Jackie Mittoo's 'Hot Milk' (Studio 1, 1970) as its blueprint. 'Dis Dub Rule' takes the Sound Dimension's 'Afrikaan Beat' (Supreme, 1968) into the 1980's with a pounding dub. The track was a cover of the Bert Kaempfert easy listening classic.

The nomenclature of the tracks reflects that this album surfaced in New York - a city which had seen Jamaican musicians visiting and in some cases making the city their home during the 1970's. Most famously Vincent & Pat Chin who had set up VP Records that decades later would bring the charts Sean Paul. Others, such as Lloyd Barnes and his Wackies imprint, would begin to put New York on the reggae map with music that's more appreciated today than it was when it was released. Of course ex-pat Jamaican Kool Herc lit a musical match that caught a whole generation of black Americans but that's a whole other story.

The cover picture shows a young Prince Jammy at the mixing desk in Tubby's mixing studio in Dromilly Avenue. The desk originally came from Byron Lee's Dynamic Studio, from whom Tubby's bought it when Dynamic upgraded their studio. Tubby used it to take dub music and mixing to a new level and an art form in it's own right: Prince Jammy was Tubby's right hand man during a crucial phase in dub's development.

This set only appeared very briefly before being over shadowed by the dominance of dancehall and the loss of interest in dub. It's taken almost thirty years for this set to be released on CD.

King Jammy went on to dominate reggae from the mid 1980's to deep into the decade. The Pressure Sounds compilation 'The Crowning Of Prince Jammy' tells the next part of the king's story.

Jeremy Collingwood

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