Dial M For Murder In Dub Style

Dial-M-For Murder
Danger UBX
Beware Of This Rass Dub
Chase A Crooked Shadow
Don’t Watch My Size
Walking Razor
Wonder Woman Dub
Bad Boy Dub
Jam Up
Natty Culture
Who Gets Your Dub
Dub Plenty
Dr. Bash

Phil Pratt's first album was 'The Best Dub Album In The World' released on his own Student imprint in the UK back in 1974. It was an uncharacteristic piece of braggadocio that he was wise enough never to repeat, for Phil Pratt is generally agreed to be one of the most self-effacing producers ever to be involved in reggae, a section of the music business not really renowned for wallflowers and retiring types.

Pratt was born George Phillips in 1942 in Kingston, Jamaica; in the early 60s, as with many other nascent musicians, he became involved with Clement 'Coxsone' Dodd's ruling Downbeat organisation working as a 'box man' for the Studio One sound system and a general shelf filler for Mr. Dodd's burgeoning indigenous record operation. at that time he struck up a enduring friendship with Lee Perry who was also with Downbeat at the time, albeit engaged in the creative part of the business.

It was Phil Pratt's ambition, along with most other youths at the time, to become a vocalist and eventually he found himself in a position to voice some of his songs at Studio One, apparently Mr. Dodd was not satisfied with the final results so Pratt's tunes were left unpressed - 'Safe Travel' was eventually the title track of Pressure Sounds compilation of Pratt's peerless rocksteady sides, long coveted by hardcore collectors (Phil Pratt & Friends 'Safe Travel' PSCD47). Undaunted he took his work on to B.K. Calnek, better known as Ken Lack, the owner of Caltone Records - where Bunny 'Striker' Lee could also be found at the time. Lack was the man responsible for re-naming George Phillips as Phil Pratt, although the rationale and the attraction of this new name remains unclear! 'Sweet Songs For My Baby' appeared on the Caltone label and brought Pratt a modicum of success, greater visibility and an entry into the business he was seeking, eventually leading to a business partnership between the two with Pratt eventually running his Sun Shot label out of the Lack's premises effectively as a subsidiary of Caltone. During this period he was responsible for the first recordings of the young Horace Andy. This crucial link with Lack gave Pratt access to some of the finest session players in Jamaica who he would go on to recruit for sessions and scoring big hits with the likes of Ken Boothe (his favourite singer with whom he cut the major hits 'Artibella' and 'I'm Not For Sale'), John Holt (for the superior re-cut of his Studio One tune 'My heart Is Gone', Holt would also go on to re-version the chilling 'Strange Things'), Gregory Isaacs' sublime 'All I Have Is Love' issued on 7" in the UK on the Faith label as with many other Pratt productions, Dennis Brown's take on Santana's 'Black Magic Woman', capturing Pat Kelly in his finest Sam Cooke sound alike form on 'How Long', homing in on the UK's appetite for softer lovers' reggae with Al Campbell's 'Gee Baby' and Keith Poppins wildly successful 'Envious' - surely traces of the Upsetters prints can be found on this track or is it purely the Barrett brothers rhythm? His success with these singers encouraged Pratt to move deeper into the more rootsy sounds required by the increasingly popular DJs of the period such as U-Roy ('Real Cool'), I-Roy ('Musical Air Raid'), Big Youth ('Phil Pratt Thing'), Charlie Ace ('Silver And Gold'), Dillinger ('Platt Skank'), Jah Whoosh ('Psalm 21') and Dennis Alcapone ('This Is Butter') who all utilised some of the more popular rhythms that were appearing on Sunshot. Mainly recording at the Hookim brothers' Channel One Studios and working with the musicians who would later be called The Revolutionaries, he branched out by establishing his own labels Terminal and Faith - in London in order to release his productions worldwide.

Phil Pratt's earlier friendship with Lee Perry bore fruit with a number of later collaborations and, as well as frequenting Channel One where he worked with Ernest Hookim, he was also a regular visitor at the Black Ark where he recorded an album with keyboard-arranger Bobby Kalphat in an attempt to emulate the then popular sound of Augustus Pablo's melodica on 'Bobby Kalphat In Dub'. he was also responsible for what was possibly Linval Thompson's first single 'Girl You've Got To Run' and eventually had credits on a number of Perry dub collaborations including 'Lee Perry & King Tubby In Dub Confrontation'. As if all this pedigree were not sufficient to guarantee his credentials it should also be noted that, along with Errol Thompson, he was responsible for engineering the high water mark album of the roots reggae era, Burning Spear's immortal 'Marcus Garvey'.

'Dial M For Murder In Dub Style' appeared in 1980 towards the end of the period when dub had become madly popular - especially outside of Jamaica. The album was named after the Alfred Hitchcock movie 'Dial M For Murder' starring Ray Milland. It is one of Phil Pratt's most dynamic dub productions and, if not exactly restrained, provides a closing statement in the more cultured, stately style of his collaborator Errol Thompson before the next generation of dub experimentation commenced. The album has become an extremely sought after album in the collector's market, and for good reason with its crisp and tuneful mixes.

Recorded at Channel One around 1979/1980 with Sly & Robbie established as the go to rhythm section: Rad Brian on guitar, Bobby Kalphat and Ansell Collins on keyboards and piano, Tommy McCook & Herman Marquis on horns, the ensemble made up a lean but stellar cast of players and one that was used regularly by Phil Pratt. It's believed that the album was also mixed at Channel One as it was around this time a new mixing board had been installed making it one of the most advanced studios on the island. Bunny Tom Tom aka Crucial Bunny aka Anthony Graham was one of the in-house mixing engineers at Channel One studios during the period and he mixed the dubs alongside the producer. Although it seems clear that most of the rhythms were laid at Channel One, there are few vocal traces left on the album to identify the original source rhythm tracks. Junior Brown's vocal cut to 'What A Disaster' (Mystic 12") is remixed and renamed 'Don't Watch My Size', a line lifted from Joe Higgs' classic rude boy anthem 'Stepping Razor', but this is the only track on the album with an identifiable vocal. The title track is a version to the Blackstones' 'Come And Dance' from their 1979 'Insight' album on Burning Rockers, 'The Stinger' is clearly derived from Mel Torme's 60's r&b club hit 'Coming Home Baby' and 'Chased A Crooked Shadow' sounds like a version of John holt's 'Up Park Camp' cut for Channel One in 1976.

Of the CDs four bonus tracks the most remarkable is 'Natty Culture' the version to Big Youth's 'Keep Your Dread', it its meditative depth it could easily be construed as coming from Yabby You; 'Dub Plenty' is a version of I-Roy's 'My Food Is Ration' itself a deejay version of Keith Poppin's 'Envious' containing the classic opening line "Don't eliminate my passion cos even now my food is ration!", 'Doctor Bush' is a dub to the criminally underrated Roman Stewart's 'Fire At My Heel' and 'Who Gets Your Dub' is, of course, from Ken Boothe's 'Who Gets Your Love'.

From his earliest productions it is evident that Phil Pratt set out attempting to create music with a high level of musical consistency; as he moved through the rocksteady era and into the reggae-dominated 1970s and into the early 1980s he continued to produce top quality music utilising the best of reggae's singers, players and available technology but through all this he chose to remain a relatively shadowy figure, at least compared to some of his more ebullient contemporaries - and has always managed to remain in the background of the Jamaican music scene. This release, together with Pressure Sound's earlier release of Phil Pratt's fine productions will hopefully go some way in ensuring the producer takes his rightful place in reggae history.

Steve Barker - October 2011
On The Wire

All material © Copyright Pressure Sounds