|Trojan Presents: Dub - 40 Deep And Heavy Hits|
Concentration Version 3 - The Crystalites
Stalag 17 - The Techniques All-Stars
I'm Alright Version - Keith Hudson & King Tubby's
Butter Fe Fish - Skin, Flesh & Bones
One Trainload Of Dub - The Observers
V/S Panta Rock - The Upsetters
Buck Shot Dub - Rupie Edwards All Stars
Tangle Locks - The Groovemaster
Ashanti Ganja Dub - Leslie Butler
Blackout - The Hardy Boys
A Noisy Place - King Tubby's & The Aggrovators
Jestering Part 2 - Carl Malcolm & Skin, Flesh & Bones
King Tubby Meets The Rockers Uptown-Augustus Pablo
Seven Heaven Rock - Joe White
Rebel Dance - The Observers & King Tubby's
A Ruffer Version - Johnny Clarke, King Tubby
Callying Butt - The Upsetters
White Bird Come Down (Version) - Thunderball
Uptown Shuffle Dub - The Eccles All Stars
Rockers Dub - Joe Gibbs & The Professionals
Simple Dub - The Upsetters
African Dub - The Silvertones
Channel One Feel It - Leroy Smart & The Aggrovators
Chapter 3 - The Mighty Two
Keep On Moving Dub - The Upsetters
Jamaican Colley - Linval Thompson
The Same Dub - Israel Vibration
Leggo Beast - Gregory Isaacs' All Stars
Headache - The Revolutionaries
Ball Of Fire - Bim Sherman & The Roots Radics
Out Of Order Dub - Prince Jammy & The Aggrovators
Hully Gully Rock - The Mighty Two
Shine Eye Dub - Barrington Levy & The Roots Radics
Fist Of Fury - Prince Jammy
Thompson Sound Inc - The Revolutionaries
Time Is Cold - Scientist & The Roots Radics
Blackboard Jungle - Morwell Unlimited
Jammin' For Survival - Prince Jammy
Foundation Stepper - Prince Far I & The Arabs
Pit Of Snakes - Burning Spear & The Taxi Gang
The speaker boxes are set up. The amps are aglow with anticipation. The
record deck is situated on as flat a surface as is possible in the
circumstances. The DJ has tested the mic, and the selector has his
battle tools sorted ready, with codeword's that only he can identify
scratched on to the rudimentary labels. The people are ready with their
Red Stripe or something more powerful. The smell of sensi lies thickly
on the air. It is time to drop the needle on the groove and bring forth
the sound of Jah thunder. It is dub time.
Dub: the very word is laden with atmosphere. Dub: the 'D' is the drop of the snare; the 'U' us the uplift in the music, the 'B' is the boom of the bass. It was the music of the rebels in the 1970s and although it has been declared dead at regular intervals from the end of the decade onwards, this is a style of Reggae that refuses to die. In fact, you could say it is now more alive than ever; Dubstep, Techno, Hip-Hop, modern Rock... all fell under its influence whether the musicians that created those styles knew it or not. Plus the music remains vibrant itself, with Eurodub's rise, the new Roots movement, Shaka-style steppers... here is a style of Reggae that can never be silenced.
A little history then, for a music that prides itself on knowing its roots and traces them back to the timbrel mentioned in the Old Testament and the thunder that Noah must have heard. Dub, like so many of Jamaica's musical revolutions, grew out of practical need. In the 1960s the sound systems that were Reggae's main means of reaching its audience all had DJs who would take the microphone and offer rudimentary rhymes, sound effects and singing to enhance the records the selector was spinning. pretty soon it became clear that these live entertainers were developing a following - King Stitt, U-Roy and Count Sticky were all popular - and having them toast over vocal records did not give them enough space to show off all their in-demand skills. So the sound system owners began to seek out instrumental versions of the hits of the day - and since the sound system owners were frequently also the producers of many of the strongest-selling records, and also owned the labels they were released on, they started to have instrumental versions put out on the B-side of the singles, at first as 'Version 2' and then simply 'Version'. This gave their DJs space to chat. What's more, it was cheap; you didn't have to pay session musicians to record two songs, but one, which you then got the engineer to mix in two forms, one with a vocal on it and the other just instrumental. By 1970 this was standard practice.
However, Reggae is a competitive industry, and producers such as Bunny Lee, Lee Perry and Derrick Harriott were soon encouraging the studio engineers to add novelty effects to their versions in a bid to make them more than just something for a sound system man to talk over. Engineers such as Lynford Anderson at Dynamic Sounds, Sid Bucknor at Studio One, and Errol Thompson at Randy's all delivered tough mixes in which reverb, echo and frequency filters made mincemeat of the original tracks. But there was one engineer above all who became known for wild experiments in sound that really did bring the top and bottom out in the music: Osbourne Ruddock, better known as King Tubby.
Tubby was an electronics engineer and sound system proprietor who cut dub plates for other sound system bosses at his tiny studio in the Waterhouse ghetto of Kingston. These metal discs (acetates) of exclusive mixes were much prized: Tubby somehow managed to get more top and more bottom in his mixes and a top Tubby's plate could wipe out the competition in a tight sound clash in a dancehall. By 1971 Bunny Lee and Lee Perry were both urging Tubby to push even more extreme sound into his mixes and brought tracks to him to mix. He also set up a mic for DJs and singers to voice tunes, and a trip to Waterhouse became a must for Reggae's competitive producers. Tubby was a dab hand with sound effects, as tunes like 'A Noisy Place' ( a crashing version of the Paragons' 'A Quiet Place') and Rupie Edwards' 'Buckshot Dub' (a mix of Johnny Clarke's 'Everybody Wondering') made clear. Tubby's name was credited on records like that of an artist, although at this point he was neither a producer nor a musician; he was just an engineer, but one whose skills were so strong that his name was renowned enough to make it a selling point on a record. Generally speaking, the credits still went to the producer or whatever he called his band - such as the Aggrovators, Upsetters or Crystalites. Initially, this did lead to some confusion, as some fans thought Tubby was the producer or artist... on a mixing board, he was definitely the latter.
Dub became known as a semi-psychedelic Reggae, all effects and echo, riding on furious bass. But many of those in the know sought out a barer, emptier type of dub, in which the drum and bass skeleton of the music danced with very little support. The heavy bass that dub became known for developed from Ska: bands such as the Skatalites and Soul Brothers used acoustic double bass in the early 1960s, and the fat, round sound was impersonated by electric bassists because that was what was expected by the dancers used to booming bass at sound system events. The bassiness was then exaggerated by the 1970s engineers who were mixing songs that often spoke of the power of Jah: they were creating thunder from the heavens.
Dub records first touted their glory on the B-side of singles: classics such as 'Stalag 17 Version' (Techniques), Joe Gibbs' 'Stonewall Jackson' (Joe Gibbs); The Upsetters' 'Callying Butt' (Orchid) were beautiful, proud tunes tucked away on the 'wrong' side of 45s. But Dub albums began to emerge in 1973, and by the mid-1970s the Reggae shops were full of LPs mixed by Tubby, Errol T. (Thompson, now working for Joe Gibbs) and other engineers. British labels such as Trojan and Island licensed them for release. Musicians who worked on tracks given dub mixes accrued fans. Augustus Pablo is one example, and his 'King Tubby Meets The Rockers Uptown', with a title track that formed a fabulous 45 on Island in the UK, became a cult item for fans both black and white - owning it was a sign that you knew about this hard-to-find, deeply underground sound.
Particular styles came and went within dub; Winston 'Niney The Observer' Holness use Tubby's studio to create a particularly hard-edged, brutally raw music, summed up in the name of 'Rebel Dub'; Augustus Pablo's Rockers label gave a name to the melodic, swinging variant in favour between 1976-78; before that, Bunny Lee's hissing 'flying cymbal' or 'flyers' groove made hay in the Reggae charts under his Aggrovators name; Sly & Robbie, the drum and bass team of the Revolutionaries as well as many other bands of hired rhythmic assassins, specialised in a metronomic, almost mechanical approach; later, their mastery of beats made tunes like 'Unmetered Taxi' fascinating, despite the sparse instrumentation. Dub was so much more than effects.
It tripped accidentally into the Pop charts when Rupie Edwards went Top 10 in 1974 with 'Irie Feelings', but it could also be heard as an influence in Davis Essex's 'Rock On', in Public Image Ltd's 'Metal Box' and Joy Division's intense rumbles; in the booming bass drum of early Hip-Hop's favoured TR808 drum machine. Although Dub surrendered to Dancehall even as the likes of King Tubby protégés Scientist and Prince Jammy were making excellent albums in their own name, Dub had an influence over Dancehall that replaced it in that here was another music that was stripped back to basics for DJs and singers to chant over, albeit with few effects. When Dancehall went digital, King Tubby was the forefront, this time as a fully-fledged producer. The digidub movement in England, which rose at the end of the 1980s, took the music of the original mixmasters and gave it a new electronic edge for a modern Roots movement. Dub still reverberates everywhere today, often unnoticed and out of context, but there all the same.
In the 70s Dub was a musical revolution. The versions you hear in this collection were the toughest of their day and you might be surprised to hear how hard they kick your speaker boxes today. The amp is aglow. You may not have to drop a needle on a groove to hear it, but the sound of Jah thunder still shocks the ears. It remains Dub time.
Ian McCann - Editor of Record Collector magazine
|All material © Trojan Records|