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Dub Recommendations

Bob Marley
In no particular order
o King Tubby - Dub Gone Crazy
King Tubby compilations have proliferated wildly over the past five or six years, but the standard for careful programming, sound quality and labor-of-love packaging has been set consistently by England’s Blood & Fire label. This was Blood & Fire’s second release, and it remains a triumph; the material is taken from B-sides to rare Bunny Lee-produced singles, and the dub versions were actually created by Tubby and several of his apprentices. Rhythms courtesy of the mighty Aggrovators, Bunny Lee’s regular studio band. Essential.
Blood & Fire BAFCD 002 buy
o King Tubby & Friends - Dub Explosion
For a more varied overview of the King Tubby oeuvre, check out this generous collection of tracks based on singles by such legendary artists as Johny Clarke, Linval Thompson and the exquisite Cornell Campbell. The packaging isn’t as beautiful and the sound quality not quite as sharp as those on Dub Gone Crazy, but there’s no disputing the virtues of the material itself. As with most Trojan compilations, the tracks-per-dollar ratio is quite high.
Trojan Records TR366 buy
o Sir Coxsone Sound - King of the Dub Rock Parts 1 & 2
Though not a very well-known name in the U.S., Lloyd Coxsone (not to be confused with legendary producer Clement "Coxsone" Dodd) ran a U.K. sound system that garnered him much fame in that country during the 1970s. During this period he also began producing, and his dub mixes are among the best to come out of the U.K. during this era. This disc includes the entirety of his two "King of the Dub Rock" collections, and includes performances by Sly & Robbie, Tommy McCook, Ansel Collins and others.
Tribesman TMCD3 buy
o Scientist v. Prince Jammy - Big Showdown (1980)
Lloyd “Prince Jammy” James and Hopeton “Scientist” Brown both learned their dubcraft at the feet of the universally-acknowledged master of the art form, King Tubby. And frankly, one might be forgiven for thinking that these alternating tracks (titled only “Round 1,” “Round 2,” etc.) sound pretty interchangeable in terms of style and approach. But all of them are quietly brilliant, none of breaking any new ground but all reflecting a complete mastery of the form. Rhythms are supplied by the unstoppable Roots Radics band.
Greensleeves Records GRELCD 10 buy
o Bunny Wailer - Dub D'sco Vols. 1 & 2
The dub mixes on this fine double-length collection were originally released as two separate LPs in 1978, and were impossible to find in the U.S. until RAS obtained the rights to the master tapes and released them on a single CD in 1999. The program contains almost the entirety of both Blackheart Man and Bunny Wailer Sings the Wailers in dub versions, making it the perfect companion disc to two of Bunny’s finest solo albums. Bunny himself, always known for the quality of both his songwriting and singing, proves to be a surprisingly talented producer and engineer as well.
Solomonic/RAS Records RAS 3239 buy
o Augustus Pablo - King Tubby Meets The Rockers Uptown
Any dub collection should begin with this one, which not only contains what is widely considered to be the finest single dub mix ever created (the album ’s title track, the dub version of Jacob Miller’s “Baby I Love You So”) but also demonstrates what magic can occur when a musician of Augustus Pablo’s mystical vision unites with a producer of King Tubby’s skill. Pablo’s distinctive “Near East” sound -- the plaintive melodica, the minor keys, the dreamy tempos -- is in full effect, and Tubby dubs it up with his trademark creativity. Absolutely essential.
Shanachie Records SH44019 buy
o Dub Syndicate - Pounding System
This LP, originally released in the UK in 1982 and later reissued in the US by ROIR, marked the beginning of one of the most interesting chapters in reggae history. Producer Adrian Sherwood would later become notorious for his experimental take on the roots reggae tradition in general and the dub subgenre in particular, but at this point his vision was still somewhat conventional, and the instrumental reggae he elicited from this pick-up band was deep, dark and groovy. Lovers of dub should probably own most of the Dub Syndicate catalog, but the band’s debut album is a good place to start.
On-U-Sound ONU018 buy
o Various Artists - Axion Dub: Mysteries Of Creation
Bassist and producer Bill Laswell has always been a fan of dub, and has been responsible for creating some pretty impressive examples of the art form himself through his various studio projects and guest appearances. On this two-disc set he uses his own Axiom label to showcase 15 examples of dub both traditional (from Sly & Robbie, Mad Professor and Dub Syndicate) and experimental (from Scarab, DJ Spooky and The Orb). Consult this one to see how far the dub influence has spread in electronic music.
Island Records PGD531070 buy
o Black Roots - Dub Factor 2 - The Dub Jadah Mixes
This fine British roots reggae band had lost a number of its original members by the time it recorded this set of dubwise selections under the supervision of producer Dub Judah. (A previous dub collection, this one produced by Mad Professor, had been released four years earlier.) And Dub Factor 2 would, in fact, be the band's final studio effort before breaking up in 1995. But the group still has a strong, rootswise sound on this album, and the dub mixes are very good. It's an excellent example of the great roots reggae that was being made in England during the 1990s.
Nubian Records NRCD10
o Yabby You Meets Tommy McCook In Dub
Only in reggae music -- and dub, especially -- can “Sound of the 70s” be taken as an honorific. But the 1970s were indeed the high water mark of both roots reggae in general and dub in particular, and both Yabby You and Tommy McCook (charter member of the Skatalites) played significant roles in the music’s development during that period. These classic dub tracks (all credited to Yabby You, though he doesn’t sing or seem to play on any of them; they were engineered and mixed by Errol Thompson and King Tubby, respectively) find McCook leading an all-star cast of Jamaican studio musicians through a beautifully contructed set of top-notch instrumentals. The dub mixes are gentle, leaving most of the instrumental parts intact most of the time.
Peacemaker Records CD1275 buy
o Macro Dub Infection Vol. 1
Dub is no longer just a reggae phenomenon ­ it’s the forefather of remix culture in general, and its influence can be found just about everywhere in modern popular music. Witness the artists featured on this two-disc set: they include the Golden Palominos, avant-junglists Spring Heel Jack, Wagonchrist, Tortoise and Tricky, among others (as well as such usual suspects as Mad Professor and Two Badcard). Not everything on this collection draws explicitly on reggae, and not everything is great, but all of it is interesting.
o Burning Spear - Living Dub Vol. 1
Although this sounds very much like a piece of vintage dub, it’s actually a relatively recent remix of Burning Spear’s classic Marcus Children album, dubbed-up in 1992 by two guys named Barry O’Hare and Nelson Miller. Burning Spear’s music, which always seems more like a series of long, seamless chants than actual songs, is especially well suited to dub treatment, and two more volumes like this soon followed -- remixes of Social Living and the much more modern Rasta Business, respectively. All three are very fine, but this one is the place to start.
Heartbeat Records CD HB 131 buy
o Lee "Scratch" Perry - Upsetter In Dub
Subtitled “Upsetter Shop Volume 1,” this generous collection of sonic sculpture from the inimitable Scratch consists mainly of B-sides to Jamaican singles, and features performances by the Congos, Junior Byles, Max Romeo and the Albert Griffiths, among others, all of them turned inside-out and torn to shreds by the Upsetter Himself. Some of these tracks were recorded at Randy’s, but most of them have that unmistakable Black Ark sound -- a wet, swampy ambience that causes shivers of delight among fans of outsider reggae. Perry fans will own this disc already, but it would make an excellent introduction for anyone who’s heard the stories and is curious.
Heartbeat Records HB077 buy

Capsule reviews written by Rick Anderson, former guitarist and bass player with the almost-legendary Utah ska band Swim Herschel Swim. He reviews reggae and other musical genres for the All-Music Guide and the Reno News & Review, among other publications. He has contributed liner notes to reggae releases on the Music Club label, and is training his children to recognize the difference between rockers and one-drop rhythms. He lives in Sparks, Nevada and can be reached at rickand@unr.edu.
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