In 1975 Jamaica's most talented and experienced musicians, the core members of the legendary Skatalites, reformed to make the music on this album. More than twenty years on, it is being released for the very first time. These sessions were produced by Lloyd Brevett, founder member and bassist of the Skatalites, and Glen Darby, who sang professionally as a 14 year old for Coxsone Dodd at Studio One. As part of vocal group The Scorchers he recorded songs like Ugly Man and Hold Tight for producer Lloyd Daley, and in the Seventies produced and promoted tours for artists like Larry Marshall, Delroy Wilson and the reformed Skatalites themselves. Glen recalls that for the musicians involved in this album it was always more than just another recording session. "They didn't really do it for money. They wanted to reform the group, the Skatalites. It was a reunion album. Everyone loved the idea and it reformed the Skatalites. About three years after this they toured America and then the world."
The Skatalites had dominated the music of Jamaica in the brief period between their formation in June 1964 and the breakdown the next year of their leader, trombonist Don Drummond. They defined ska as a driving, assertive and truly home grown music appropriate for the newly independent island. These veteran musicians had worked together for many years before the formation of the Skatalites, even before the birth of the Jamaican recording industry itself, making their living in the big bands, dance bands and jazz bands that preceded an indigenous Jamaican music. Don Drummond, trumpeter Johnny Moore and Roland Alphonso had even attended the same school in the Forties, the Alpha Catholic Boys School in Kingston, and received their musical education there.
With the demise of the Skatalites, these men simply continued as before to freelance, now as session musicians for every major producer and artist on the island, thereby exercising immense influence over Jamaican music as it developed from ska to rocksteady and into what the world has come to know as reggae. The history of these musicians is literally the history of Jamaican music itself.
The music on this album was recorded over a two month period at three recording studios in Kingston, Jamaica; Joe Gibbs studio on Retirement Crescent, Aquarius on Molynes Road and Studio One on Brentford Road. However, such is the coherence and integrity of the music here, it is hard to believe it was not recorded in a single session. One reason for this is the aforesaid calibre of the musicians involved, all veterans in the business who had played alongside each other for many years.
Equally significant however is that these tracks were mixed by another reggae legend, the great King Tubby, over the course of two nights at his four track studio in Drummlie Avenue. King Tubby was without doubt reggae's most startling innovator, the man who single handedly invented dub by massively bringing forward the bass and the drums, dropping the vocal in and out of the mix, and bringing in a range of reverb and sound effects. He thus anticipated by many years the drum and bass explorations of Nineties dance music. Recalls Glen Darby "Ling Tubby was a highly sophisticated engineer. He could take nothing and make something. He was in a good mood. We went there at midnight when it was peaceful and quiet."
Tubby's unmistakeable musical signature is stamped upon every track on this album. On Dub Of Love the drifting, hypnotic heavily reverbed horn statements of Tommy McCook and Roland Alphonso drift across an insistent, uptempo bass. Give Thanks highlights a Vin Gordon trombone melodic line reminiscent of Errol Dunkley's Black Cinderella which cuts in and out of Augustus Pablo's ethereal clavinet. Of an as yet unreleased Tony Brevett vocal cut only the first line survives.
Ernest Ranglin's shuffling guitar on Close To Jah duets with Tommy McCook's haunting flute across some complex percussive interplay. Herb Man Dub features the kind of heavy, stepping bass line you think you must know from somewhere else, although in Glen Darby's words, "All of Lloyd Brevett's bass lines are original. 100% original. He don't know how to follow somebody." This track shows Tubby's mixing at its most intense and perhaps closest in feel to his collaborations with Vivian Jackson of that period. The opening vocal statement, duetted by Tony Brevett and Lloyd Brevett's wife Ruth, is then repeated throughout, hypnotically reverbed, by Tommy McCook's flute which is again to the fore on Zion I Dub, washing across the drum and bass like curtains of rain above the Jamaican hills.
In conclusion, it is a measure of the deep continuities in Jamaican music, and perhaps in Jamaican life itself, that while Tubby's intense, brooding mix seems decades ahead of its time, it is underpinned here not by a digital bass line, nor even by an electric bass guitar, but by the same acoustic double bass that Lloyd Brevett played in the dance bands of the Fifties! Nowhere is the continuity of Jamaican music better represented than on this album, whre Jamaica's most experienced musicians meet its most forward looking innovator.
King Tubby was senselessly murdered in 1989. This lost dub masterpiece is a fitting testament to a true hero of reggae, of who Glenn Darby says "I tell you the truth. King Tubby never smoke, I never saw him drink. He was always a smiling man. It was like the music give him a natural high. The person who killed him was one of the stupidest person in the world because they would never ever find a man like King Tubby in Jamaica again."
This record is dedicated to the memory of Tommy McCook, 1929-98
© Geoff Parker 1998
OLDIE BUT GOLDIE THE LEGENDARY SKATALITES IN DUB THE SKATALITES MEET KING TUBBY
A whole 27 years ago, members of Jamaican legends The Skatalites recorded an album at Lee Perry's Black Ark studios. Dub supremo King Tubby got his hands on the tapes and the result is the audaciously funky dub album of your (and our) dreams. Mad, phasing drum breaks (Sealing Dub), rolling (acoustic) basslines, skewed-to-hell analogue synths (Starlight) and uplifting, infectious party-time business (Bottom Dub) - it's all here. Stone-cold classic 70s dub that will ignite any party lucky enough to have it - age not an issue. RF
The legendary all-star group gets beautifully spliced and diced. The sound is exquisite and the dubs are totally transfixing. .... this is a definitive dub selection that includes the scarce, anthemic, vocal bonus 'Starlight'. An unmissable history lesson. 5/5
Vintage dub gold, fresh from the vaults. Musicians from the greatest band ever to emerge from Jamaica: men like Tommy McCook, Roland Alphonso, Ernest Ranglin and bassie supreme Lloyd Brevett, mixed and blended by Lee Perry and King Tubby. Augustus Pablo, Ras Michael and Leroy "Horsemouth" Wallace are in there too. Tracks from these 1975 sessions have been released before but this is the most comprehensive collection from the sessions yet, including three previously unreleased tracks (most notably Tony Brevett's original Rastafarian vocal cut 'Starlight'). Nowadays dub is digital business, but listen to the blaring horns, slapping bass and niyabinghi drums of these recordings and hear how it should be done. Pure, organic and fresh from the roots. [JR]
Straight No Chaser
'This, the original chill out music, has rarely been bettered' (5 stars)
Alexis Petrides - Mixmag
Seemingly. out of nowhere, this amazing bomb has dropped...one hell of a listening experience
Truly quality music that should be up there in the album-of-the-year stakes.
Once bought it will never stray far from your hi-fi.
Jeremy Collingwood - Record Collector
Exhilarating and evocative
Steve Yates - Jockey Slut
A find of great importance to reggae buffs... the musicianship is impeccable, but it's the sheer inventiveness of Tubby's mixing that really captures the attention. (4 stars)
John Misouri, Echoes
A must-have gem for reggae fans everywhere
Tim Perry, The Independent newspaper (UK)
Tubby was was a major studio wizzard, as important in the history of 20th century music as Miles Davis, and the erformances he drew from the Skatalites did them great credit....the music remains as timeless as the day it was minted and those involved created something greater than themselves. An achievement.
Dele Fadele, NME
An instant classic, and a true masterpiece of melodic dub.
Jesse Nonneman, Play magazine - Australia
This album marks a truly historic event in the history of reggae music.
Ray Hurford, Small Axe
There's so much dub coming through the industry pipeline,
but this one is destined to achieve classic status.
Michael Kuelker Positive Vibrations St. Louis, Missouri USA
....a beautiful and diverse album of prime dubwise music of the highest order by turns joyful and funky, somber and dark, with virtuoso performances by all concerned.
Dub Vendor - UK
Since I've been a manager responsible for reviewing new music at the station, I've probably reviewed upwards of 50 albums. I've only given and "A" to 3 of them. Today I was finally able to get into the office and get the Skatalites dub album on the turntable. It became the 4th album I've given an "A" to. In my mind, it's one of the treasures of our all too small Jamaican music collection here at WRMC.
WRMC 91.1 FM
It's easily one of the best things I have heard in a long long time and it blows me away that a record of such stunningly good quality should remain unheard and unreleased for so long.
It's an undeniable classic."
Dennis Owens, Record Buyer