Dub/Ska/Reggae

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Dub, Ska and Reggae are related forms of Jamaican music that have always had a close association with jazz and fusion. Ska arose in the early 60s and involved the intersection of American RnB and Caribbean rhythms. Many professional ska musicians were out of work Jamaican jazz musicians who brought their jazz background and sensibilities to ska recordings. The highly influential Skatalites are a good example of an early jazzy ska band.

Reggae grew out of ska and featured slowed down relaxed rhythms, rasta lyrics and African rhythms. The rhythms of reggae have a had a major influence on jazz, as well as the entire world of music.

Dub is reggae music stripped down and re-mixed into mostly instrumental tracks in which individual instrumental parts are constantly shifting in and out of the mix. Dub style mixing has had a huge influence on modern groove based music and can show up in almost any genre. Modern jazz and fusion musicians have often gravitated towards dub as a style to work with and solo over. Some well known dub fusion musicians include Bill Laswell, Jah Wobble, Graham Haynes and Nils Petter Molvaer. Originators of the dub approach include King Tubby, Sly and Robby, Prince Jammy and Scientist. In the jazz and fusion world, dub has been a major influence on nu jazz and acid jazz.

dub/ska/reggae top albums

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BILL LASWELL Invisible Design Album Cover Invisible Design
BILL LASWELL
4.67 | 3 ratings
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BILL LASWELL Baselines Album Cover Baselines
BILL LASWELL
4.62 | 4 ratings
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JAH WOBBLE Heaven & Earth Album Cover Heaven & Earth
JAH WOBBLE
4.48 | 3 ratings
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EKSTASIS Wake Up and Dream Album Cover Wake Up and Dream
EKSTASIS
4.50 | 2 ratings
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THE SKATALITES Ska Authentic Album Cover Ska Authentic
THE SKATALITES
4.50 | 2 ratings
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THE SKATALITES The Legendary Skatalites In Dub Album Cover The Legendary Skatalites In Dub
THE SKATALITES
4.50 | 2 ratings
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AUGUSTUS PABLO East Of The River Nile Album Cover East Of The River Nile
AUGUSTUS PABLO
4.50 | 2 ratings
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MATERIAL Hallucination Engine Album Cover Hallucination Engine
MATERIAL
4.41 | 4 ratings
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BILL LASWELL Imaginary Cuba Album Cover Imaginary Cuba
BILL LASWELL
4.33 | 3 ratings
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THE SKATALITES Rolling Steady The 1983 Music Mountain Sessions Album Cover Rolling Steady The 1983 Music Mountain Sessions
THE SKATALITES
4.25 | 2 ratings
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THE SKATALITES Heroes Of Reggae In Dub Album Cover Heroes Of Reggae In Dub
THE SKATALITES
4.25 | 2 ratings
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BILL LASWELL City of Light Album Cover City of Light
BILL LASWELL
4.25 | 2 ratings
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dub/ska/reggae Music Reviews

MANU DIBANGO Gone Clear

Album · 1980 · Dub/Ska/Reggae
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Matt
Released in 1980, recorded in Jamaica on Chris Blackwell’s label, Island Record’s , with quite a few big names included and not only from Jamaica but the U.S.A as well with the Brecker brothers included with Michael on sax and Randy on trumpet with Joe Faddis, Mike Lawrence supporting and Gwen Guthrie being one of the backing vocalists.. Plenty of big Jamaican names also with Ansell Collins, Sly and Robbie, Mikey Chung with a few others from the area as well for Manu Dibango’s Reggae excursion with the album “Gone Clear” which has also been re released on the French label Sonodisc in 1990 under the name “Rasta Souvenir” on two discs which does include Manu’s following Reggae release on Island “Ambassador” on each disc respectively albeit with a slight track order change the albums are still separate in their entirety on each of the discs.

“Full Up” puts the Reggae beat straight to the fore with Manu’s sax riding right over it all on this great album opener being primarily an instrumental with just the backing vocalists repeating the title on occasion. Funk and fairly quick moving is the basis for the highly enjoyable instrumental “Goro City” with some great sax input from Dibango’s sax being all over it and some wonderful band backing. More full on Reggae beat in “Doctor Bird” where we finally get to hear Manu adding those deep vocals and jive he usually does in French and the delight just keeps coming in another great take on his most famous number the Makossa where this time it’s the “Reggae Makossa” and good it is, being delivered in quick time. “Frozen Soul” is vibe time for Manu with a highly similar time to “Full Up” but no matter it is Reggae and the album finishes up with one of its highlights, for me anyway with it s loopy opening and more of those backing vocals and saxes just keeping a firm reminder of the time this music was made in being the late 70’s and early 80’s with that Manu Dibango stamp.

Lovely groover to have on and even if Reggae is not your thing try this as it only fairly mild with its influence and basically it’s still Dibango presenting his style of Cameroonian French influenced African Music but still I really don’t know too many African music fans that don’t like Reggae anyway.

THE BEAT (THE ENGLISH BEAT) I Just Can't Stop It

Album · 1980 · Dub/Ska/Reggae
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js
The Beat, or The English Beat, as they were known in the states, were a musical super nova that burned bright for about four years and then abruptly broke up while they were still successful. Sporting a mix of Caribbean rhythms and punk rock energy, they were a natural to ride the ska revival of the early 80s, but The Beat were always way more than ska imitator wannabes. With at least three band members with bona fide reggae/ska musical roots, The Beat had an authenticity and natural nimble grace to their music that was not matched by their counterparts in the two tone movement. All of this was on full display when they released their opening opus, "I Just Can't Stop It", one of the best dance-able art pop albums in the 80s or in any decade.

In a manner similar to other rhythmically kinetic groups such as The Meters or the JBs, everything great about The Beat starts at the drum set and works its way forward from there. Everett Morton is one of the most overlooked innovative drummers in contemporary music. His ability to play syncopated Caribbean rhythms at break neck tempos made The Beat an irresistible sonic force. Add to that beat foundation a driving dub style bass, two interlocking guitars and Saxa's melodic Jamaican horn lines and you have a rich sonic tapestry. The icing on the cake was the duo vocals of Englishman Dave Wakeling and the Jamaican toasting and harmonies from Ranking Roger which gave The Beat a broad pallet of vocal deliveries.

The icing on the icing is the fact that these guys could write great songs and lyrics that were often either politically clever or sardonically dismayed with relationships. On "I Just Can' Stop It", they also include some creative covers that blend well with their originals. THere are no bad cuts on here, but if you are looking for the high energy barn-burners, try "Click Click", "Noise in this World" or "Two Swords".

PRINCE JAMMY Kamikazi Dub

Album · 1979 · Dub/Ska/Reggae
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js
If you ask most lovers of Dub music, what was the album that got them started, or what is still their favorite album, there is a very good chance they will pick Prince Jammy’s classic “Kamikaze Dub”. Jamaican Dub music first appeared in the mid-70s under the guidance of the creative master mind, King Tubby. By the late 70s, two of his top co-workers, Scientist and Prince Jammy were ready to branch out on their own, and they did. Both Jammy and Scientist were poised to take dub to a whole new level, but Jammy’s record came out first, and that’s why “Kamikaze Dub” is often cited as the album that raised the bar for good. After its release, many Jamaican producers aspired to create the same swirling psychedelic sound that Jammy presented on these near perfect tracks.

This music has aged very well, there is a certain economical neatness on here that implies the digital age, but this was all done painstakingly by hand towards the end of the analog era. This is truly a labor of love as each echo and phase shifter is placed logically, no gratuitous tacky effects mar the final product. The intelligent choice of effects adds to the quality of ‘Kamikaze’, I’m not sure if they were using the new Electro-Harmonix small stone phase shifter, but it sure sounds like it, or something similar. The musicianship on here is outstanding as well, with other Dub stars taking part such as Sly and Robbie on drums and bass, Augustaus Pablo on keyboards, Headley Bennett and Bobby Ellis on horns, as well as many others. The bright effects treated piano and organ parts that borrow from art rock and classical music are often the icing on the cake.

As mentioned earlier, when “Kamikaze Dub” came out in 1979, it became the gateway drug for many a future dub addict. At that time, Miles Davis had retired his psychedelic fusion band, and psych-rock pioneers, Pink Floyd, were slipping into corporate sludge, the time was right for something new, and Price Jammy hit the spot.

SLY AND ROBBIE Language Barrier

Album · 1985 · Dub/Ska/Reggae
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Matt
In 1985 Island Records released Sly and Robbie’s first foray to be recorded with Reggae placed as an influence and not the major component within the recording by bringing a digitalised funk and Hip Hop sound to the recordings fore front. Looking back today when one listens closely to “Language Barrier” you realise just how far in front of the pack they were running. Afrika Bambaata, had only been known for three years with a complete new genre of music still in its infancy being Rap and Hip Hop which was still facing more criticism than appreciation except within the younger music community and not content with just Afrika Bambaata the imitable Doug E. Fresh with his own sounds being the human beat box even took things to another original level. As well, we had another fairly new artist making quite a name on the scene for himself being the Producer and bassist Bill Laswell who was currently with his band Material back in 1985 bringing already a diverse original anything goes approach with his take on creating modern music. Wally Badarou is also present on synthesizer, Herbie Hancock, Robbie Lyn and Bernie Worrell are also included supplying keyboards and piano. Manu Dibango on sax, Daniel Ponce, congas, Bernard Fowler, backing vocals and vocals, Eddie Martinez, Pat Thrall, Mike Hampton, Mikey Chung and Barry Reynolds all supplied guitar at various stages from Funk, Jazz and Rock and talking about Rock, Bob Dylan even provides harmonica in the album.

During this period Sly and Robbie had not long finished recording Mick Jagger’s solo debut, “She’s The Boss” with Bill Laswell where many of these musicians came into contact. Some of the others had already been playing in the Compass Band which was Island Records studio band for many of their productions during this period with most of the band members originating from Jamacia and a Reggae background. Bob Dylan had not long before had Sly and Robbie provide support for his latest release “Empire Burlesque” with the most memorable song of the album recorded being Bob’s second shot at “When The Night Comes Falling From The Sky” containing Sly’s electric drum kit and Robbie’s beautiful bass line. In addition to all this consorting Bill Laswell with a few of the artists mentioned above had just recorded Manu Dibango’s ,“Electric Africa” bringing Manu along to lend his superb saxophone with that gorgeous tone on various album tracks, found within “Language Barrier”.

Sly’s electronic drums open up with the Funk coming in quick, Manu Dibango’s sax is darting in and out, Wally’s synthesizer is whirling around and Afrika Bambaata are chanting “make em’ move, make em’ move” with additional verse lyrics and with three cracking guitar solos inserted with of course Robbie’s bass lines and the first number “Make Em’ Move” gets the album underway. “No Name On The Bullet” which follows is one rhythm worked over beautifully with Hip Hop added over a dub and an another album highlight which is followed by the Miles Davis composition “Black Satin” aptly named “Miles” within the album’s track listings with more fabulous rhythm employed as the bed rock , two fabulous drum leads from Sly, more Synthesizer and guitar, a keyboard loop that just keeps repeating and one quite distinct take was created. “Bass And Trouble” is the first on the flip with Manu Dibango providing quite a nice solo and input over more electronics used for the rhythm with Doug E. Fresh doing his sound effects, Wally’s synthesizer is back, Mike Hampton is putting in the Funk guitar and Sly and Robbie are once again a stunning back bone to it all. The rhythm just keeps pounding along for the title track “Language Barrier” with Doug back rapping effects and even more funk lines from Mike Hampton’s guitar. Of course funk finishes the album up with quite a catchy “ Get To This, Get To That” and here we get to hear Bernard Fowler singing lead over more of a seventies style take albeit it is laced with electronics.

It did not receive the recognition that this album deserved when it was released garnering quite a mixed reception but if one looks back with today’s view point you will notice these musicians are light years ahead or right on the cusp if you prefer. Myself personally I love the use of the electronic kit that Sly Dunbar played and how he used the full electronic sound with Robbie’s pumping bass providing the support and Bill Laswell’s production. Their next similar album “Rhythm Killers” which garnered a much better reception is perhaps better played and mixed but “Language Barrier” was a more original album and who else would rush in and get that new Rap stuff included, although at this time it was really not all that new for the Rhythm Twins as they had been doing Jamaican Dancehall for around 7 to 8 years by then, “Yep, they were light year s ahead”.

SLY AND ROBBIE Dubrising

Album · 2014 · Dub/Ska/Reggae
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Matt
Last time the Dub was underwater but this year it is rising with the latest Dub offering from the Rhythm Twins. I could go on for hours about these two who have appeared with everybody at some time or the other and if they have not appeared with them then they most likely Produced their album. Still Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare have always kept those Jamaican Roots to the forefront within their own music and releases while still staying contemporary in the genre at the same time. After all it was Sly and Robbie who were the main movers toward digital within the Reggae scene back in the eighties and like it or not it is here to stay with the introduction of Dancehall and Ragga but with “Dubrising” it 100% good old Dub.

Paul “Groucho” Smykle is the man behind the mixing board who has not worked with Sly and Robbie for nearly 30 years when he mixed their two earlier albums “Raiders of the Lost Dub” and “Dub Experience”. The tracks from the album were picked by Groucho using Sly and Robbie’s prior Productions from Horace Andy, Chezidek, Bunny Rugs and Khalifa between 2006 to 2012 bringing quite a modern feel but still staying right at the Old School. The instrumentals were recorded live at two studios in Kingston. Dan Donovan from Big Audio Dynamite added synthesizer and Bunny McKenzie added dread harmonica. No Protools were used as Groucho mixed it live to bring that old feel of how it was done back in those Lee Perry and King Tubby days during the seventies where if things did go wrong, it was start again and not just a quick patch up.

The dubs themselves come through beautifully with a mix of tempos throughout the rhythms used with all the reverb and echo employed and as heard on “Satan Fall” and the 2nd Dub “Freedom Ring”. The synthesizer provides a little more fill bringing a good fresh quality and is quite a nice touch. “Drone Snipers” motors along with a great echo and vocal remnants with the addition of Bunny McKenzie playing his dread harmonica. There are plenty of sound effects with zaps and whirrs layered over great rhythms which keep up a nice rapid tempo for the majority of Dubs that follow. “To The Rescue" is laced with Synthesizer and vocal remnants put to echo, “No Surrender”, “Flame Thrower” with its effects and slightly slower tempo and then to finish the pumping bass of “Double Agent” which comes in last.

Wonderful new Dub album from Sly and Robbie with a wonderful sounding mix from Groucho.

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