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V/A - Studio One Dub, Vol. 2

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Artist: V/A

Album: Studio One Dub, Vol. 2

Label: Soul Jazz

Review date: Aug. 8, 2007

By the time dub rolled around in the early ’70s, Coxsone Dodd’s Studio One had already accomplished its greatest feat; the stockpiling of a virtually bottomless well of great rhythms, one that Jamaican musicians still dip into today. Despite Dodd’s claim that he was the “Dub Specialist” (his nom-de-dub on countless b-sides), he wasn’t the most original mixer; there’s none of King Tubby’s subtle shading and massive disruption, nor Lee Perry’s wackiness and dense sonic swirl. Studio One dubs were renowned for their insistent bass and drum grooves, and since dub in Jamaica was more something for sound system DJs to toast over at community dances than the home hi-fi experience most record buyers pursue nowadays, Dodd’s were enormously popular.

Dodd is gone now, but his label’s legacy lives on in collections like this one. Compiler Mark Ainley selected 18 tracks that span the ska, rock steady, roots, and early dancehall eras. Dub wasn’t even invented when the first two were fresh, but Dodd was a thrifty type, always happy to wring a few new shekels from an old track. Any Where Version” chops up John Holt’s original vocal and aggressively douses it with echo so that the words shimmer and dematerialize as though Scotty were beaming them in and out of the incongruously bouncy backing track, obscuring its age.

“Dub Rock” is more reductionist. It takes a rock steady vintage rhythm that at different points has carried the voices of Alton and Hortense Ellis, Sugar Minott, and Lennie Hibbert into the Jamaican charts and strips it back; the bass is right up front and the drums churn unchanged while guitars and horns slip in and out enough to let you know they once were there, and the effect is far more groovy than psychedelic. At the other end of the time line, the Brentford Disco Set’s proto-dancehall “Natty Ting A Ling PT. 2” follows a similar strategy; push the bass, drums and electric piano up front so the rhythm can’t be denied, and let the vocals blow through every once in a while like Haley’s comet. Soul Jazz’s mastering job is typically bass-heavy, further reinforcing the emphasis on those unstoppable rhythms.

By Bill Meyer

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