Please turn up the bass when listening. This is dub music!
THE LEGENDARY SKATALITES IN DUBIn 1975 Lloyd Brevett organised some jamming sessions at his Kingston home involving almost all of the remaining Skatalites (Don Drmmond of course had tragically died and Jackie Mittoo was out of the country). These were followed up by sessions at Lee Perry's Black Ark, and Aquarius Studio, resulting in the release of an instrumental album, The Legendary Skatalites (1975). Soon after, a dub set, Herb Dub Collie Dub, appeared in very limited numbers. In 1998 Motion Records released a companion set of alternative dubs, Heroes Of Reggae In Dub, and later a vinyl only re-issue of Herb Dub Collie Dub (2001). The Legendary Skatalites In Dub completes the set with the pick of the tracks from the 1975 sessions plus a sought-after vocal cut entitled 'Starlight' originally released on 7" on Lloyd Brevett's own label.
We think these are the only reggae dub tracks featuring double bass.
TRACK BY TRACK
A picked guitar phrase and a swirling churchical organ opens King Tubby’s version side of the “Middle East” single, “Middle East Dub” [a.k.a. “Give Thanks”], before giving way to the percussive interplay of the funde and repeater drums which, as elsewhere, approach the articulate power of human speech. Tommy McCook’s horn is given the full dub panoply of echo and reverb, complete with dubwise drum and cymbal explosions in the background, fragments of his solo hanging above the drums like an endlessly reverberating clarion call.
"Fugitive Dub” [a.k.a. “Herb Man Dub”] is built upon the same rhythm, now slightly speeded up, but still with a Black Ark feel. Tommy McCook’s introspective flute here engages with moody clavinet work and Chinna Smith’s staccato rhythm guitar to produce a funk classic reminiscent of a seventies film or TV score. We also put this track on our 10" EP of tracks from the album.
Fugitive Dub has become a massive tune.
The beautiful “Whispering Dub” features a virtuoso performance by Lester “Ska” Sterling, over the jazz-tinged guitar explorations of Ernest Ranglin, all mixed in fine style by the inimitable King Tubby, with a full panoply of dub effects.
The jaunty “Kimble Dub” is a buoyant, fast-moving piece, in which The Skatalites horns receive the full King Tubby treatment. Lloyd Brevett’s up-tempo bass leads his rhythm section like a Pied Piper through a succession of chord changes and dubwise cymbal clashes.
"Roots Dub” moves at a steady pace and employs a moody, sombre double bass line. The sax of Roland Alphonso is to the fore, along with the guitar of Ernest Ranglin. Tubby’s EQ sweeps add depth and atmosphere to proceedings.
In “Dumboo Dub”, the horns that appeared in the original rhythm are virtually stripped out after their opening salvo, and the tune is given a thorough dub rinse, with amplified percussion shots and Lloyd Brevett’s lazy bass well to the fore of the mix.
"Candlelight Dub” is an alternate cut of “Whispering Dub” that highlights the Niyabinghi drummers.
“Starlight” itself is now revealed to a wider public as an impassioned roots vocal and expression of Rastafarian faith, rather than the romantic lovers tune that the title might have suggested.
“Middle East” [a.k.a. Dub Of Love], operates as a sublime showcase for McCook’s saxophone talents. His insistent, soaring horn solo rings out as hard and clear as a bell over Lloyd Brevett’s majestic, stepping bass.
“Sealing Dub” is the very intense, alternative mix of “Fugitive Dub”.
(Sleevenotes c. Geoff Parker and James Dutton 2002)
Lee Perry, King Tubby, Clive Hunt, Karl Pitterson, King Tubby
Bass: Lloyd Brevett
Drums: Benbow Creary, Leroy “Horsemouth” Wallace
Sax: Tommy McCook, Roland Alphonso, Lester Sterling
Trombone: Don D. Junior (Vin Gordon)
Trumpet: Johnny Moore
Flute: Tommy McCook
Guitar: Earl ‘Chinna’ Smith, Ernest Ranglin
Keyboards: Augustus Pablo
Niyabinghi drummers: Sidney Wolf, Brother Jack, I-Marts, Commodore Brevett, Ras Michael, Alan Bailey, Bongo T, Bother Joe (Bongo Joe)
With the demise of the Skatalites, McCook formed an alliance with Duke Reid, as leader of Reid’s house band, The Supersonics. Roland Alphonso stayed with Coxsone Dodd at Studio One, forming The Soul Vendors. They thereby continued to exercise 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 can be seen as the history of Jamaican music itself.
Lloyd Brevett was born in Jones Town, West Kingston. His father was himself a bass player and maker of musical instruments who in 1949 built a stand-up bass for his son and taught him to play it. Father and son formed the Count Brevett band the following year, playing a selection of jazz, blues and mento in jam sessions around town. Lloyd’s first professional band of his own was Joe Bundy and the All Stars. He then joined Roy Coburn and the Blue Rhythm and played with various with big bands led by Sonny Bradshaw, Val Bennett and Lord Tickler on the Jamaican hotel circuit, before moving on to Erick Deans’ band, with whom he toured Central America.
Lloyd continued to play the bass that his father made him throughout his career, up to and including the sessions on this album. It is a measure of the deep continuities in Jamaican music, and perhaps in Jamaican life itself, that while the music on this album 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 are these continuities better represented than on this album, where some of Jamaica’s finest musicians meet its most forward-looking innovators.
Lloyd Brevett’s original inspiration for these sessions was the drumming that provided the beating heart of the marathon chanting and reasoning sessions held at rasta camps in and around Kingston, at such locations as Wareika Hill and Bull Bay. Lloyd had participated in these sessions since the age of sixteen, and they were of immense importance to him, both musically and spiritually, as they were to a whole generation of musicians. Says Lloyd Brevett; “I learned my music out of the camp. When he was a youth, Bob Marley too, he come around the camp. That’s what we build our music out of, and it’s out of the Bible we took our words.”
Burru or Niyabinghi drumming is part of a rich musical heritage stretching back to Africa, characterised by the bass, funde and repeater drums, the larger bass drum marking time while the two smaller drums improvise in a call and response drum conversation. The full potency of this drumming can be heard on many of the tracks on this album. At the heart of the rhythm section were some of its best known exponents, including several founder members of The Sons Of Negus: Ras Michael, Sidney Wolf, Brother Jack and Alan Bailey. Also making an appearance, according to Brevett, were Bongo Jah, I-Marts, Bongo T, Bongo Joe (a.k.a. Brother Joe, founder of the Rightful Brothers) and Lloyd’s brother, Commodore Brevett.
Lloyd built the melodies and rhythms with former Skatalite Tommy McCook during jam sessions with these drummers at his home in Henderson Avenue, off Waltham Park Road. It was in this yard, in the sixties, that Lloyd held dances and stage shows where the crowd paid to eat curried goat, drink beer and listen to established names like the Blues Busters and Lord Tanamo, along with such rising stars as Delroy Wilson, Bob Marley and Millie. Of the 1975 jam sessions Lloyd remembers, “Everyone was in a good mood and the music was complete in two days and ready for the studio.” Lloyd Brevett describes the Black Ark experience: “A wonderful session. Lee Perry was a very good friend. He was an engineer with a lot of experience, very professional, always on time.” Punctual or not (the studio was right behind his house after all), Perry charged twenty Jamaican dollars an hour for the studio time, but for him, as for the musicians, it was always more than a commercial venture. Lloyd Brevett recalls him as being very enthusiastic about the idea of music led by rasta drumming.
Lee Perry had opened his Black Ark studio less than two years before, at the end of 1973, so these tracks were recorded at the outset of what is generally considered to be his most creative and innovative period. Before abandoning the Ark at the end of the decade, he was instrumental in slowing reggae music down to a meditative pace, stripping it to a stark canvas where the fundamentals of melody, drum and bass could be heard at their most haunting and intense.
Brevett recalls that he, McCook and the Niyabinghi drummers were joined at the Ark sessions by Benbow Creary on drums, Augustus Pablo on keyboards, and Earl “Chinna” Smith on guitar, whose trademark choppy, funk style is particularly well represented on “Fugitive”.
The tapes were taken to King Tubby’s four-track studio in Dromilly Avenue - a relatively short distance from the Black Ark. According to Lloyd Brevett, his nephew Tony voiced two of the rhythms at Tubby’s, and dubs were mixed straight after. One of these performances bore fruit with the release of the fabulous “Starlight” single which appeared on Lloyd Brevett’s own Planit Disc label; but of the second vocal, only a fragment survives, and this can be heard on “African Roots Dub”. A second single did result from the Ark/Tubby’s sessions, the instrumental “Middle East” (credited to “Lloyd Brevette & The Skatalites”) also released on Planit Disc. King Tubby was without doubt reggae’s most startling innovator, the man who anticipated by many years the drum and bass explorations of Nineties dance music. It was a great tragedy for reggae music when Tubby was senselessly gunned down in front of his own home in 1989. He had by then effortlessly adapted his talents to the digital revolution in Jamaican music and without doubt would have made a huge contribution to its current dancehall phase.
After the success, creatively at least, of the Black Ark sessions, Lloyd Brevett required financial support to complete enough tracks to make up an album. He found a backer in the Tropical Sound Tracs organisation, and sessions were booked at Herman Chin Loy’s state of the art Aquarius studios at Half Way Tree.
At Aquarius, the roll call of musicians was expanded to include Roland Alphonso, Lester Sterling and trumpeter Johnny Moore. Ernest Ranglin sat in on guitar in place of Chinna Smith and Leroy “Horsemouth” Wallace replaced Benbow on drums. Some of these musicians were still living locally, while others were passing through town and were happy to be part of the project. There was no need for rehearsal. Musicians of this calibre, who had been playing alongside each other for many years, were used to recording quickly and without fuss. Although Brevett suggests that the instrumental tracks were mixed down by Herman Chin Loy, Clive Hunt insists that the mixing at Aquarius was shared between himself and Karl Pitterson.
A further single was to result from these sessions: “Jumbo Malt” / “747 Dub” was released on Tropical Records (1976), this time credited to “The Original Skatalites”. The Legendary Skatalites album appeared on Jam Sounds in 1975 and was later given a much wider release by United Artists as African Roots. In 1976, a dub set mixed by King Tubby, Herb Dub-Collie Dub, appeared on Jigsaw in very limited numbers. The label rather confusingly (and, we believe, wrongly) stated “Recorded at Harry J’s”, although Brevett insists that no recording took place there. Twenty four years on, Motion Records came up with Heroes Of Reggae In Dub, a set of alternate mixes and tracks previously released only on 7” singles.
To many people, the dubs that resulted from the Legendary Skatalites sessions have created a lasting testament, not just to some of Jamaica's finest musicians, but especially to the talents of the island's premier mixer, the legendary King Tubby. For your listening pleasure, we present the best from the sessions, celebrating the first experimental reformation of the Skatalites.
Oldie but goldie. 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.
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, mixed and blended by Lee Perry and King Tubby. Nowadays dub is digital business, but listen to the blaring horns, slapping bass and nyabinghi drums of these recordings and hear how it should be done. Pure, organic and fresh from the roots.
Straight No Chaser
The Skatalites occupy a nearly mythical place in Jamaica's promiscuous musical history. The Mark 2 version of the band (i.e. no Jackie Mittoo or very deceased Don Drummond) was put through the blender by the new sonic school of Lee Perry and King Tubby. These little heard items go against the usual dark, edgy dub grain, the tone almost blissfully mellow. Serious scholars of 70's reggae will have no complains.
The Skatalites were top-flight musicians, and here they worked with the young lions of a new decade, notably Lee Perry and King Tubby. Motion's Heroes Of Reggae In Dub was a taster for the full meal - [Legendary Skatalites] is a superb album that works regardless of the genre. It's truly quality music that should be up there in the album-of-the-year stakes. Expansive sleevenotes with top artwork adds the final touch. It's the sort of album that will appeal to anyone and, once bought, it will never stray far from your CD player.
Specific mention must be made of the exceptional playing from the great Ernest Ranglin on guitar, though the whole ensemble is free, fluid and totally jazzed-up. Tubby must have loved doing this one!
CD FAST CD009:
* These rhythms recorded at The Black Ark, the rest at Aquarius
Vinyl FAST LP009:
1. Middle East Dub 2. Fugitive Dub 3. Seven Seal 4. African Roots Dub 5. Candlelight Dub* 6. Rock Bottom Dub 7. Middle East 8. Fugitive 9. African Roots Version 10. Starlight (featuring Tony Brevett)
All rhythms recorded at The Black Ark except * Aquarius
STARLIGHT 10” EP
2. Herb Man Dub (Fugitive Dub)
1. Sealing Dub
2. Starlight Version
All Black Ark recordings