Dub

Contacting me via Twitter @quante_jubila

Please note that I have disabled the “contact” option at this site because of problems with the linked email, basically I haven’t received anything that might have been sent over the past few weeks or so. The best way to reach me is via Twitter @quante_jubila. I encourage you to get in touch with your comments on my work, or any feedback at all. I always appreciate it.

That said, I’m cutting back my Twitter presence, for want of a better word, as I focus on writing the long-planned book on Paris/France and also trying to maintain a more steady flow of content on this site. Writing this work, which started as something very quiet and personal has opened up so many opportunities for me, improved my life in all senses, while helping me feel part of a community of kindred spirits. But now it’s time to write that book that has been gestating so long in my mind.

I’d like to again thank people who have been in touch with comments here, as well as all those who have supported me and my work over the last few years. All of you have helped me continue and I’m grateful for that. Paix

“Hop Special (Whiter Shade of Pale),” Roland Alphonso prod. Derrick Morgan, 7” (Pyramid, 1968) w/Alton Ellis, Pat Kelly & Lynn Taitt & The Jets plus more

“Roland’s flavor was one of the first tastes of the nation’s emerging musical identity. His saxophone sounds shaped Jamaican music at its “Boogie Shuffle” inception and into Ska, Rock Steady and Reggae.”

Brian Keyo, “Rolando Alphonso, 1931-1998 - A Remembrance of The Chief Musician, SoulVendors.com, 2003(?)

Embedded in this version of Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale” by the artist dubbed “The Chief Musician” of Jamaica, Roland Alphonso is the alchemy that so often defines essential recordings in any genre: the fusion of the individual artist’s spirit, with history, the expression of a clear voice that is enhanced by echoes of the past.

This performance, or interpretation remains open, expressing vulnerability where contrasts can co-exist. There is something both melancholy and stirring about this music, from the very opening moments, in its purposefully naive interpretation of the extremely famous song. My use of the word “naive” is not a criticism, but quite the reverse, as I have never liked the Procol Harum original – here is a video of a 1968 live performance - that was a massive hit (winning a Grammy, reaching first place on the UK charts, selling more than 10 million copies worldwide), but I love the Roland Alphonso version and some other reggae takes, also included here.

Some have said that the Procol Harum song is the most popular/best/greatest British song of all time, sharing the honour with Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody: two songs notable for their inclusion of the word “fandango” in their lyrics. The original may, or may not borrow from the second movement of Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D Major, one of the group’s song-writers, Allan Moore has said that there is “a certain family resemblance” that “creates the sense of [Bach’s] music but no direct quotation. (The music also borrows ideas from "When a Man Loves a Woman" by Percy Sledge, apparently).

Here is a truly beautiful performance of the Bach piece by the Mito Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Seiji Ozawa from 1990. I realise that the video might be a bit distracting, to get a sense of the wonder of the performance it might be best to listen to the music without it. Notice how the musicians allow the music to stay still at certain moments, allowing the music to rest before returning to the fold.

Linton Kwesi Johnson, "Street 66" (Bass Culture, Island Records, 1980)

The room was dark
Dusk howling softly 6 o'clock
Charcoal light
The fine sight
Was moving black
The sound was music mellow steady flow
And man son mind just mystic red, green, red, green
Your scene

No man would dance but leap and shake
That shock through feeling right
Shape that sound
Tumbling down
Making movement, ruff enuff
Cos when the music met I taps
I felt the sting, knew the shock, yeah, had to do and ride the rock
Outta dis rock shall come a greener riddim
Even more dread than what the breeze of glory bred
Vibrating violence is how wi move
Rocking with green rhythm
The drought and dry root out

The mighty poet I Roy was on the wire
Weston did a skank and each man laugh and feeling irie, dread I
Street 66, the said man said
Any policeman come here will get some righteous, raasclot licks
Yeah mon, whole heapa licks

Hours beat, the scene moving right
When all on a sudden
Bam, bam, bam, a knocking pon the door
"Who is dat?", aksed Weston, feeling right
"Open up, it's the police, come on, open up"
"What address do you want?"
"Number 66, come on, open up"
Weston, feeling high, replied, "Yes, this is Street 66, step right in and
Take some licks."

Versions: “Never let go”/”Forever and Always” Carlton and the Shoes, prod. Coxsone Dodd (Studio One, 7” 1968?) live performance & more

You are just my … cup of tea/You are everything to me ...


Surely one of the greatest dub reggae love songs, or love songs of any genre; each time I hear the way Carlton Manning sings his vocal part, enclosed by the supporting harmonies that creates a kind of claustrophobic intensity, it kills me, just a little bit.

Lyrically, musically in terms of its overall tone, its production vision, few songs come close. Certainly there are other reggae vocalists who have comparable talent as singers, but this song - largely thanks to the Coxsone Dodd production sound (listen to the unexpected hidden-away drums that only appear sometimes, after introducing the song so confidently) has an otherworldly mood all of its own.

There are so many elements to highlight: to take one the pause after “my” for no apparent reason other than to draw attention to the “cup of tea” in the sweet couplet: You are just my … cup of tea/You are everything to me ...

Released by Studio 1 as the AA-side (not B-side) of his hit, “Love Me Forever,” one of reggae’s foundational songs -

(the info linked to the Soul Jazz reissue from 2017 supplies a different release date) produced by Coxsone Dodd (Carlton Manning says that Dodd underpaid artists - he was also given £ 5 by Lee “Scratch” Perry in another context - see the interview below, causing him to move on).

On YouTube there are two versions of the song with this title that sound dramatically different; here is the second. I’m not sure if the difference in sound relates to different versions/recording sessions, or the way they’ve been uploaded online. The track’s muffled quality disappears in the second, which is a shame as this submerged quality is what distinguishes it and makes it so affecting.

Countless capital-R romantic Lovers rock songs, deep on melody were recorded in Jamaica in the 1960s on, but usually the tone of the songs is clear with the vocals the dominant element, just like a pop song. The tone shifting between upbeat, mournful or threatening (warning the departed lover how much she’ll miss him now she has left him) - think about the catalogue of Ken Boothe or Honey Boy.

In contrast, this song has such a dense sound with that over-exaggerated bassline taking prominence over the guitars, drums and pulsing with such an intensity. Basslines in dub are often key – exposed and allowed to be the sole element – but the way this song is recorded/mixed makes it sound as if the bass is distorted, it’s so prominent, relentless and constant. The contrast between it and the sweet vocals is really something.

Similarly, the track’s intensity comes from not only the bringing the vocals right at the top and the way they are recorded: Carlton Manning sings the beginning of each line alone, to be joined for the latter part by the other vocalists. This is strikingly different from many/most reggae songs, which depend on a call & response dynamic between the vocalists, where the singer is “met” by another voice, and often one of a contrasting character for contrast, effect and frequently humour. (This use of contrast between voices and parts continues on in hip-hop, of course).

To stay with the way the vocals come in so early, just before 15 seconds: this is the signature of other famous dub/reggae songs say The Congos’ “Fisherman” from Heart of the Congos, released in 1977 on Blood & Fire Records:

But here the singer/backing vocalists interaction is maintained, so it’s not exactly the same as “Never let go” and is generally more conventional despite the beginning (and extraordinary sound). Listening to the Carlton & The Shoes song it’s almost as if Dodd is not only recording it, but imagining this song with vocals as if it were an instrumental, with no space between the two principal elements as is normally the case, i.e. no separation between the vocals and the music. This strikes me as innovative, forward-thinking.

Other groups - recordings from the same year, see this cover by The Gaylads/Soul Vendors of “Sound of Silence” also on Studio 1 and produced by Dodd- follows a more familiar pop song structure, allowing the song to build first:

The performance here is wonderful and has that submerged-production, which might be the defining quality of Coxsone’s work at this time, but sounds old-fashioned compared to the Carlton & The Shoes song. To get a sense of how Coxsone Dodd’s production style is so distinctive, check out this much cleaner cover by Roland Alphonso.

I like the muted vocals in this version of the song, the way Carlton Manning sounds distracted and preocuppied and the dub.

The extended version above is credited as having the Family as producer, the overall feel is less intense, more sweetly melodic than the one by Coxsone Dodd with the emphasis on on the horns solo - it more predictable and pretty, but still nice, the very simple dub especially.

In a 2016 interview with Angus Taylor for unitedreggae.com Manning shared stories about Dennis Brown, their trip to London that Brown organised where Manning had to keep returning to the airport to get visa extensions so he could remain in the U.K. and how his group got its name.

How did your original name Carlton and the Shades become Carlton and the Shoes?

Let me see. I have a problem with shoes. I have a disease when it comes to shoes. The most expensive things, raiments I wear, are my shoes. I will pay any amount of money for a good pair of shoes if I like it. I’m going to tell you something – Clarks Shoes are the most comfortable shoes you will ever find. You look at the bottom of that there and you see “Wallabee Clarks” right there. I love Clarks. I like to be comfortable. When I was in the studios working, every time the song is finished and everybody has gone to the console room, I get my guitar case and get my duster and I am dusting off my shoes. I like to see them nice and shiny.

That’s what Coxsone noticed. I told him Carlton and the Shades. Well, at that time there was a singing group named the Shades. To be truthful I wasn’t penetrating that. But because of that fussiness about the shoes Coxsone put “Carlton and his Shoes!” I was mad about it for a while but it caused one thing where everybody wanted to know who was Carlton and the Shoes. I just resigned to it. Everybody was calling me Mr Shoes, Daddy Shoe, Uncle Shoe, Fada Shoe. That’s what they called me since then. I kind of got used to it.

Anywhere you go on Mountain View Avenue ask “Where Shoe live?” Just say “Shoe” and they’ll tell you “Jus down the round there”. If you say “Shoe” you’re going to find me. A lot of people might not know who you’re talking about if you ask for Carlton Manning but if you say “Carlton Shoe”? Everybody knows where Shoe is!

Madlib: an essay on his dub mixes, Blunted in the Bomb Shelter, Chalice All-Stars, dub and hip-hop

(First published at Passion of the Weiss, 26th June, 2018)


When asked what he had learnt from J Dilla in a 2013 interview with France Inter, Madlib replied, “Stay loose. Keep it raw.” Then he said something indecipherable about drums. At a later Red Bull Music Academy event, Madlib described the value of keeping “some human mistakes in (his music),” before adding, “If it’s too perfect, I don’t want anything to do with it. If it’s too clean (…) or too polished, I don’t like it. That’s just me.”

Throughout Madlib’s three-decade career as composer, crate digger, DJ, producer, and MC, there’s always been a tense duality between messy and clean. The way the “Shame” beat on Piñata—his collaborative LP with Freddie Gibbs— is a pristine, perfectly balanced soul-based instrumental (albeit with an unexpected water effect), while “Real” is splintered with dissonant sounds is a perfect example.

Madlib projects also oscillate between polarities: his jazz-inflected work is orderly, respectful to their sources, while the Beat Konducta releases celebrate the unhinged, enacting an unruly musical eclecticism. It’s not surprising then that his dub/reggae mixes, Blunted in the Bomb Shelter (2002) and Chalice All-Stars (2010), operate within a similar space. The second of the pair, Chalice All-Stars, is now being reissued by Rappcats on vinyl.

Musicians draw on their training during live performance while aiming to be fully in the moment. Producers likewise follow their intellect, not just their instincts when creating music (even if they prefer to emphasize the “feeling” when talking about their craft). Any intellectual aspect might be shaped by preferences and be unique to them, but beat-making requires a cool head to focus on the music’s minutiae. The more analytical side of production stems from hip-hop’s foundations in DJ culture; in particular, understanding how songs work together, which is necessary to create a coherent mix.

It’s not unusual for hip-hop producers to emphasize their DJ skills, possibly to align themselves with the genre’s reggae roots and DJs who birthed the art-form in 1970s New York. Madlib sees himself as a “DJ first, producer second, and MC last.” This seems weird at first, considering his status and reputation as a producer. Yet the issue here lies in the narrow idea of what it means to be a DJ. As these dub/reggae mixes show, DJ-ing is not just about bringing the party to the people, it’s also about how music is heard.

READ MORE

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‘Mr Majestic’ Calibre & High Contrast (12” Signature Records, 2004) plus Horace Andy ‘Money, money’/ ‘Money is the root of all evil’ (prod. Phil Pratt/Bunny 'Striker' Lee/Lloyd Barnes/Scientist)

No interviews to cut and paste, no artist comment connected to the release, dated 2004, but it’s no issue as this track stands by itself as something that is immediately accessible and still effective more than a decade on. Whether you like it for the song construction, the sharp horn sample taken from the Horace Andy/Bunny Lee classic track, or the simple lyrical concept:

“I man no like/A man who tried to cheat her.”

Interestingly, this striking vocal sample remains unidentified. Many of the online sources claim that the horn sample comes from Horace Andy/Phil Pratt Allstars' 1976 single, plus dub, ‘Money is the root of all evil’ released via Pressure Disk, produced by Phil Pratt, but as you’ll hear that isn’t correct 

The source of that distinctive horn sample is the Bunny ‘Striker’ Lee produced version from 1978 (some places say 1979):

Lee returned to the song with Don Carlos/John Wayne in 1983, changing the focus to include women into the sources of corruption (as one listener below the line joked the one ‘down vote is from a female capitalist’).

There are other, maybe even many other versions of this classic song, here is the very beautiful one from Horace Andy’s Dance Hall Style (Wackies, 1983), produced by Lloyd Barnes.  

I've already written about this album before, see below, and referred to Jo-Ann Greene's AllMusic review, but I'll quote from it again here:   

By modern standards, a six-song set barely qualifies as a single, never mind as a full-length album, but with each stellar song featured in its extended form, Dance Hall Style doesn’t merely pass muster as an album, but as a masterpiece. As with all the Wackies sets from this era, it’s the riddims and arrangements that inspire absolute awe, but as Horace Andy gives each of them his all, this album is as notable for his performances as for Lloyd Barnes’ sensational production and his studio band’s phenomenal musicianship. Incidentally, Andy himself provided bass, rhythm, and lead guitar on the album. Not all the songs, however, are new — two revisit a pair of the star’s earlier hits. Andy cut “Lonely Woman” for Derrick Harriott back in 1972, and for it, Barnes created a sizzling new riddim that bristles with militancy, while still echoing back to the days of early reggae, before flashing over into pure roots rockers in the tense dub section. “Money Money” was cut for Bunny Lee a few years later in rockers style, and so Barnes instead takes it immediately into deep dread territory, filling the atmosphere with absolute menace.

‘Mil Congojas Dub’ Bill Laswell (Havana Mood, APC, 1999)

Friendship, music, remembrance

He stands in front of the electric fire, switched on with a click, the flames flickering blue and gold, and lights another cigarette.

One of the many he’ll smoke tonight as he inundates me with quotations recited from memory (poetry, fiction, non-fiction) or interesting/surprising information read aloud from books, newspapers, political pamphlets, while he takes on the role of 'DJ-fascist' usually starting out with dub, jazz or obscure electronic avant-garde to (frequently) end the night, after a reasonable amount of alcohol has been consumed, with more sentimental choices linked to his origins: Klezmer and Robbie Burns poetry, or the less comprehensible (or acceptable) from my perspective, polka and/or Tiny Tim.

On my most recent visit to Melbourne, I ventured to recite a little anecdote and got it wrong. Correcting me on its source, it was from a film not a true story, he also expanded upon it (possibly even including the original lines) and with that, the talk continued to barrel along in its typical fashion, barely stopping for breath, as he shared his enthusiasm for cultural reference points that shaped his life and gave it meaning.

Listening to the dub versions on Bill Laswell’s magical Havana Mood last night, I thought of my friend. This man who first introduced me to dub in a rented, ground-floor flat with no heating where the sounds of traffic outside were a constant presence, and then over the years continued to encourage my (mad) love for the genre. I also remembered how he had once said that his interest was always in the cultural diaspora, always.

Dub and jazz, rather than music that solely manifests its 'African' origins, created and located in the ancestral sites; Klezmer rather than – what would it be? – Israeli folk songs, I’m unsure. Other genres, funk, soul/R&B, disco and hip-hop never came into the conversation.

There is a risk I’ll repeat myself here, as this is something I’ve already written on (following the death of New York MC, Prodigy, and in other pieces as well), but it is something I sincerely believe, the only thing that matters, and it matters more than knowledge and expertise, is curiosity and the openness to difference. The appreciation flowing from this is the simplest love that I know. In an era when both sides of the political divide seem to be calling for allegiances based on 'apparently' uncomplicated strains of racial identification, my interest forever lies with the art and music that is ‘impure’ (mixed/remixed), driven by an inexplicable desire of an artist to create from the debris that remains. 

The day before I left Melbourne my friend gave me a CD, Homage to Charles Parker by George Lewis, with Anthony Davis, Douglas Ewart and Richard Teitelbaum, released on the Italian label, Black Saint in 1979 that he had burnt for me. (The Chicago-based Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, AACM, was the most recent musical movement that he was insisting I learn more about, and appreciate). After ‘copyright breached August 2017’ he had written my name; following ‘in memoriam’ there was the name of my sister

***

This set contains a classic version of recordings of son and boleros with The Septeto Nacional, Raoul Plana and Tata Guinès; it is the ‘Straight Master’ recorded at the Egrem studio in Cuba. The second disc called ‘Rhum & Bass’ is as implied by its name an attempt at another treatment of this style of music: in Orange, New Jersey, we have attempted to produce a Cuban dub.
— Jean Touitou - Bill Laswell 01/1999

The 'Rhum & Bass' part of the album is the one that speaks to me; the version of 'Mil Congojas Dub' in particular, the way the trumpet returns - amid the softly ululating electronic sounds - is heroic. There is no other word to describe it. I haven't been able to locate this individual track online and the name of the singer is similarly missing, but you can listen to the albums here ('Mil Congojas Dub' is track 4, on CD 2). 

Ibrahim Ferrer released a cover of 'Mil Congojas' on his 2003 album, Buenos Hermanos. Here is a really moving cover of the song by José Antonio Méndez (1927-1989).

In praise of: “Aground/Aerial” Rhythm & Sound (Rhythm & Sound, 2012)

There’s something extremely attractive about the stripped-back, but highly insistent minimalism of this 2012 release from Berlin producers, Rhythm & Sound. As even though you’d expect the cool of the music to reduce the feeling, in fact, it does the opposite.

Allowing the elements to be exposed like this makes the music appear rich and redolent of meaning (full of heart), while demonstrating a deep knowledge of the essence of the dub genre, which is all about purity. It helps that I discovered this music via these kinds of super-simple videos as well, forever my preference.

Below the videos is a sweet and earnest request that appeals to me : “To be played on a suitably loud system, bass being of great importance.”

My favourite of the two is perhaps “Aground” mainly because of the way the music maintains a self-contained universe, rarely diverging from the centre; and I just really like that sound that reminds me of drops on rain on animal-skin, alongside all those incidental sounds that create the highly textured background.   

Rhythm & Sound don’t seem to have a big online presence, at least based on my fairly speedy research; here’s some info from Discogs on their releases, dating back to 1996.  

Wikipedia tells us:

Rhythm & Sound is a dub techno German record label, a sub-label of Basic Channel. It was founded in Berlin by the duo Moritz von Oswald and Mark Ernestus, also known as Basic Channel. The label released seven 12-inch singles and one CD compilation album between 1997 and 2002.

But how about this, in 1998 they re-issued, or released, Chosen Brothers / Rhythm & Sound - "Mango Walk / Mango Drive"? See my appreciation of this pretty obscure track from 1979 that I published in June last year. Birds of a feather, it seems … (Or once again some angel looking out for me).