The Dynamites / King Tubby

Sound System International

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Those with a casual interest in dub may find that this recently discovered album sounds a bit raw -- but for aficionados of the genre, it's a treasure trove. It finds a young King Tubby (who would later become dub's most famous and celebrated practitioner) flexing his chops and experimenting with techniques that he would later hone to a razor sharpness: the wholesale dropouts with throbbing echo that are in full effect on "Joe"; tastefully selected scraps of vocals that float all over the place on "Kingston Dub Town" (a brilliant and strangely tender dub version of the Lord Creator hit "Kingston Town"); the reductions of backing tracks down to a dry and spare minimum, only to suddenly flower into echo-drenched blooms of sound -- all of these are techniques that Tubby either pioneered or perfected, and it's fascinating to hear them being applied to these late rocksteady and early reggae classics before he was fully in control of them. The appearances by DJ King Stitt are typical of his mid-'70s work (which is to say pretty good, but not great), but on those tracks you can hear Tubby holding back his wilder impulses in order to avoid upstaging the vocalist; where he cuts loose, the results are both rawer and more powerful. This album is ultimately something like a reggae textbook, one that will send the eager student looking for more advanced material.

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