Dub is a subgenre of reggae music that first began to develop in the late 1960s, when thrifty producers realized that they could save money on royalties by simply putting the instrumental version of a song (actually, the exact same recording, except with the vocal track stripped out) on the B-side of its single release. At about the same time, they discovered that by messing around with the song's mix -- dropping instruments and voices in and out and embellishing the sound with splashy echo and delay -- they could elicit powerful reactions among the patrons of outdoor "sound system" dances. Dub soon became an art form all its own, and (like reggae in general) it came to full maturity in the early- to mid-'70s. Dub has had a deep and powerful influence on modern dance music; today's remix culture is a direct consequence of dub, and hip-hop itself has its roots in the Jamaican practice of "toasting," which featured a prototypical rapper improvising rhymes over instrumental dub tracks. If you wanted to put together a good overview of dub's classical period and could only draw upon the catalog of a single label, then you'd want to do exactly what the Rough Guide compilers have done here: raid the vaults of Blood & Fire, the world's preeminent reggae reissue label. Choose well, and you'll end up with a broadly inclusive and tastefully programmed selection of gems by King Tubby (the undisputed master of the genre), Lee "Scratch" Perry (another, albeit more idiosyncratic master), Prince Jammy, Keith Hudson and others. The problem, however, is that you'll miss out on similarly essential material from other labels, and will therefore end up with little or nothing from such other important dub exponents as Augustus Pablo and Scientist. Track by track, though, there's simply no arguing with the consistent quality of this collection, and the liner notes offer a good overview of the period as well. Recommended.
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AllMusic Review by Rick Anderson