Dub Spencer & Trance Hill / Dub Spencer / Trance Hill / Umberto Echo

Too Big to Fail

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With song titles like "A Fistful of Dub," "Rasta Pasta," and "Smoke in Missouri," and its Western-themed cover art, the latest release from German reggae duo Dub Spencer and Trance Hill harks back explicitly to the early days of instrumental reggae, when Jamaican artists and producers were mildly obsessed with spaghetti Westerns and were taking stage names like Dillinger and Josey Wales and releasing albums with titles like Eastwood Rides Again. More importantly, though, the band harks back to that era with its sound, which is purely instrumental and strictly dubwise, drawing on all the tricks of echo, reverb, and delay that were coming into fashion during the roots reggae heyday of the early 1970s. This time out, those tricks are invoked by the band's co-conspirator, the great German dubmaster Umberto Echo (get it?), and he does a good job of polishing the edges of old-school techniques with the hard, clean finish of modern technology. Of course, for many reggae fans, the rough edges of '70s Jamaican technology are part of the fun, and those listeners may find Too Big to Fail a bit on the slick side -- and they may find some of these tracks a bit too long and discursive. But it's hard to argue with the powerful grooves of tunes like "Woodpecker" and "Dub App," or the charm of "Im Western Nichts Neues," with its plunky banjo theme and loping one-drop beat. This is expert instrumental reggae from one of Europe's best bands.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 4:33
2 3:37
3 5:30
4 3:22
5 6:19
6 7:52
7 2:29
8 3:21
9 4:44
10 4:50
11 4:53
12 4:10
13 4:18
14 6:37
blue highlight denotes track pick