Oddball Reviews #3: ‘Pick a Dub’ by Keith Hudson (1974)

Ladies and gentlemen, may I direct your attention away from my dreary ramblings about National Health and propose the virtues of this fine album (yes, an album): in my wholly personal opinion, the best example of dub reggae I have ever heard, and definitely another one for my top albums list.

pick-a-dub

For those who are not familiar with the genre, dub reggae is basic, bass-heavy reggae with huge variations made by the producer. For those who are not aware of what reggae is…. oh, don’t bother.

The variations can involve instruments dropping in and out, echo, effects….. It’s hard to describe. The original dub tracks were done on analogue mixing desks, pushed to places they never thought they’d go. At its best (and this is dub at its best) the music seems to exist in another space: a vast sound stage where the instruments move in and out and transform.

This album was produced by Keith Hudson, with a small collection of musicians including himself, particularly featuring the Barrett brothers, whose drums and bass underpinned Bob Marley. The tracks are dub versions of his original productions (I think). He died of lung cancer at the age of 38.

Originally I bought it on vinyl, on a whim, many many years ago; it was then described as being by the “2nd Street Dubs”. My copy was, amazingly, stolen; the number one suspect was one of those people who somehow make you feel you are the most important person in the world when they are talking to you. (Actually I only know one other person like that.) Now I have it on CD. Inevitably it lacks the rawness of vinyl, but it’s still pretty **** good.

There are twelve tracks. The longest is only 3 minutes 17 seconds. It’s called ‘Part 1-2 Dubwise’ and is a deeper dub version of the track before. It’s an absolute killer, with the bass line to end all bass lines. It still comes into my head, unbidden, at intervals. I once tried to reproduce it, on an Oblique track called ’99 Bonk’. (That title comes from a description of reggae as being a centipede with a wooden leg.)

What more can I say? If you have never heard dub reggae (which heavily influenced dub techno, or whatever it should be called) I doubt if I will have convinced you. It’s a total original. If you do by any chance find it or search it out, play it on a proper system, not little headphones or a little box. Turn it up, close your eyes and get lost in the sound space it creates.

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