This Pressure Sounds double-album from Yabby You brings together some little-known bass-heavy roots tunes/dubs together with selected alternative versions, rare dubplates, and tracks previously found only on vintage singles. It is a striking testament to roots and dub at their peak. The compilation revolves around Yabby You’s creative production collaboration with King Tubby, featuring some tracks only recently unearthed for first release here.  Personnel include Barrington Spence, through King Miguel and Smith and the Prophets, together with Aston Barrett and Robbie Shakespeare on bass and the great Tommy McCook on saxophone.

Things get under way with the R and B chants of ‘Valley of Joeasaphat’ from the Prophets, followed by its dub, then up looms the austere ‘Thanks and Praise’, an ‘exclusive dub plate mix’ from King Tubby. Side 1 is completed by ‘Don’t Touch I Dread’ from Barrington Spence, together with its dub: a seminal release of the period (those previously unacquainted with Yabby You will no doubt recognise it from the widely-disseminated I-Roy version). Side 2 consists solely of dub plates, with Tommy McCook’s opening ‘Fighting Dub’ featuring the kind of bass that was truly meant for vinyl within a mix that embodies classic roots/dub production of the era perhaps better than anything else here. The dub mixes continue, including an excellent ‘Deliver Dub’ credited to King Tubby and Yabby You, culminating in Don D Junior (Vin Gordon’s) striking and unique trombone excursion on ‘Milk River Rock’, one of the newly-discovered cuts on the album, and quite unlike anything else with its rhythm track mixed far away in the background. Side 3 opens with the little-recognised Prince Pampidoo’s ‘Dip Them Bedward’ in a deejay style, plus its dub, while ‘Dub Vengeance’ from King Tubby again offers a dubplate mix, this time percussion-led, and a great tuneful old school ‘Forward on the Track’ from King Miguel. The final side consists mainly of dubplates, with ‘Poor and Needy Dubwise’ a great stripped-down dub in the classic King Tubby style.

Actively recording from the 1970s to the early 90s, Yabby You (Vivian Jackson) died in 2010. This release is by far the best introduction to his deep roots style and it emphatically sums up his definitive late 70s take on spiritually-driven roots and dub.

Release December 2012; double-album vinyl on Pressure Sounds; also available on CD and DDL

With minimal sleeve notes or production details, along comes a brand new CD release of Marley dubs issued previously via download only. With eleven tracks including ‘Lively up Your Dub’, ‘Smile Jamaica Version’ and ‘Waiting in Vain Dub’ it’s an intriguing take on some of the classic songs of the Marley era.

Of course this is not the first opportunity to savour some key Marley tracks in a dub style: an early release of pre-Island tracks like ‘Bob Marley Original Dub’ provided raw instrumentals devoid of the vocal channel, more properly described as instrumental ‘versions’ rather than ‘dubs’, but their primitive power is still evident through a suitably cranked-up sound system. The 12” vinyls of Marley singles provided some excellent dub renditions, notably on ‘Buffalo Soldier’, a dub whose bass register reaches so low as to alert any seismic measuring equipment in the vicinity to register some imminent catastrophe: you can get a worthwhile 12” Buffalo dub on the later CDs of ‘Confrontation’ but sadly not the bass-led B side of the 12” single. And – seeing as how we’re getting a bit obsessive about this – on the second CD of the double-CD release of the zillion-selling ‘Legend’ there are some very decent alternative remixes, specifically the ‘extended version’ of ‘One Love/People Get Ready’, possibly the best place of all to start with all this Marley dub stuff.

So, if the release of ‘In Dub Vol 1’ is not the first such attempt, what is it? Well it’s the first album-length release of Marley dubs on a major label, and it does have an original approach to dub construction. This makes it interesting but also uneven. ‘Roots, Rock, Dub’ Kicks things off cleanly and keenly, skanking guitar, fragments of backing vocals preserved, yet it lacks urgency and sounds more like a rather languid backing track than an assertive dub. The same could be said of the ‘Jamming Version’ included here. ‘Is This Love Dub’ comes in much more strongly, and could conceivably have been sequenced to get the album under way more convincingly: lead vocals fading in and out, echo, repeat, with percussion hammering out the beat somewhere far away, a lot going on and a lot more interesting than the way the album began. ‘One Love/People Get Ready Dub’ is similarly impressive. ‘Forever Loving Jah Dub’ takes the lead role of the dub bass seriously, while ‘Lively Up Yourself’ retains more of the original vocal than some of the other tracks although tending to get too busy with studio effects and old-fashioned speaker-to-speaker twiddling than is strictly necessary. ‘Three Little Birds Dub’ sounds, engagingly, like something from the dawn of reggae, no doubt due to the classic-era instrumentation. ‘Crazy Baldhead Dub’ is darker and more interesting while ‘Waiting in Vain’ seems even bleaker than the original when stripped down like this. ‘She’s Gone Dub’ includes much of the original vocal before breaking off into great old-school version/dub style while the album concludes with ‘Smile Jamaica Version’ and its characteristically muddy production sound.

There is some credit due here for not simply releasing a routine ‘dub’ of Marley songs by just removing the vocals, fading a couple of instrumental tracks in and out, and adding a bit of echo and reverb here and there. By trying do more it inevitably succeeds a little more convincingly with some tracks than others.

Bob Marley and the Wailers In Dub Vol 1, CD release October 2012, Tuff Gong Records

American singer and songwriter Sahra Indio started her musical career in the Jahringa Reggae Band in 1993 in Hawaii, and since becoming a solo artist has been involved in several well-received releases. Thus we come to her third solo album ‘The Tru I’, from Olumeye Records and her new collaborators at Roots Lab Intl, drawing from songwriters in a number of different countries and involving several members of her extended family in the recording.

‘Big Fish’ invites us all to ‘wake up to conscious living’ with a strong soul-influenced melody, understated dubby rhythm track,  tight production and economical instrumentation. ‘Humanity’ is very much in the roots reggae mainstream while ‘Testify’ again adds a certain feeling of soul. ‘Right Fight’, with its simple rhythmic drum pattern, is effective precisely because of its simplicity. ‘Roger Dat’ is an acoustic reggae tune around injustice and drug laws with sparse guitar and drums, and, as throughout, very strong vocals. The same theme is picked up in ‘Pro Marijuana’. ‘DNA’ directly references its African roots in both the sound and the words, while ‘I’m Not the Only One’ gives us the luxury of an additional ‘I’m Not the Only Dub’, a very fine dub which, to be given a fully sympathetic hearing, demands volume and bass indeed. ‘At the Awa Bar’ is an acoustic song, light and effective.

With strong songs and smooth production, the album – especially the vocals – could have come from a soul or R&B release, and the album is all the more effective and powerful for that.

Produced and recorded by Doktor Lond in his ‘Doktor Lond Live Dub Mixing Studio’, here is a sharp set of rhythm tracks featuring Doktor Lond on keyboards, synths, drum programs and other percussion which is enhanced further by the decisive vocal contribution of Agarfa. Although entirely new, this material has the sense and feel of roots reggae. The album opens with ‘Steppin’ Up’, a slow synth-led roots song which, if you were to imagine it with a Marley-era guitar and bass arrangement would not have been out of place in the Lyceum. A similar comment can be made about ‘Rise Up’ with its faith-based lyrics on the vocal version, closely followed by its dub which very much adopts a vintage dub template in its overall sound and mix. The splendidly named ‘spiritual disco mix’ of ‘7 Days and 7 Nights’ comes in at over nine minutes of eastern-tinged instrumentation, with soulful vocals from Agarfa and a strong melodic thread running throughout, resolving itself midway through into a dub/version instrumental excursion around the basic rhythm – a strong track that marks this out as a serious album.

‘Move It Up’ is a faster paced roots song, followed again by a separate instrumental version which is more inventive than it seems at first, using the bass and percussive structure of the classic dub style, but adding a lot more contemporary electro/synth instrumentation over the top and ultimately leaning toward the dubstep end of reggae. ‘Messiah’ is another devotional roots track, again followed by its dub or what is termed here, accurately enough, its ‘percussive meditation dub mix’. The vocal and dub treatments of ‘Don’t Be a Victim’ are based on a persistent bass pattern and a percussion that invokes, if anything, latter-day drum-and-bass. The album closes as it began with ‘Steppin’ Up’, this time in a traditional dub version, but before that there is ‘Swane Koko’ in its curious ‘sugar my porridge disco mix’, an intriguing mixture of vocals, sweeping keyboard, synthesiser and dub, coming in at over ten minutes.

This all amounts to a collection that is clearly inspired by the roots reggae tradition but is delivered through a medium of electronically generated sound, with significant contemporary influences, prominent percussion, and, running throughout, the rich vocals of Agarfa. Quite a mix. Strangely enough, despite the digital programmed sound, the album manages to retain a live and immediate feel: it remains unpolished, in a good way.

Doktor Lond featuring Agarfa ‘Rise Up and Love’; release 7th September (Roots Lab Intl label, CD and download)

From the production duo that brought us the Anansi Riddim EP (see 25th July) this free download is the fourth release from Unit 137. ‘Vibe’ is a ‘ReDub’ of the original garage track previously issued on Black Butter records. This time round, featuring Zico on vocals, it’s a slow-burning dubbier reworking, resolving itself along the way into a melancholy reggae treatment of the rhythm, before fading out into its final instrumental conclusion. Released August 2012, you can look and listen here: