Although I love all types of music, and have a record collection that spans all the musical genres, one type of music I have always loved is dub reggae. In a previous article, I wrote about one of the dub reggae’s pioneers and greatest King Tubby. The person this article is about, was also someone who was one of reggaes most prolific producers. He worked with some of the greatest reggae musicians, and is responsible for producing some of the best reggae music ever produced. He is Joe Gibbs, and the album is Joe Gibbs and Professionals album Majestic Dub.

Joe Gibbs was born Joel A. Gibson, in Montego Bay, Jamaica, in November 1942. Before becoming involved in the music industry, he worked as an electronics engineer in the US. When Gibbs returned home to Jamaica, he opened an electrical repair shop in Kingston. Primarily, he repaired and sold televisions. Eventually, he began to sell records in his shop. With the Jamaican music scene rapidly expanding, he decided to become more involved within the music industry. In 1967, he installed a two-track tape machine in the back of his shop, and started recording local artists. This lead Gibbs to work with Lee Perry, who was no longer working with Clement “Coxsone” Dodd. The following year, 1968, Gibbs assisted by Bunny Lee, launched the Amalgamated record label. One of the first successes, was Roy Shirley’s track, Hold Them, which was one of the first rocksteady releases.

Eventually, Lee Perry would split with Gibbs to launch his legendary Upsetter label. To replace Perry, Gibbs brought Winston “Niney” Holness, later to become Niney the Observer, to assist him with the Amalgamated label. This partnership proved successful, ensuring Gibbs’ releases were hits. Until 1970, Rocksteady was the popular sound in Jamaica. Among the artists Gibbs worked with, during the Rocksteady era, were Ken Parker and Errol Dunkley, and backing bands the Hippy Boys and Lynn Taitt and the Jets.

Even after Rocksteady’s popularity peaked, Gibbs continued producing Rocksteady singles for The Heptones and The Ethiopians. He would also have his first international success at this time. Nick Thomas’ single Love of the Common People, reached number nine in the UK charts. Gibbs released two compilations of Rocksteady singles entitled The Heptones and Friends, which sold well in Jamaica. This period saw Gibbs launched new labels Pressure Beat, Jogib and Shock.

Having outgrown his previous studio, Gibbs set up a new one at Retirement Crescent in 1972. This period saw Gibbs start working with Errol Thompson, who, previously been sound engineer at Randy’s Studio. The new partnership were known as the Mighty Two. Gibbs’ studio band were now The Professionals, which included Sly Dunbar on drums and Robbie Shakespear on bass, who later became Sly and Robbie. During the next few years, Gibbs would be one of the most prolific reggae producers, working with the great and good of reggae music. Amongst the artists Gibbs would produce are Black Uhuru and Big Youth. In total, Gibbs would produce over one-hundred number one hits in Jamaica.

1975 saw Gibbs renew his studio, installing a sixteen-track recording studio, and record pressing plant. Throughout the next few years, he would launch many new labels. Although he kept producing music, the style of music changed. He would produce lover’s rock, roots reggae and dub reggae releases, by Junior Byles, Gregory Issacs and Dennis Brown. One of the albums he produced in 1977 was the album by Culture, Two Sevens Clash. This album would have a huge influence on some of the punk artists, including The Clash. Even today, this album is still recognised as one of the finest reggae albums ever. During the remainder of the 1970s the Mighty Two remained just as prolific, producing a huge number of successful singles and albums. This includes the album that this article is about, Majestic Dub, which Joe Gibbs and The Professionals released in 1979. 

In 1980 Errol O’Meally was an aspiring songwriter, who was friendly with JC Lodge a young singer. The aspiring songwriter believed Lodge to be talented, along to Joe Gibbs to let him hear her sing, and hear his songs. He liked both songs, and singer, and asked Lodge to sing a cover of country and western song Someone Loves You, Honey, a Charlie Rich song. This was a huge hit, reaching number one in Jamaica, and earned Lodge both silver and gold discs in Holland. However, this was to prove disastrous for Gibbs. He failed to pay the songwriter royalties, and this bankrupted Gibbs and resulted in his studio being closed. In 1982 album also entitled Someone Loves You, was released byPrince Mohamed featuring his deejay style. 

Also in the early part of the 1980s Gibbs set up a record distribution outlet in the Florida. Gibbs and Thompson then began to produce a new style of music. This was dancehall style music. They went on to work with both unknown, and established stars, including Barrington Levy and Dennis Brown. These releases allowed the Mighty Duo to continue having chart success.

For almost ten years, the Mighty Duo did not work within the music industry. Instead they would spend almost ten years running Gibbs’ downtown Kingston grocery store. However, Gibbs’ son Carl “”Rocky” Gibbs became a music producer. As well as, producing his own music, he would rerelease many of Joe Gibbs’ biggest hits.

1993 saw the Retirement Studios reopen and the Mighty Duo would sometimes produce music with Sydney “Luddy” Crooks of The Pioneers. The music they produced became popular in Brazil, where Gibbs would spend more time. One of his final business ventures before his death, was when Gibbs joined with Chris Chin of VP Records and the pair went into business together. Sadly, Joe Gibbs died in February 2008, aged sixty-six.

Now that I have told you a little about Joe Gibbs life and work, I will now tell you about his 1979 album Majestic Dub. Majestic Dub is different to many dub albums, the sound is innovative, and sees the use the use of electronics, making the sound different, yet effective. There are nine tracks on the album, the first of which is Ten Commandments. This track is quite different from the majority of dub track. It begins with a synthesizer which is used throughout the track. The use of a synthesizer is effective, and makes the track sound much more moderne. Listen carefully, to the introduction, and the start of the track sounds not unlike early techno tracks. Gibbs has taken dub reggae, and given it a modern update. It works, works, but only in small quantities. If overused, the sound would be annoying, and grate after a while. Ten Commandments is a good track, and has a refreshing sound.

The title track Majestic Dub is next, and starts with resounding drum echoing loudly, and is joined by a rhythm that is a glorious slice of Jamaican reggae. Within the track, the rhythm section which includes Sly and Robbie produce a stunning performance, producing the basis for the track, which everyone else feeds off, and works around. Some of the drum sounds on this track, sound as if they have been played on an electric drum set. This is effective, although personally I prefer the traditional drum sound. Again, this could be seen as a way to modernize the dub reggae sound. However, I very much believe the maxim “if it’s not broken don’t fix it.’  One thing that I really like on Majestic Dub, is the was various sounds float in, and out of the soundscape, especially the vocal.

Social Justice continues the moderne sound on the album. Everything is as you would expect but there appears to be a synthesizer lurking just behind the drums. It is used sparingly, and does not spoil the sound, quite the opposite, it adds a new dimension to the track. This is easily the best track on the album so far. The sound is big and bold, and has so many layers of sounds, that they fight for your attention.  A great track, produced by the mighty duo, with help of some fantastic musicians. 

Kings of Dub is glorious track which, to me, has a Bob Marley influence to it. This track has a much lighter feel to many dub reggae tracks. As the album heads towards this track, prepare to experience an aural treat, and hear some fantastic, tight, rhythms. Gibbs has not overdone the use off effects, they add to, and highlight the track’s quality. Whereas Social Justice featured many layers of music, this track flows, constantly keeping the rhythm tight and sweet. This track, shows that dub reggae is a genre that encompasses a wide variety of different sounds and styles.

The beginning of Edward the Eighth sounds like a cross between music from science fiction or horror b-movie. Saying that, the sound is intriguing, you wonder what will happen next. What happens is the track opens out to a fantastic dub reggae track. The sound is much more traditional, and features a great rhythm section, and vocals and keyboards that also play a huge contributory part in making Edward the Eighth a superb track.

International Treaty sees the quality continue. If anything, this track is even better. It features a really tight band playing at the top of their game. The track is more a straightforward reggae track, with just a bit of echo added. It is such a great track it seems a shame to overuse the effects. What Gibbs has done, is just added the tiniest bit of echo, in parts of the track that it does not spoil the flow of this great track. 

The next track, Martial Law, sees much more in the way of effects used. Here, this breaks up the flow of the rhythms, but in doing so, highlights their beauty. Throughout the track, this memorable, melodic, rhythm is repeated, and even by the end of the track, you want to hear more, you want the track to last longer, the rhythm to be developed. However, one has to be content with nearly three minutes of musical magic. Definitely a track you will want to hear time and time, again.

Nations of Dub begins with a spoken word intro, then what you hear is another tight rhythm track which is interrupted by a multitude of sounds and effects. Listen carefully, and you will hears sirens, windows smashing, vocal samples and effects. All of these assail your senses, you concentrate on one sound, it disappears, to be replaced by another, and this continues, throughout the track. It is a great dub track, with a much more traditional sound than some on this album.

Embargo is the final track on Majestic Dub. It starts with a vocal which has lots of delay and echo on it. Delay and echo is used throughout the track. It is almost used like musical punctuation, highlighting and breaking up sounds. Here the track is quicker, at times, the sound is fuller. Again, the sound is much more orthodox, more what many people expect a dub reggae track to sound like. This was another fantastic track, and a good one to close a fantastic album.

Should you not have heard Joe Gibbs’ music, this is a good place to start. It will let you hear nine great slices of dub reggae. Another great thing about the album is the musicians that play on it. Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespear and Tommy McCook are among the musicians that play on Majestic Dub. These are some of the finest reggae musicians ever, and they perform brilliantly throughout this album. Throughout this album, there is not a weak track, and every one features the trademark Joe Gibbs’ production. If you are new to Joe Gibbs and having read this article, want to buy this album, I have good news for you. This album can be found in the Evolution of Dub Volume 4 Natural Selection four disc box set. As well as Majestic Dub, by Joe Gibbs and The Professionals, you will find African Dub Chapter 5 and State of Emergency. The other album is Syncopation by Sly and Robbie. Every one of these albums are well worth listening, and this is a good way for a newcomer to dub reggae to build a collection of albums. I hope that this article will not only inspire you to buy Majestic Dub, but also explore dub reggae, a wonderful musical genre, with numerous fantastic albums and tracks to discover. Standout Tracks: Kings of Dub, Edward the Eighth, International Treaty and Martial Law.


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