Although I like to write about just about every type of music for this blog, every so often, I always like to write an article about dub reggae. Regular readers will have gathered by now, that it’s one of my favorite types of music. I’ve always love reggae, especially dub, for a long time.  Over the years, I’ve accumulated quite a collection of dub albums, many by the giants of dub including King Tubby, Lee “Scratch Perry, Joe Gibbs and Sly and Robbie. However, one of my favorites is Prince Jammy. He might not be as well known as the aforementioned producers, but during his career, he produced a huge number of important dub albums, and in the process, worked with some of the best, and most talented musicians in Jamaica. Perviously, I’ve written about his album Osbourne In Dub, but today, I’ve chosen to write about Uhuru In Dub, which was released in 1982. It’s one of my favorite Prince Jammy albums, and saw him work with among others, Augustus Pablo, Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespear. The album was recorded at Channel One Studios and King Tubby’s studios, and on the album, are ten slices of great dub music, which I’ll now tell you all about.

Uhuru In Dub opens with Eden Dub which opens with crisp drums and keyboards and a slow plodding bass, sitting at the bottom of the mix. Immediately, Prince Jammy decides to add some echo to the drums, and they reverberate. Vocal stabs interject, echoing briefly and occasionally during the track. Meanwhile, drums crash, as a guitar plays and a bass constantly plods along darkly. The sound is a mixture of melodic guitar, crisp, crashing, echoey drums and darkness provided by various powerful sound effects and the bass. Echo and delay are used to transform the sound, as the track meanders along, a multitude of effects emerging from mix. Overall, it’s an intriguing track, a mixture of darkness and light, with Prince Jammy subtly using the effects with some great reggae music emerging through your speakers.

Drums crack like a pistol as Mystic Mix begins. It’s quite a shock to your system. They’re then joined by an organ and brass section, who inject a bright, melodic sound. Before you can relax and enjoy it though, echo is used heavily, totally changing the sound. Here the bass is at the front of the mix, the playing sparse, repetitive and atmospheric. Behind it, vocals float in and out of the mix, drenched in echo. Drums play steadily and the brass section interject, playing one note repeatedly. Echo and delay are unleashed, changing the sound, but Prince Jammy doesn’t overdo things. Percussion and drums combine, effects used on them, while the bass and brass section are left alone, unaffected by effects. Together, it’s quite a contrast. With the addition of the occasional echoey, atmospheric, vocal floating in and out of the mix, Mystic Mix is a great track, full of subtleties and nuances, that gradually reveal themselves during nearly four minutes of magical dub reggae.

When His Imperial Majesty begins, it’s a very different sound to the preceding tracks. A flute, drums and keyboards play, giving the track a very different sound, almost like a track from a blaxploitation album. This is a dramatic sound, full of character, very different to what you’d expect on a dub album. It’s more what you’d expect on a soul or funk album. Then quickly, normal service is resumed. Drums and brass section enter, echo is used slightly. However, in the midst of the mix, a lovely melodic sound is trying to escape. Meanwhile, the combination of rhythm section and keyboards, takes over, producing another intriguing, melodic sound. Rhythms and melodies assert themselves, and Prince Jammy decides to unleash the effects. Echo and delay are his weapon of choice. The track meanders brightly along, with effects used sparingly, most of the time. By now a summery sounding track has evolved, and the flute returns, further lightening and brightening the sound, with echoey vocals appearing, then disappearing. Imperial Majesty is a dichotomy of a track, beginning with a combination of instruments you don’t expect to hear on a dub track. Although this didn’t last long, this contributed towards one of the best tracks on the album, one full of great rhythms and melodies, with a lovely light, bright, summery sound.

Percussion plays sharply at the start of Weeping Willow, accompanied by a brief snatch of dubby vocals. Thereafter, drums crack, echoing and reverberating, while bass and keyboards join the mix. Here, the sound is sharp, the bass throbs and pulsates, as the keyboard drops in and out the track, drums cracking sharply at the top of the mix. Effects are used more on this track, especially echo and delay. Cymbals crash, vocals join the track, then drop back out, leaving the bass as the only constant. The bass line is the highlight of the track, the playing quick and accurate. Behind it, the sound is unlike other tracks, it’s sounds very sharp, making you almost wince as the drums crack and cymbals crash. That doesn’t mean this is a bad track, quite the opposite. Instead, it’s just very different from the previous tracks, the sound a result of the use of effects and the production.

Drums roll, laden in echo, before a keyboard melodically plays at the start of Bad Girls Dub. When the drums reappear, they’re much sharper, with delay used on them. They’re accompanied by a bass and the keyboard, which quickly disappears. Those sharp drums and bass take over, and are at the forefront of the mix. Later, keyboards join back in and delay softens the drum’s sound. Like the previous track,  Robbie Shakespear’s bass playing is brilliant. Here, it’s quicker, just as intricate and takes centre-stage. His partner in the rhythm section is Sly Dunbar, whose drumming is slow and spacious, in contrast. Keyboards and occasional vocals fill out the sound, as the track flows along, echo and delay being used subtly. This track was much better than the previous track. It was much more melodic, didn’t have the same sharp sound and featured a great performance from the rhythm section. Prince Jammy, meanwhile used the effects subtly.

As Tonight Is the Night begins, drums and bass combine. Straight away, I notice a similarity to a Bob Marley track, but quickly, that similarity ends. Keyboards and rhythm section combine, with echo used quite heavily. All the while, the bass is right at the front of the mix, while the rest of the arrangement is given the dub treatment by Prince Jammy. Drums are sharp and echoey, vocals floaty as they enter and disappear, but mainly it’s just the rhythm section. Occasionally, a guitar joins in briefly, but mainly it’s a multitude of sound effects laden in echo and delay with the bass sitting proudly at the front of the mix, plodding along. Percussion and drums, make their presence felt reverberating from the effects. This is the first time on the album Prince Jammy has really unleashed his box of effects, and the result is brilliant, a true slice of the finest dub reggae.

Like Bad Girls Dub, it’s a drum roll and brass section that open Firehouse Special. Very quickly, echo makes its presence felt, causing the music to reverberate. Although the music starts brightly, it then becomes sharper, and the bass plays a more prominent part in the track. Briefly, and occasionally, stabs of vocals interject, quickly disappearing. The arrangement is quite full, a mixture of melodies and rhythms, with hooks supplied by the brass section. Drums sound sharp, the bass pounds and the brass section laden with echo interject, along with the guitar. It’s a track that’s a mixture of sounds, one minute it’s bright, the next sharp and jarring, with effects used throughout. Although Prince Jammy has produced another good track, much of the credit must go to the rhythm and brass sections who play brilliantly during the track.

After a quick burst of drums, an organ plays the lead on African Culture. Prince Jammy however, turns up the effects, and drenches the lovely melodic sound in delay. Drums crisp, crack and the bass is played quickly, repetitively as they too, are subjected to delay and echo. The effect is quite brilliant. At last, Prince Jammy has decided to unleash his box of tricks, with effects having been subtly used until now. Even the vocals are laden in echo, reverberating wildly. By now, the track is much more like you’d imagine a dub track to sound like. Although the use of effects is much heavier, this doesn’t stop a lovely, catch melody from emerging. However, it’s surrounded by really loud, cracking drums, which provide quite a radical contrast. At the end of the track, I can only say well done Prince Jammy, for producing an amazing four minutes of heavy dub music.

Crisis Dub begins with drums and harmonica, providing an unusual combination to start the track. After that, the bass combines with drums, and vocals flit in, and out of, the track. Mainly it’s the rhythm section with occasional interjections from vocals, percussion and a myriad of sound effects. Here, the effects are used sparingly, as if Prince Jammy has exhausted his quota on the last track. The harmonica returns, providing a contrast and welcome diversion from the sparseness of the track which meanders slowly along. It’s the quaking bass that’s at the front of the mix, with echoey drums behind it, as the track finishes. Although its mainly the rhythm section that dominates the track, the occasional addition of the harmonica and vocals, is sufficient to produce a great sounding track.

Uhuru In Dub closes with Sound Man Style, which crashes into life with drums cracking and a keyboard accompanying it, playing a melody that sounds straight from the dancehall. Quickly, delay is used, changing the sound drastically. Then the bass throbbing, enters it’s sound as equally powerful as the arrangement which features drums cracking and pounding, bathed in echo and delay. An organ joins in, only to be subjected to delay, as are vocals that make a quick appearance. Sometimes, the arrangement is spared the effects, and then, just as you’re enjoying the sound, crash, the effects kick in again. However, this being a dub album is what you want to hear. At the end, this excellent, much more “dubby” sounding track, seems a fitting way to end the album.

Although Prince Jammy may not be the best known dub reggae producer, he produced many great albums. Uhuru In Dub is one of my favorite Prince Jammy albums. On the album, he assembled some of the best musicians in Jamaica, including and recorded the album in two of the island’s best recording studios. It’s no wonder that the album turned out so well. Of the ten tracks on the album, there are no bad tracks. This isn’t one of the heaviest dub albums you’ll ever hear. Instead, Prince Jammy has used the effects subtly, never using them so much that he destroys the music or makes a track unlistenable. He seems to find a happy medium, and on some tracks, he uses the effects sparingly. Only on African Culture and Sound Man Style, does he let loose with the effects, producing a slightly heavier dub sound. Overall, Uhuru In Dub is a really good album, one that’s well worth adding to your album collection. If you’re someone who hasn’t heard dub reggae before, or haven’t heard Prince Jammy’s music before, this is a good album to start with. Whilst researching this article, I discovered that this album is now available as part of a four disc box set, entitled Evolution of Dub Volume Six Was Prince Jammy An Astronaut? This box set, and the other five box sets, would allow you quickly put together a collection of some great dub reggae by some of the biggest names in dub reggae at a reasonable price. Standout Tracks: Eden Dub, Bad Girls Dub, African Culture and Sound Man Style.


1 Comment

  1. gary thain

    This is indeed a well-above-average dub album. Thanks for the write-up.

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