King Tubbys Meets Rockers Uptown


Dub is hard to collect and love because it resists being known. Take this album—most of the original tracks were recorded in 1974 with bassist Robbie Shakespeare (RIP) and two of the Wailers (Aston and Carlton Barrett) for a session that producer Augustus Pablo cut with singer Jacob Miller. The resulting songs were sprinkled over various singles. I know this only because I took the time to dig up these facts, which I still can’t assert as 100% solid. The historical record of dub has an especially weird kind of instability because dub makes you listen closely to exactly the people you often cannot name—the rhythm section and everything underneath the singer of name, who is absent most of the time anyway. Most original Jamaican dub records are built from rhythms that were recorded once and then re-used by different producers dozens of times, and the paper trail is still shaky on what comes from where. It’s a genre defined by mystery. 

This album is King Tubby dubbing out Pablo’s productions, with Pablo playing some new melodica parts in some cases, though not all. It’s become legendary because it’s short and never misses. The title track is a perfect single track entry into dub. Tubby takes Jacob Miller singing “Baby I love you so” and chops it down to “baby I,” leaving the verbs to the listener. Tubby’s echo turns Barrett’s drums into a beat moving in both four and three: a figure can enter the delay unit in 4/4 and then be returned to the desk in triplets, or any time signature. Aside from all of this, Shakespeare’s bass is left to drive through the middle like a garbage truck keeping an eye on everyone. It’s that kind of bassline.

Sasha Frere-Jones

The Harder They Come cover

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