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A Sprinkling of Dub

Today the ARChive got a package from Sanctuary Records that included some really amazing albums.  In the glamorous world of ARChiving, what happens normally is that material shows up, it gets cataloged and it gets put away.  Now and again, we pull things aside we want to hear and since I opened the box, THIS one went directly into the CD player before any of the others:

WOW is this record good.  It was good when it came out in 1975, and this reissue does NOTHING to hurt its reputation or sound.  If’n you like the dub music, then this is a must MUST have.  Featuring Tommy McCook and King Tubby, better dub you would be hard pressed to find.

In addition to some awesome music, the liner notes are by David Katz, an author whose writing I am always a fan of.  His work is just so filled with tid bits of great information.  For example, he wrote: “In 1954, Tommy travelled with guitarist Ernest Ranglin and other Jamaican musicians to Nassau, capital city of the Bahamas island chain, for an extended engagement at a club called Zanzibar.  When the Zanzibar gig ended the following year, Tommy drifted through various dance bands active on the tourist circuit, where he was frustrated by the emphbasis on calypso and rumba; no one, it seemed, was there to hear jazz, which was all that McCook was motivated to play.”

I think Katz is right – no one was there to hear jazz (I mean, wasn’t that one of the reasons Joe Harriott left Jamaica for England in the early 1950s?).  But I would argue that another factor that gave rise to McCook’s problems in the Bahamas was that the Jamaican musicians working there in the period Katz describes were not members of the Bahamas Musicians Union.  In the mid-1950s, Bahamian musicians become vocal about their belief that the Jamaican musicians working in tourism – of which there were many – were taking away jobs. (How many sax players were there who could compete with Tommy McCook?)  In 1955, around the time McCook’s engagement at Zanzibar “ended,” the Bahamian Musicians Union clamped down on Jamaican musicians working in clubs like Zanzibar.  In fact, period newspaper coverage specifically lists McCook as one of several “offending” musicians.  Shortly after the fracas, many musicians (including McCook) returned to Jamaica where, as Katz so accurately put it, they “drifted” through the tourist circuit – playing calypso, rumba and the occasional mento on bandstands for tourists.  The rest, as they say, is history.  If McCook had been allowed to stay in Bahamas, we might not have had a Skatalites.  Or the Dub Station album.

By the way, those looking for a great book on dub music need look no further than Michael Veal’s Dub: Soundscapes and Shattered Songs in Jamaican Reggae.

It’s a fabulous book that’s just come out on the subject and one that any dub mixer should read.  (By the way, party people, Dub is a Weapon – fresh from a tour backing Lee Perry – is having their album release party this Saturday [June 30] at Zebulon, 258 Wythe in Williamsburg.  Go.  Enjoy.  It’ll be awesome.)



  1. dubman

    Wow – that’s a great review and a great history lesson. I’ll definitely be checking out the album.

  2. arcmusic

    Thanks for the good word! I’ll be putting stuff like this up from time to time, so keep an eye open.