Having embarked on my dub journey I was drawn very much to 1970’s/early 80’s dub and was keen to seek out albums and compilations from this period, so much of this great music was difficult to buy back in the day (due to extremely limited pressings) and years later more and more of it has been reissued for both the vinyl and CD buying market.
Dub reissues over the years have sometimes been controversial and it’s often difficult to ascertain the legit from the fake, a supposedly rare and previously unreleased King Tubby session from the late 70’s may actually turn out to the work of someone else whilst for those who buy their dub on CD (yes I am one such person) the unavailability of source tapes often results in cds being mastered from vinyl which can lead to pops and crackles, in some cases it’s less of an issue than others.
As with other genres of music I listen to I quite often begin to focus around certain record labels and for dub this is most definitely the case, labels I feel can be trusted when it comes to reissuing great dub that’s a) not been tampered with and b) is packaged and available at a fair price, these are several such labels.
Blood and Fire Records
Mick Hucknall doesn’t have many redeeming features but it must be said he’s a man with a huge passion for Dub, back in the 1990’s he helped to found Blood and Fire Records (with the legendary Steve Barrow) a Manchester based label which specialised in the reissuing of mostly Dub and Roots Reggae, I’ve bought some absolute gems on the Blood and Fire imprint including Keith Hudson’s “Pick A Dub”, Yabby U’s “Prophesy Of Dub”, Horace Andy’s “In The Light/In The Light Dub”, Glen Brown and King Tubby’s “Termination Dub” amongst others, these reissues were packaged well (with often detailed sleeve notes) were mastered properly (without fiddling with the dynamics of the original dubs) and were reasonably priced. Blood and Fire folded as a label in 2007 however it’s just been announced that the label is being relaunched later this year. In the meantime if you see second hand copies of albums pressed on this label buy with confidence.
Adrian Sherwood has many redeeming features and is also a man with a huge passion for dub he founded Pressure Sounds in the mid 90s with Pete Holdsworth (who he’d worked with as part of the On U Sound System). Like B&F Pressure Sounds focus on reissuing quality roots and dub reggae, nicely packaged, great mastering, some insanely rare (but a) legit and b) great) dub has been made available again, I’ve added such gems as Dennis Bovell’s “Decibel” compilation, Joe Gibbs “No Bones For The Dogs”, The Royals “Dubbing With The Royals” and more recently a great trilogy of Lee Scratch Perry reissues (Both volumes of Sound System Scratch as well as Roaring Lion) a lot of their releases are mid price and freely available, a great label still going strong.
One of the heavyweights, VP Records are the largest independent distributor of Caribbean music in the world, they’ve recently bought up the legendary Greensleeves Records back catalogue and are reissuing more and more classic roots and dub, for a CD buying heathen like me their recent “Evolution of Dub” series is a blessing, these are 4 CD Boxsets for under £20 that contain great mastered versions of many rare 70’s and 80’s dubs, Volume 7 includes such classics as Prince Jammy’s “Kamikazi Dub” and “Black Uhuru In Dub”, Volume 8 includes “King Tubby Surrounded By The Dreads At The National Arena” and Winston’s Edwards “Natty Locks Dub” more recently they’ve unearthed a complete set of dubs for Fred Locks classic late 70’s album “Black Star Liner” (released as Black Star Liner In Dub).
Speaking of heavyweights probably the most recognisable reggae reissue label in the world, it’s sometimes a bit bewildering just how many albums and CD’s Trojan have reissued over the years and some of their back catalogue is better than others, again not a dub specialist label however they’ve released some great dub compilations over the years (the Trojan Dub Box Set Volumes 1 and 2, Foundation Dub and a few years back the fantastic budget priced “Trojan Presents…. Dub” 2 CD set).
Sadly this label folded a few years ago, Motion was another UK based independent that specialised in reissuing rare roots and dubs, I recently bought Niney The Observers “Sledgehammer Dub In The Streets of Jamaica” and The Skatalites “The Legendary Skatalites In Dub” both great mid-late 70’s sets of dubs, nicely packaged, mastered well and mid price, real shame Motion aren’t around anymore.
That’s not an exhaustive list (for example the Greensleeves back catalogue has some real gems on it (although second hand copies of the likes of Scientist’s “Heavyweight Dub Champion” are now changing hands online for upwards of £50).
There’s a lot of dub out there to be explored and a myriad of labels, when I’m in doubt I tend to research the labels before buying and where possible try and find out how legitimate the recordings are, there are some great blogs and online forums out there where you can find a lot out (esp the Blood and Fire and the Roots Archives Forums) plus such online retailers as the Dub Vendor who always stock quality dub.