World of echo
A 4-CD box of seven instrumental masterpieces from reggae’s ‘Mighty Two’.
Joe Gibbs & The Professionals ★★★★★ The 1970s Dub Albums Collection CHERRY RED. CD
LLOYD BRADLEY’s definitive reggae chronicle, Bass Culture, vividly describes the impact of Joe Gibbs & The Professionals’ African Dub All-Mighty Chapter
3 on its release in 1977. This abstract and mesmerising long-player became a sine qua non for London punk’s inner circle, and still ranks amongst the best dub albums of all time. Bradley rightly marvels at how its creators “completely rebalance [a] tune four or five times in the space of a minute,” likening its alchemy to the local ‘obeah’, a spellcasting ceremony.
Almost 50 years later, we accept digital manipulation of music as standard, and it’s easy to forget dub’s revolutionary genius. While names like Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, King Tubby and Bunny ‘Striker’ Lee have enjoyed near-exhaustive reissuing, Joe Gibbs has been sparsely served. Yet, through the ’70s, studio titan Gibbs bossed them all, churning out roots classics, including Culture’s Two Sevens Clash, Dennis Brown’s Money In My Pocket, and Althea & Donna’s immortal Uptown Top Ranking – plus the
dazzling run of hard-to-find instrumental/dub albums anthologised here.
Gibbs’s backstor y perhaps lacks romance: after studying electronics with the US army at Guantanamo Bay, he worked more as a facilitator than a hands-on producer. With engineer Errol Thompson, AKA ‘E.T.’, at the controls, the self-appointed ‘Mighty Two’ issued one of the very first dub albums: 1974’s Dub Serial found the Soul Syndicate band revamping old ska and rocksteady rhythms to the new reggae beat. This and the first two African Dub chapters are extraordinary, given that Thompson had a rudimentary mixing desk run entirely on switches, not faders, forcing him to get doubly creative to generate otherworldly sounds.
By 1976, Gibbs had invested in a 16-track console, but that year’s State Of Emergency offered vibrant instrumentals, minus effects, its cover image of street ruffians being frisked inspiring The Clash’s White Riot sleeve. Kingston was in political chaos, and their brother’s murder saw Ernest and Joseph Hoo-Kim at Channel One take a sabbatical, allowing Gibbs to poach their house band, The Revolutionaries, who included Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, Jamaica’s peerlessly inventive ‘rhythm killers’.
Attributed to Joe Gibbs & The Professionals, Chapter 3 really is a cut above, featuring outlandish re-imaginings of Dennis Brown cuts Repatriation and Love Me Always, while elsewhere ‘E.T.’ busts out zany sounds including doorbells, gongs and cuckoo clocks. On 1979’s Chapter 4, cowboy gunfire, neighing and a versioned Dawn Penn’s You Don’t Love Me (No, No, No); while the same year’s Majestic
Dub integrates far-out synths, opener Ten Commandments launching off à la Giorgio Moroder’s pulsating Moog on Donna Summer’s I Feel Love.
By 1983 Gibbs had moved to Miami, while Thompson worked in a Kingston grocery store owned by Gibbs, the ‘Mighty Two’ not fallen, just semi-retired. This legacy brings everlasting joy.