"There's no stems, leaves or branches without the roots…"
'Roots, Radics, Rockers and Reggae'
01: Roots Raddics
02: Battering Down
04: Fig Tree
05: Love Fire
06: Rasta Man
07: Dream Land
Dub, beyond question one of the most innovative musical genres of the latter half of the twentieth century, was never overly concerned with vocalists but, before a dub version could be created singers, songwriters and musicians had to first lay the musical foundations. Studio engineers would then demolish their work and, in the process, build something new on entirely different premises. Previously dub, in recording terms, had meant to copy, and overdub to add something by recording on top of an existing track, but dub now came to mean the opposite: taking away to make a music that had most of the vocals and instruments removed leaving only the bass and drum core.The vocalists' and musicians' attitude towards the development of dub was often ambivalent, sometimes openly hostile, as a large proportion of their contributions were erased in the creative process. A notable exception to the rule, Pat Kelly, possessed that rare combination of not only being a superb singer but who was also an exemplary engineer.
In 1969 the final release on The Wailers own Wail N Soul M label, a Bunny Wailer composition entitled 'Tread Along'/'Tread-O', was one of the first to feature an instrumental b-side: the backing track with only a few selected lines of the a-side vocal track known as a 'version'. The group had always appreciated the importance of the rhythm and the critical role played by Kingston's session musicians and, during the seventies the majority of releases on their own Tuff Gong, HIM Intel-Diplo and Solomonic labels featured b-sides that charted the transition of versions into thepreviously uncharted realms of dub.The history of dub has been well, and in many cases not so well, documented over the past forty years. Theacknowledged 'dub inventor',Osbourne 'King Tubby' Ruddock, conducted his sonic experiments at his Dromilly Avenue studio in the Waterhouse ghetto district butvisionary engineers Lynford 'Andy Capp' Anderson at Dynamic Sounds and Errol 'Errol T'/'ET' Thompson at Randy's Studio17 and record producers including Winston 'Niney The Observer' Holness, Bunny 'Striker' Lee and Lee 'Scratch' Perry also played a critical role in the development of dub.
In addition to working with Bob Marley as The Wailers Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh also released their own productions using the Tuff Gong shop and distribution for their Solomonic and Intel Diplo H.I.M. labelswhich were always backed by rhythms of stunning intensity and power. Despite the b-sides of many of these Jamaican seven inch releases featuring increasingly exciting and innovative dub work outs, notably Bunny's 'Dubd Version' to 'Arabs Oil Weapon' on Solomonic from 1972, Bob's 'Concrete' to 'Jah Live' on Tuff Gong and Peter's 'Version' to 'Legalize It' on Intel Diplo H.I.M. in 1975, the primary focus of The Wailers' was on the message in their songs.The Wailers officially 'broke up' in January 1975 when Bunny and Peter both left the group and, after a decade as a member of The Wailers, Bunny made the decision to release records as Bunny Wailer. Using the money he had received from Island Records for 'the 'Catch A Fire' and 'Burnin'' long players Bunny began work on 'Blackheart Man' his flawless first solo album.
"I got £6,000 out of that… and that £6000 was what I used to make the 'Blackheart Man'. That's where my Bunny Wailer came in…" Bunny Wailer
Featuring re-cuts of 'Dreamland', 'This Train' and 'Bide Up' alongside new tracks such as 'Rasta Man', 'Amagideon (Armagedon)' and 'Fig Tree' the set was initially released on Solomonic in Jamaica then internationally through Island Records in 1976 and would establish Bunny Wailer as an internationally respected and renowned artist in his own right.
"I've said this a hundred times, but his masterpiece, 'Blackheart Man' is one of the greatest reggae albums ever made. It's such an important document in the development of Jamaican music: the musicology, the structure of the rhythms, the haunting quality of the arrangements, the orchestration of the horns and flutes, even the artwork." David Rodigan
"Beware the power and glory of the 'Blackheart Man'. But behold Bunny Wailer shares with you the sweetness and purity of his phrasing but he takes your soul with the dread powers of wisdom and faith." Jean Fairweather
Although now globally recognised Bunny still remained totally immersed in the ever changing directions of Kingston's musical scene and, as well as a selection of seven inch singles, he also released a number of twelve inch 'Disco 45' singles on Solomonic including 'Love Fire' and 'Roots, Radics, Rockers & Reggae' and, in 1978, he became the only member of the original Wailers to release a dub album.
"But The Wailers were serious and were focused on music and getting this message delivered to the people in order to make sure that the people globally could be involved. So anywhere you go in the world reggae music is like the focus of that kind of a people that are searching to be better people in this world." Bunny Wailer
Released on Solomonic in Kingston 'Dub D'sco Volume 1' comprised dubwise interpretations of five tracks from 'Blackheart Man' (Battering Down Sentence'/'Fighting Against Conviction', 'Amagideon (Armagedon)', 'Fig Tree', 'Rasta Man' & 'Dreamland') and the aforementioned'Love Fire' and 'Roots, Radics, Rockers & Reggae' discos. Without compromising the integrity of this rock solid foundation, and by combining the best of traditional values with cutting edge technology,'Dub D'sco Volume 1'proved to beone of the greatest dub albums of the decade masterminded by two of Kingston's leading studio engineers, Sylvan Morris and Carl Pitterson, accompanied by Bunny Wailer at the controls.
"New rules, radicals rock to the reggae
New rules, radicals roll to the reggae
New rules, radicals skanking to the reggae…"
'Roots, Radics, Rockers and Reggae'
Sylvan Morris began his career at W.I.R.L. (West Indies Records Ltd.) in 1965 where he learnt the art of engineering from Graeme Goodall before moving on to Duke Reid at Treasure Isle. He stayed at the Duke's Bond Street studio for six months before becoming the chief engineer for Clement 'Coxsone' Dodd in 1968 at the age of nineteen where he rapidly became a key player in the Studio One organisation.
"He's the greatest. Any artist will tell you that. He's so good that if it wasn't for him Studio One wouldn't exist… And in Jamaica they will tell you the man who we call engineer is the man like Morris who can repair the board but the rest of the men, who can't repair the board, we call them operator. Don't forget that!"
"…These chaps used to have a name that they gave me. They call me 'My Engineer'. Now the reason for that was at the time I was very strong in getting the tune to sound a particular way in which I liked. So when they would formulate a rhythm we tried to get it to sound a particular way." Sylvan Morris
And, in 1974, Sylvan Morris moved on to Harry Johnson's Harry JRecording Studio on Roosevelt Avenue where he took over from Sid Bucknor and continued his career with the studio's superb sixteen track facilities.
After passing his electronic engineering exams at Kingston Technical with distinction Carl (or Karl) Pitterson spent a year in Canada studying sound at school and in the studio and, apart from "four hours office work", went into recording straight from school "I just applied at Dynamic and me get through". He first worked with Bob Marley & The Wailers in 1971 on 'Trench Town Rock', "that was Number One in Jamaica for a long, long time", while he was a young engineer at Dynamic Sounds. Karl went on to engineer and help remix Bob Marley & The Wailers' 'Exodus' album, engineered their 'Kaya' album too and engineered and mixed Bunny's 'Blackheart Man' album at Herman Chin Loy's Aquarius Recording Studio in Half Way Tree "the first twenty four track studio in the Caribbean". He then went on to engineer at Bob Marley's Tuff Gong Recording Studio on Hope Road.
"When them (The Wailers) find that the demand was toward quality (of sound), and them start check round, them check me." Karl Pitterson
Theirsubtle, sympathetic mixingwork highlighted and heightened many beautiful nuances inherent in the original songs and, through the process of deconstruction, took them to another level.
"Because it's most often applied to an already familiar song or rhythm track dub has a uniquely poignant quality: memories are revived, but rather than being simply duplicated (as when we hear a 'golden oldie' from our youth on the radio) they are given subtle twists. Memory is teased rather than dragged up, and is thereby heightened." Richard Williams
Very few artists and musicians openly embraced this exciting development as it inevitably left many of them "on the cutting room floor". Bunny Wailer, always aware of the importance of adopting and adapting new idioms to emphasise his musical message, was one of the few with the vision to appreciate the open ended possibilities of this extraordinary new musical form.
"…but his music alone will make them wonder for it will reveal something of his persistence, his discipline, his intelligence and his outspoken Rasta stance." Carl Gayle
December 2017/January 2018