By Noah Lopez
Arizona Daily Wildcat April 16, 1996
Dub reggae, as local music critic Fred Mills reminded a friend of mine
caught purchasing an early Lee Perry release, is quite trendy right now. With dub remixes permeating the dance floors, and Perry featured on the cover of the Beastie Boys' trendmaking Şberzine "Grand Royal," Mills' comment rings a little true.
At any rate, whether you're hopping on the dub bandwagon now, a year ago, or if you've been following the bassy, sound-effect rich form for decades, you're going to love these two albums by two of dub's preeminent kings.
Essentially this is the same album, released once with Perry's crazy vocal stylings, and a second time in a "dub," vocal-free form. The music itself is a proper melding of the two dub architects' styles, each (for the most part) keeping the other's excesses in check. Perry creates moods that become music, with instruments poking through his hazy, bassy cloud, coloring the overall feel of his songs rather than creating the songs themselves. While his songs are always groove-oriented (Perry started as a ska producer with Coxsone Dodd's Studio One label), his eccentric personality can occasionally disrupt the song - Perry is known for belching loudly throughout a piece, or wildly screaming phrases, such as "I am Kojak!"
The Mad Professor's work is obviously heavily influenced by Perry's, but his production is much crisper, lending itself more to the techno music that so often adopts his music and remixing capabilities. This techno-brat type quality of the Professor's is accentuated by his heavy use of sampling and sound effects, a distinction that often proves overbearing and renders many songs as nothing more than novelty tracks.
These distractions from the music are largely gone from this pair of collections, and the focus rests squarely on the shoulders of the two super-producers' music. William the Conqueror's thick, viscous bassline erupts early on in the opening track - "Thank You" with vocals, "Jungle Roots Dub" without - and never lets up throughout the album. With the percussive elements of both the Professor and Perry overriding all the tracks, the music picks up and never rests from its trance-inducing excursion.
Vocally, Perry has rarely been better. His twisted vocals, alternating between melodic singing and grunting through an echoey, gurgly distortion effect, rarely resort to the silliness usually found on his solo efforts. Only fragments of his lyrics can be made out - phrases praising Ace of Base, shattered stories of Alien landings, hailings of the typical reggae variety (Marcus Garvey, Haile Selassie), and an odd ode to defecation. His vocals are at times overwhelming, but never detract from the greatness of the music.
This is a great effort in either format, although I prefer the more well rounded vocal cut, and an excellent introduction to these giants of dub music. And if the current trend continues, there just might be other great dub albums to come.