Prince Douglas

Dub Roots

For the past several years, Basic Channel, a European label specializing in minimal electronics, has been reissuing a slew of roots records originally recorded in the late '70s and early '80s by Jamaican-born producer Lloyd "Bullwackie" Barnes in his Bronx-based studio, Wackie's, which was also the name of his label. That a modern, techno imprint should rerelease roots music (created by live musicians) makes total sense in light of Barnes' prescient production style (referred to as the "Wackie's sound") that fused the gritty, throbbing rhythms of classic, mid-'70s dub with the streamlined, urban pulse of late-'70s disco. As can be heard on this rerelease of Prince Douglas' 1980 album Dub Roots (for which Sly and Robbie supplied the rhythm tracks), Douglas and Barnes' joint production work on such cuts as "Tongue Shall Tell Dub" (a reworking of vocalist Wayne Jarrett's classic rendition of "Every Tongue Shall Tell") and the gorgeous, falsetto-led "Sunshine Dub" is, without question, of the roots tradition. But the atmospheric keyboards, shimmering echo-soaked voices, and crisp proto-digital crackle of the reverberating snares all look forward to electronic dance music without surrendering the organic feel of authentic roots music -- unlike dancehall at the time, which allowed itself to be dominated by the synthesizer, cocaine, and too much disco influence.

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