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Drum Sound: More Gems from the Channel One Dub Room, 1974 - 1980

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Album Review

The subtitle for this compilation, More Gems from the Channel One Dub Room — 1974 to 1980, really tells the story here. This is round four of the Pressure Sounds rarities romp through the vaults of the Channel One studio and the second devoted to the Revolutionaries, the floating studio group so crucial to dub development and really establishing Jamaican music on the '70s international scene. Confirmed Channel One/Revolutionaries dub heads will not be disappointed, and newcomers to the classic dub mentality will find a first-rate representative introduction to the label on Drum Sound. The chief difference between this batch of Revolutionaries tracks and the earlier Channel One: Maxfield Avenue Breakdown is that the latter used more fully developed vocal parts than the introductory snippets that dominate here. Familiar voices and riddims do pop up — "Rootes Dub" works off Junior Byles' "Fade Away" and Mighty Diamonds tracks form the foundation for "Hotter Fire Version" and "Back Weh Version," while "Ride on Marcus Version" could have been cloned from one. That aside, there are simply more prime examples of the Channel One method of channeling one element at a time, be it the massive echo big snare shot ("War Version"), isolated snapshot of clattering percussion ("Kunta Kinte Version One"), or reverbed rhythm guitar ("Girl a Love You Version"). Variety is provided by nods to dub's B-side instrumental roots ("Thinking Version," "Swell Headed," the largely bass and drums "Tivoli Skank") and pieces driven by horn section riffing ("Dunkirk," "Catonine Version," "Plantation Heights Version"). "Jah Creation Version" is very skeletal, making the occasional eruption of triumphal horns that much more effective; "Ride on Marcus Version" rides a fuller, nonstop bassline with percussion playing around it and the occasional melody instrument drop-in; and "Girl a Love You Version" more actively engages in undermining song structure with the dubwise arsenal of studio techniques.

"Kunta Kinte Version One" apparently is a genuine rarity, a sound system special dub plate that was never officially released before on any vinyl format (and hence CD) until now. It is one of the more intricate pieces here, seasoned by a lonesome Morricone-flavored flute (or synthesizer flute, the liner notes say), and one example of the dub transition to a genuinely creative form in its own right. And "A Who Say Version Two" is just incredibly catchy, with a skittering keyboard line alternating with Althea & Donna's vocal chant of "A who say" (big sound system audience participation grabber, that one, apparently) and Herman Marquis' solo alto saxophone adding another distinctly offbeat flavor to the mix. The liner notes (no more light purple text on black background, please) are thorough on the song release history details and very informative in detailing the Hookim clan's focus on getting the highest tech equipment (mikes, mixing board, etc.) of the day for their studio. Anecdotes like Sly Dunbar relating how he would spend a full day with engineer Ernest Hookim getting the right drum sound reveal a lot about Channel One's inner workings and are also antidotes to any notions that dub sound science is exclusively Lee Perry madcap mania or King Tubby-inspired innovation. Well, maybe not so much antidotes as acknowledgements that all kinds of different approaches to dub sound science, including more orthodox high-tech gear, played their parts when Jamaican musicians, engineers, and producers began turning the world of recorded sound around during the '70s.

Biography

Formed: 1976 in Kingston, Jamaica

Genre: Reggae

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s

Starting with the Skatalites, Jamaican recordings largely revolved around a select floating pool of the island's best musicians; top producers began calling on the Revolutionaries in the mid-'70s. But the group's importance extends far beyond providing the music to many roots classics; Revolutionaries backing tracks dominated Jamaican music when dub, the foundation of the mix culture, became a widespread reggae phenomenon. The rise of the Revolutionaries also marked the arrival of Robbie Shakespeare...
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Drum Sound: More Gems from the Channel One Dub Room, 1974 - 1980, The Revolutionaries
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