Champion Sounds: 50 of the World's Most Heavyweight Dub Albums

by Ben Rimmer and Paul Sullivan Aug 2, 2010
Dub emerged from the studios of Kingston, Jamaica in the ’60s and went on to become one of the 20th century’s most influential music genres in both form and function. Its thread can be discerned in a wild number of music styles, from hip hop, disco, drum & bass, trip hop, dubstep and more. And let’s not forget – without dub, we wouldn’t have the remix!

In tribute, we’ve collected together 50 killer dub albums. Many of them are seminal, proto-dub records by JA originators like Lee Perry, King Tubby, Prince Jammy and others, but we’ve also included some classics plucked from the “dub diaspora” – the second wave of dub music that emerged in the UK with pioneers like Adrian Sherwood (On U Sound), Jah Shaka, Linton Kwesi Johnson and Mad Professor, up to modern electronica/glitch-dub practitioners like Berlin’s Stefan Betke (Pole) and Burnt Friedman.

It’s not a definitive list, just a bunch of our personal recommendations. We hope you enjoy them.
The Upsetters – Super Ape (Island, 1976)

The best of all Lee Scratch Perry’s Ape/Kung Fu inspired albums. Each riddim is absolute classic Perry and has been bitten by lots of other reggae artists.
Super Ape in A Good Shape from Super Ape:

Horace Andy – In The Light Dub (Blood & Fire, 1977)

The dub version of Horace Andy’s beautiful In the Light album was created by Prince Jammy. The meld of Andy’s distinctive high tenor over soundscapes put together by Jammy, Leroy Sibbles, and Augustus Pablo is just sublime.

Kode9 & Spaceape – Memories of the Future (Hyperdub, 2006)

Dubstep producer Kode9 (owner of the much lauded Hyperdub label) teams up with menacing vocalist The Spaceape (aka Massive Attack’s Daddy G) to unleash a shuddering bass-heavy vision.

Tappa Zukie – In Dub (Blood & Fire reissue, 1995)

Tappa Zukie released several albums of punk-influenced roots reggae before concentrating on production work. This 1979 album is a classic British release, featuring Sly and Robbie playing under Zukie’s versatile vocalising.

Lee Scratch Perry & The Upsetters – Blackboard Jungle (Upsetter, 1973)

Zany genius all the way through, from the bonkers “Black Panta” to the minatory “Drum Rock”. Full of incredible surprises.

Mad Professor – Dub Me Crazy (Ariwa, 1982)

The first and perhaps best of the Dub Me Crazy series from the leader of the 80s UK dub movement. The new digital sound and expanded layers of sound are just incredible.

Lee Perry & Mad Professor – Black Ark Experryments (Ariwa, 1995)

Mad Prof and Perry did several albums together but this one stands out. Spaced out, digital dub masterpieces featuring Perry on fine, rambling form.
Heads of Government from Black Ark Experryments:

Joe Gibbs & The Professionals – African Dub Almighty (Chapter 3) (Gibbs Record Globe, 1975)

You may recognise this music from Don Letts’ (of The Clash fame) film “Punk Rock Movie”. Produced by Errol Thompson rather than Joe Gibbs, yes, but it’s mighty Mighty all the same.

Prince Jammy – Kamikaze Dub (Trojan, 1979)

Stuffed full of Kingston’s most famous musicians, the dubs here were cut at Channel One before being mixed by Prince Jammy at King Tubby’s studio. Boom!

Burnt Friedman & The Nu Dub Players – Just Landed (~scape, 2000)

Cologne-based musician/producer Burnt Friedmann teams up with New Zealand allies the Nu Dub Players to create a fun, diverse and impressive digi dub album.

Yabby U – King Tubby’s Prophecy of Dub (Blood & Fire, 1976)

King Tubby puts 14 Yabby U cuts – “Conquering Lion”, “Jah Vengeance” and “Rock Vibration” – through the dub mangle.

Herman Chin Loy – Aquarius Dub (Aquarius, 1973)

One of the first ever dub recordings. Includes Jah Jah Dub (1), which preceded the more famous King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown version.
Jah Rock from Aquarius Dub:

Linton Kwesi Johnson – LKJ in Dub (Island, 1980)

Arguably one of the most influential UK dub albums this collaboration between dub poet Lintn Kwesi Johnson and Dennis Bovell features heavyweight smashes like “Victorious Dub” and the appositely titled “Brain Smashing Dub.”

Lee Perry – Upsetter In Dub (Heartbeat, 1997)

An excellent collection of late Randy’s and early Black Ark dub versions that includes a previously unreleased mix of the Congos classic “Solid Foundation” and rare dub mixes of Junior Murvin’s “Roots Train” and Max Romeo’s “War in a Babylon”. Solid Foundation from Upsetter in Dub:

King Tubby Meets Soul Syndicate – Freedom Sounds In Dub (Blood & Fire, 1996)

Heavy dub cuts of famous songs from the Freedom Sounds label, featuring artists like Prince Alla, Rod Taylor, Earl Zero and more. A must.

Augustus Pablo – King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown (Shanachie, 1976)

Regarded by many as one of the greatest dub albums of all time thanks to the stature of the individual talents involved and the subtle mood shifts and complex playing. Two true dub legends Augustus Pablo and King Tubby combine on this mythical record.

Lee Perry – Revolution Dub (Lagoon, 1975)

This concise take on dub from the master is super-stripped down but simply features some of the best work he ever did.

Keith Hudson – Pick a Dub (Klik/ Atra, 1974)

One of the earliest purveyors of dub, Hudson’s earthy and rhythmic style eschews sound effects. Here the bass and drum rhythms propelled by the Wailers’ rhythm section collide with spectral vocals from Horace Andy, Big Youth and Hudson. Satia from Pick a Dub:

Massive Attack v. Mad Professor – No Protection (Circa / Virgin, 1995)

The dub remix of Massive Attack’s second album Protection could have been more edgy but still stands tall as an example of dub’s power to refract other music genres.

King Tubby and Friends – Dub Like Dirt (1975-77) (Blood & Fire, 1994)

16 dubs from the vaults of veteran producer Bunny ‘Striker’ Lee, mixed by the likes of King Tubby and Prince Jammy and featuring musicians like Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespeare and Jackie Mittoo. Beautiful.

The Congos – Heart of the Congos (Black Art, 1977)

This is the only collaboration between Lee Perry and The Congos, but what an incredible album. Perry’s darkest production yet matched to the Congo’s spiritual / biblical imagery. A deep and fulfilling journey.
Open up the Gate from Heart of the Congos:

Scientist – Scientist Rids the World of the Evil Curse of the Vampires (Greensleeves, 1981)

The riddims for this were recorded at Channel One and mixed by Scientist at King Tubby’s studio. Several tracks from the album were featured in the soundtrack to the popular video game Grand Theft Auto III.

Augustus Pablo – East of the River Nile (Message / Shanachie, 1977)

One of the highlights of Pablo’s extensive catalog, ‘East of the River Nile’ is an all time classic from the master of the melodica.

African Head Charge – My Life in a Hole in the Ground (On-U Sound, 1981)

With a title inspired by Brian Eno and David Byrne’s ‘My Life in the Bush of Ghosts’, this is one of AHC’s more experimental and psychedelic takes on dub. Unique and worth checking.

Creation Rebel – Dub from Creation (Hitrun, 1977)

This 1977 recording was Adrians Sherwood’s first production. Mixed by Dennis Bovell it features nascent examples of the massively influential On-U Sound vision.

Aswad – A New Chapter Of Dub (Island, 1982)

This release was one of the first UK Dub releases to use tape and digital echo on a horn section and a precursor of the subsequent explosion of ‘electronic dub’.

Prince Far I – Voice of Thunder (Trojan, 1981)

Perfect title for Michael James William’s (Prince Far I’s) booming, gravelly vocals, which are mixed with hypnotic, fathoms-deep basslines.
Hold the Fort from Voice of Thunder:

Black Uhuru – The Dub Factor (Island, 1983)

An aberration for vocal group Black Uhuru, these ten riddims, laid down by Sly & Robbie for various Black Uhuru albums, were mixed to perfection by Paul “Groucho” Smykle.

Phase Selector Sound – Disassemble Dub (ROIR, 1999)

Phase Selector Sound are two former punks who create a unique dub sound that spans the classic and the modern. A tour de force.

Jah Shaka meets Mad Professor – At Ariwa Sounds (Ariwa, 1984)

This album is testament to South London’s legendary Ariwa Studios. It features five dubs from Mad Professor and five from Jah Shaka.

U-Roy – Dread in a Babylon (Virgin, 1975)

U-Roy’s Dread in Babylon ‘s eccentric vocalisations and melodic reggae-style wanderings make it an essential proto-rap record.

Scientist – Dub in the Roots Tradition (Blood and Fire)

Producer Don Mais enlists the talents of the then-17-year old Scientist to mix the dub versions for his Roots Tradition label’s B-sides. It’s a fascinating insight into the young dub maestro’s early efforts and contains some proto-dancehall riddims too. Dub Bible from Dub in the Roots Tradition:

The Skatalites Meet King Tubby – Heroes of reggae in dub (Motion, 1999)

King Tubby meets the (re-formed) Skatalites via Lee Perry with the addition of musicians like Augustus Pablo, Ras Michael, and Earl “Chinna” Smith with mesmerizing results.

Twilight Circus – In Dub Volume 1 (M Records, 1995)

Multi-instrumentalist Ryan Moore – who played bass for the Legendary Pink Dots – deploys a radical take on the Tubby/Perry blueprint with this debut – all gooey basslines and deep, pulsating textures – and no electronics.

Linton Kwesi Johnson – Forces Of Victory (Mango, 1989)

Forces of Victory was the record that confirmed LKJ as a major talent. Produced by Dennis Bovell it’s a relentlessly dramatic and intense record – and all the more memorable for it.
Want Fi Goh Rave from Forces of Victory:

Automaton – Dub Terror Exhaust (Strata, 1994)

This Bill Laswell project involves Sly Dunbar on drums (programmed), Gabe Katz (bass) and DJ Spooky on scratches. Sparse and deep with ghosts of voices and electronic bleeps it has a modern, meditative vibe.

Pole – 2 (Kiff SM/PIAS/Matador, 1999)

Stefan Betke’s follow-up to his crackly minimalist “1” is melodically and rhythmically engaging, floating through itchy static and vinyl pops. A fine introduction to glitch-dub.

King Tubby – Dub From The Roots (Moll Selekta, 2003)

This reissue features two of King Tubby’s earliest and most influential albums – Dub From the Roots and The Roots of Dub. Both produced by Bunny Lee, and both feature great mixing work by the King.
Roots of Dub from The Roots of Dub:

Prince Far I – Dub To Africa (Pressure Sounds, 1987)

Originally a limited 1979 pressing the lovely fluidity of Far I’s music, as delivered by his bass ace Flabba Holt, is here rendered with machine-like precision by Style Scott on drums. This drum and bass meeting laid the foundation for definitive‘80s reggae group Roots Radics.

Lee Perry & The Upsetters – Sound System Scratch (Pressure Sounds, 2010)

The mythical Lee Perry Holy Grail. 20 dubs from his mid-‘70s peak that were only ever pressed in tiny one-off white label ‘specials’ for the Kingston soundsystems. An essential hour.

Rhythm and Sound – See Mi Yah (Burial Mix, 2005)

Berlin based producer team Mark Ernestus and Moritz von Oswald have maintained a serious dub ethic under their R&S moniker and elsewhere. Tikiman, Rod Of Iron, Jah Cotton and Sugar Minott all deliver superb vocals over the See Mi Yah rhythm.
See Mi Yah Riddim Mix:

Originally issued on London’s Grove music in 1977, this features some weighty dubs, written to ward off the threat of Obeah magic. Get lost in tracks like “Judgement time” “Amlak” and “Pick the beam”.

Michael Campbell – African Anthem Dubwise (Cruise, 1979)

Mikey Dread’s groundbreaking masterpiece was mixed at Tubby’s studio and comes drenched in glorious sound effects.

Kit Clayton – Nek Salanet (Scape, 1999)

Clayton’s first full-length for Stefan Betke’s (aka Pole) Scape label is a masterpiece of experimental dub. Drawing on the work of Berlin’s Basic Channel and Chain Reaction crews this is dubbed out, stripped down electronic dub at its best.

Lee Perry – Black Ark In Dub (Lagoon, 1991)

Up alongside Perry’s best work this heavy dub set is full of dark and complex masterpieces. The Black Ark studio hosted Aisha Morrison dubbing his unrelenting creations. Scratch was way ahead of his time.

G Corp – Dub Plates From The Elephant House (Different Drummer, 1999)

Dense, thick grooves full of reverb and mixed with breaks and jazz from the Groove Corporation. Covers all the the dub plates.
Rock Steady from Dub Plates From the Elephant House:

Microphone Attack – Niney the Observer 1974-78 (Blood and Fire, 2003)

Niney is the producer here, with I Roy, Big Youth, Dillinger and Trinity featured as toasters. A slick album full of incredible grooves and amazing vocal performances.

Various – Raiders Of The Lost Dub (Island/Mango, 1981)

Bubbling dubs from producers Sly & Robbie of popular reggae tunes from vital artists including Black Uhuru, Burning Spear, Wailing Souls. The vocal mixes of the tunes on this album in their original form are available on Island Records.

Disrupt (2) – Foundation Bit (Werk Discs, 2007)

Disrupter Jan Gleichmar’s simple but brilliant digidub vision is presented beautifully here. A minor classic.

Forward The Bass – Dub From Randy’s 1972-1975 (Blood&Fire, 1998)

Randy’s Studio 17 was frequently used by Perry before Black Ark but is often forgotten. Chin’s son Clive produced these subtler than usual ‘70s dubs, where musicianship reigns over effects.
From Forward the Bass Dub From Randy’s:

Paul is currently writing a book about the Dub Diaspora for Reaktion. Ben Rimmer has written for music and travel publications including The Fly; AU; Jungle Drums; The British Council’s Incubator Project; and Glasswerk. He is also the press officer for the UK’s leading Brazilian record label Far Out Recordings

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