Errol Brown ‘Dubb Everlasting’ / ‘Dub Expression’ CD (Doctor Bird) 4/5

Not nearly as prolific as either King Tubby, or even Joe Gibbs, engineer Errol Brown occupies a small, yet nonetheless special place in the history of reggae dub music. The band featured here represent the cream of the crop of Kingston session musicians and that inevitably means the inclusion of Sly and Robbie, with other regular Treasure Isle musicians including keyboardists Willie Lindo and Ansel Collins, saxophonist Cedric “Im” Brooks and percussionist ‘Sticky’ Thompson. Of interest here is that a number of classic Studio One riddims are reworked and that makes for some melodious instrumental music. Some pieces are easier to work out than others and thus, ‘Melodious Dub’, is none other than a revisiting of the vocal performance by Marcia Griffiths’ ‘Melody of Life’.

From a historical perspective, Treasure Isle owner Duke Reid employed Errol Brown as his engineer, but it was Sonia Pottinger who gradually took over the label as Duke’s health declined from 1975 onwards. By the time, these two albums were recorded, in 1977 and 1978 respectively, Pottinger was now firmly in control. The albums from a stylistic viewpoint are somewhat more restrained for those who may like their dub on the more experimental side, yet that is more than compensated for by the strength of the melodies. External musical influences are clearly audible on these recordings, with for example, ‘Living Strings’, taking a leaf out of the harmonica playing of Stevie Wonder, and the very best of the dub engineers were constantly searching for inspiration outside their usual musical habitat. A personal favourite among the plethora of sounds is ‘Eva a Dub’, which is a slower, echo-driven piece and what characterizes the Errol Brown dub sound is the earthiness and sparseness of the overall sound. Errol Brown eventually left Treasure Isle studios and thereafter became an integral part of the Tuff Gong set up, where he would end up engineering two seminal albums by Bob Marley, namely ‘Survival’ and ‘Uprising’. Extremely hard to find in their original vinyl format, these two dub albums stand the test of time and are highly creative examples of how the dub format could be tailored to the individual tastes of the engineer at the controls.

Tim Stenhouse