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World Music CD Reviews Reggae & Caribbean

Blackbeard

By Tom Orr
Published April 27, 2007

I Wah Dub
More Cut / EMI
Strictly Dub Wize
Front Line / EMI

Blackbeard was the name assumed by Dennis Bovell in the late ’70s as the U.K. reggae scene was heating up via a new sense of experimentation, fueled in part by an alliance between Jamaican sounds and punk rock. Bovell became dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson’s bassist, co-producer and bandleader (an affiliation that continues to this day), but it’s his early work as a creator of some very crafty dub that’s the focus of these two discs. Bovell wielded multi-instrumental skills and a knack for not only accentuating reggae’s inner drums/bass core but also lacing his dubs with effects that stopped short of excess but never failed to bring out some extra nuance of rhythm, melody, space or time. Strictly Dub Wize and I Wah Dub, originally released in 1978 and 1980 respectively, go a long way toward marking Bovell as the Brit equivalent of King Tubby. Because he was a musician himself, Bovell knew how to use echo and delay to emphasize structures fit for a U.K. market where reggae proved to have some mainstream commercial impact. Strictly Dub Wize goes for a more repetitive, deep-down flow than I Wah Dub’s nuttier patchwork (which prefigured bands like Dub Syndicate), but both sound great thanks to Bovell’s inventiveness and contributions by players also known for their work with the likes of LKJ and Aswad. Only one gripe: the discs are quite short, each running under 30 minutes. Putting both on a single CD would have meant more Bovell for your buck.