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Various Artists (Tributes) - Easy Star All-Stars: Dub Side Of The Moon (Pink Floyd) CD (album) cover


Various Artists (Tributes)


Various Genres

3.12 | 20 ratings

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3 stars Time is the master, and time can be a disaster

I was put off, I don't mind confessing by the "Easy Star All-Stars" name attributed to the artists. No good can come from that, I thought.

If you don't remember "Stars on 45", or worse, Jive Bunny, then you're very lucky...

However, this is an incredibly polished and affectionate tribute to one of the best- selling and groundbreaking albums of all time; completely true to the spirit, yet only occasionally sinking to direct imitation.

There is something as magically timeless about this release as there is about the original - but you do have to appreciate that there is good in dub reggae and drum and bass, as well as the tiresomely boring; on this release, it's mostly the good stuff - although somewhat toned down to suit the conservative nature of the album.

Almost as soon as the familiar heartbeat has kicked the album off, the All-Stars add a percussive dub vibe. The familiar opening vocals are re-interpreted by Sluggy Ranks, Rasta style; "I and I always been mad...", and for some inexplicable reason, there appears to be an asthmatic cough mixed in as part of the rhythmic texture...

"Breathe" starts familiarly - with an absolutely perfect reggae groove, and remarkable restrained percussion combines with a spot-on rhythm section. When the opening lines "Breathe, breathe in th' air" hit you, a capella, it's a perfect moment, recreated in dub, the slightly hoarse vocals of Sluggy Ranks providing the perfect counterpart to Gilmour.

"On The Run" is supported by the same synth sound - in fact it sounds like the actual synth track from the Floyd original - with a couple of subtle twists before it dives headlong into a less subtle drum and bass section that I find a very tasteful re- interpretation. A few new effects are mixed over the top of this confection, which amazingly seems to retain the flavours of the original, whilst moving it on, musically speaking, a couple of decades.

The All Stars clearly had fun with the alarm clocks that begin "Time" - as well as the original bell alarm, there's a bugle call, an electronic alarm and a cock crowing. I actually prefer this to the Floyd version, as it evokes images of wake up calls over different periods of history.

Corey Harris and Ranking Joe have a tough act to follow, and the opening bars of "Time" seem somewhat tentative - are we going to go with the original, or branch into something new? I rather feel that there was a bit of dithering here, so when the song per se starts, the impact of the reggae stylee is lost. It's not until the break that it really kicks in, and a new style really imposes itself with any authority - but when it does, it's good (if you like that sort of style - which I do...although I do find the repetition of "Time is the master..." incredibly irritating after the 3rd time.). Not quite what it shows potential to have been - it nonetheless shows moments of dazzling inspiration - such as the "Home, home again" section, which is creamy, dreamy dub that provides the perfect setup to Kirsty Rocks' big moment;

"The Great Gig In The Sky" doesn't suffer from the same hesitatancy as "Time" - the build-up to the vocal section sets expectations perfectly, and Kirsty Rock delivers the vocal improv with aplomb and perfect tone, if not imagination or creativity. For a vocal- driven piece, however, it falls far short of the original, and misses vast swathes of development; the accompaniment and arrangement fares much better, as do the overdubbed vocalisations - this wasn't done in a single take, and the only tears are in the listener's eyes...

"Money" only really kicks in around 3:00, until which point it's a passable reggae version of the orignal. After this point, it's wilder, more free-form, and an exuberant and enjoyable excursion into dub, spoiled only by the re-entry into the song, which sounds tightly reined in and tame by comparison.

"Us and Them", by complete contrast, is a beautiful interpretation, replete with sax solo, with painstaking attention to detail - my only criticism being that the vocals are on the "precious" side in places. They're much more soulful in the chorus sections, however - and as the verses continue, the constructions in dub get more and more inventive, until the near-miraculous instrumental section that perfectly deconstructs and beautifuly implies the original, seguing equally perfectly into a wonderful, if slightly cheesey rendition of "Any Colour You Like".

"Brain Damage" is a real highlight and lowlight; Dr Israel's echoing voice and Victor Axelrod's insane keyboards realising the body of the piece in style. The arrangement of the chorus eerily echoes The Wailers' style, and is deeply engaging - but "Eclipse" catches you out. The styling just seems wrong, and what should have been a great ending to a superb interpretation of a great album ends up a damp squib.

The Bonus tracks appear to be of the same high quality, and make for a good reprise;

"Time Version [*]" is an instrumental in the style of Augustus Pablo - you only have to hear the slightly de-tuned sound of the harmonium to think of that early dub pioneer, and the arrangement, as ever, is spot-on.

"Great Dub in the Sky" is a King Tubby's special - with strong Scientist overtones and hints of Sly and Robbie. In itself, and taken as a missing Scientist piece, this is quite wonderful - a very special piece of dub - but I'd still like to hear the female vocalist let rip and give us the vocal improv to die for that the original demands - hence this piece is not as satisfying as it has the potential to be.

"Step It Pon The Rastaman Scene" has a great vibe - but it's quite difficult to see as anything other than derivative filler. It doesn't add anything to the experience of this album - despite being a nice slice of dub, and an interesting interpretation of "Any Colour You Like".

"Any Dub You Like" closes the package - but is merely a continuation of the previous track, despite being tastefully mixed in a style resembling early Aswad.

So a somewhat disappointing ending to a highly competent and engagingly produced album that is much more than a simple reggae version of the original - on the whole, it's actually a re-interpretation.

It might not sit easily in many rock collections - but many Pink Floyd fans I've known have also been dub fans - and with good reason.

So if you're already a Floyd and Dub fan, this is for you - and if you're not yet a fan of dub, this would be a great "gateway" album.

Non-essential for Prog collectors - but an extremely well-made and interesting curio.

Certif1ed | 3/5 |


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