Big Fish Audio | Keyboard Magazine Ken Hughes | Dread: The Reggae Collection Product Review
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Dread: The Reggae Collection | Keyboard Magazine

Reviewer: Ken Hughes | Rating: Pros: Full of authentic reggae flavor. Welcome balance of clean and lo-fi sound quality. Cons: No isolated guitar skanks. Bottom Line: An outstanding reggae toolkit. Back to Dread: The Reggae Collection product details

I spent a couple years playing I a reggae band called Workmaster General and another year or so with the Equal Solution Band. I fell into reggae by accident, and it wasn't without resistance that I came to love its throbbing rhythms and the musical freedom offered by its often-spare framework.

Dread captures a wide range of contemporary reggae tastes. One thing it doesn't provide is much of the straight-ahead Bob Marley sound. But it's full of great material. The disc's opener, "Fried Dubblin," is a crunchy stepper with plenty of tape delay, a boxy kick drum, and a deep, dark bass guitar riff. Put simply, it's the stuff. Second-listener Greg Rule loved the crusty tape echo, but felt that the otherwise deadly authentic outta-sync repeats might annoy folks who like super-tight tracks. It's up to you.

Creative, tradition-stretching groove construction kits are offered, like the moody atmospherics of "Whole Heap," which sounds to me like the place the Police might have gone had they stayed on the reggae tip of their early record. A more traditional, rootsy sound follows on the next cut, "Yu Tan Deh," with its charmingly out-of-tune guitar riff, snappy sidestick, and four-chord progression. One cut clocked at 167 bpm would be perfect for adding some island flavor to a jungle track. Darker, more sinister moods are offered too. All of the construction kits are vibey and very tuneful. I wish there was room for more of them.

Rather than being just a rehash of slightly modified drum loops already used in the construction kits, five tracks full of drum loops, fills, intros, and percussion loops are offered, all with that old-record vibe. Two tracks of bass guitar riffs (with all the highs rolled off) come next, followed by single bass notes.

Curiously, there are no guitar skank samples, but there is a track of heavily effected guitar lines. Keyboards play skank-like parts on a later track, followed by melodic lines on assorted instruments. The samples are well-prepared; I heard no weird artifacts or sloppy end points. It might be important to you that one of the following bar is lopped off on the loops. It won't be a concern if you're using the WAV Files, but it might trip you up if you're sampling from the audio disc. Without that extra beat, sometimes it's more trial and error to get a good loop point.

Reggae devotees will find lots of authentic, no-B.S. material on Dread, and if you're a compressor-hire who's bluffed your way into TV spots for Caribbean restaurants and haven't a clue about reggae, this would be a great disc to.

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