Sunday, December 11, 2011

Review: Phil Pratt – Dial M for Murder in Dub

Although producer Phil Pratt has never received the same wide acclaim as King Tubby, Joe Gibbs or Lee Perry, his roots and dub productions rank among some of the late 1970s and early ‘80s best. Early on though, Pratt sang with Ken Boothe in a vocal combo and cut sides such as Reach Out for Ken Lack's Caltone label and later worked with influential producer Bunny “Striker” Lee. Pratt eventually set up the prolific Sunshot label and recorded Dennis BrownBig YouthAl CampbellHorace Andy,Linval ThompsonPat KellyBobby Kalphat and other stars in the mid-to-late ‘70s. Pratt had plenty of rhythms to experiment with from those abundant sessions and Pressure Sounds’ reissue showcases his subtle studio mastery in the dub arena.

This edition of 'Dial M For Murder' features the vinyl album’s original 10 tracks plus four additional dubs recorded around 1979-80 at Channel One. The players include “Riddim Twins”Sly and Robbie on drum and bass, the aforementioned Kalphat and Ansel Collins on keys and piano, Rad Brian on guitar andTommy McCook and Herman Marquis on horns. Like Sly and Robbie’s other recordings as the Revolutionaries (Dawn of Creation,Reaction In Dub), the compositions emphasize Sly’s choppy ta-tat-tat-tat snare flourishes and steady four-four kick drum patterns. Robbie’s bass is commanding while serious organ stabs and eerie reverb-laden guitars fill in the corners and crevices. Pratt exercises austere restraint in the effects and delay department, allowing only minimal snippets of organ, voice, horn or guitar to drift in over the foundational rhythm streams. The effect is mesmerizing.
Songs like Don’t Watch My SizeWalking Razor, or Stinger are classic steppers roots creations -- the kind of sides Jah Shaka is famous for playing at his sessions. The latter is a version of Ken Boothe’s oft covered You’re No Good (originally recorded by R&B starBetty Everett) and is mixed with dramatic peaks and valleys. Tracks like Natty Culture(a fantastic Big Youth version) and Dr. Bash have a bluesy, earthy feel featuring haunting organ runs, while the overall studio mix sounds as pressurized as an inclement storm system. The drums are perpetually submerged in a foggy reverb and vocals just barely emerge for air. In short, this is a dread affair that features glorious Sly and Robbie musicianship and Phil Pratt’s expert touch. No need to call the police, it’s a musical murder them a charge for. 
Review by ForwardEver, originally published in United Reggae.