||KEITH HUDSON AND FRIENDS
"The Hudson Affair"
||"Old Fashion Way"
||"Don't Think About Me (I'm Alright)" Horace Andy
& Earl Flute
For decades, the myth of Keith Hudson has been shrouded mostly
in legend. A largely underground reggae hero, he allegedly produced
his first record with members of the Skatalites at the ripe old
age of 14. He was an early innovator in so much of what is now
reggae history and tradition, helping to develop dub production;
and he was also one of the first producers to record DJs. Early
on he paid for sessions while working as a dental technician.
The modest earnings from this allowed him to record at his own
pace, and he often recorded multiple versions of songs, essentially
recycling rhythms to add new vocalists, DJs, instrumental overdubs,
new intros or dub mixes. This became known as a "version"
which is now commonplace in reggae production. At 55 tracks, The
Hudson Affair is a serious collection of music and encompasses
early rocksteady, R&B and DJ versions, as well as dub, roots
reggae, and psychedelic soul.
Opening with the "Old Fashion Way" rhythm, a smoldering
rocksteady tune shuffles along under a sparkling keyboard line
amidst big choppy drum sounds. Ken Boothe's title version sounds
like it could be a southern R&B tune from the mid-'60s while
on "Dynamic Fashion Way," a swinging sax slithers in
between U-Roy's rhymes. And over a very low recording of Boothe's
original vocals, DJ and frequent early collaborator Dennis Alcapone
delivers an inspired version of uptempo dancehall madness. This
collection shows that Hudson really had a way of getting amazing
performances from some of the top vocalists of the day.
The second disc gets a bit slower, almost bluesy at times. Thick
dub production is applied to vocal tracks as they lumber along
in a hazy cloud of psychedelic atmosphere and throbbing basslines.
Often drum kits were accented with hand drums reflecting the style
of rural Jamaica. A who's who of talent can be heard here: Horace
Andy, King Tubby, Johnny Clarke, I Roy, Augustus Pablo and Alton
Ellis. But it's Hudon's own vocal tracks that really shine. He
wasn't an especially good singer, but he was able to use what
he had to great effect, singing with deep conviction and honesty.
He had an almost sloppy delivery, a kind of slacker-lovers-rasta
Often his songs were deeply spiritual meditations on Biblical
and Rasta history, personal relationships or black awareness.
And on songs like "Satan Side Version" he shows that
he couldn't be confined to the conventional parameters of reggae
music. Smears of keyboard workouts bring to mind Sun Ra's ecstatic
meanderings while on "Class and Subject" a bottom drop
rhythm anchors his lazy singing and could easily come from a scorched
northern soul tune. He truly had a unique style. While there are
far too many great moments to mention here, he should be viewed
as one of the great outsider musicians in the spirit of Lee Perry's
most radical work, but also in a more metaphorical sense like
Jandek, Prince or Sun Ra. Highest possible recommendation! [GA]
For further listening I highly recommend the albums Rasta
Communication, Playing It Cool and Flesh of My Skin,
Blood Of My Blood.