With a level of popularity surpassed only by the Wailers, the Skatalites are one of Jamaica's most beloved and influential outfits. Their early ’60s work forged the template for reggae music and made stars out of keyboardist Jackie Mittoo, trombonist Don Drummond and singer Roland Alphonso; their quick, clipped rhythms and snaking horn sections were later mimicked by a host of So-Cal checkerboard ska(te) bands.
The Legendary Skatalites in Dub collects an assortment of the group's work with producers Lee "Scratch" Perry and King Tubby — not exactly slouches themselves — providing a fascinating study in the breadth and depth of Jamaican music. The horns on songs like "Kimble Dub" and "Dumboo Dub" are still bright and triumphant, but with all the bed music stripped out their exuberance feels small and contained, like revelers who showed up to a party 5 hours too early. "Stealing Dub" and "Fugitive Dub," with their rolling bass lines and fluttering flutes, sound more like deep funk than dense dub.
Splitting the difference between the Skatalites'spry, bouncy rhythms and Perry and Tubby's spacier aesthetic, Legendary works because neither party fully gets their way, and their compromises make for riveting listening.