Music Reviews

Jack Ruby Presents

The Black Foundation

Black Foundation in Dub

Various Artists


“When Jack [Ruby] finally turned to recording he did so at a junction in Reggae music. Gone were the days of sweet soulful Rock Steady; this was the militant seventies. Black Power and Rasta Themes were the order of the day.” – Chris Wilson, from the liner notes.

The reggae and dub charted on these two CDs is more Marcus Garvey than Martin Luther King Jr. It’s life affirming, but not in the contemplative, navel-gazing way; it’s in the take-charge-of-your-life-and-fight-the-forces-that-keep-you-down kind of way. I always thought that dub bass was so warm because it contained the love of Jah.

Jack Ruby was a producer that helped spread the consciousness of artists like Burning Spear, the Eagles, the Black Disciples, the Heptones, Justin Hinds and the Dominoes, amongst others. Jack Ruby Presents The Black Foundation compiles many tracks of the artists in his “stable” (as the liner notes refer to it). All of the tracks here are characterized by a strong horn presence and very socio-politically charged lyrics. As Keith Johnson of Foundation puts it, “No matter how the rhythm go, [Jack Ruby] always want to have good lyric conscious vibration.” Despite this, the most powerful track on the disc is the instrumental version of “Free Rhodesia” by Jack Ruby and the Black Disciples, with its triumphant horns and Lee “Scratch” Perry intro. This compilation is comprised heavily of previously unreleased tracks and versions, but there’s not a single moment on the compilation that doesn’t make me want to revel in the intrinsic nobility of this music.

Dub is reggae’s decentralized manifestation. King Tubby, Errol Thompson, King Tubby, Sylvan Morris, and Chris Wilson. These engineers took the rigid, upstanding songs and transformed them into hazy, liquidous tracks using disorienting echo, delay and dropouts. King Tubby’s dubs are distinctive; every time I hear one, I want to melt into my chair. The dubs and the original tracks are so intertwined that I’m surprised that Heartbeat didn’t release both of these as a double CD. Regardless, for anyone with any sort of interest in this style, both of these are as essential as they come.

Heartbeat, One Camp Street, Cambridge, MA 02140;

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