Easy Star All-Stars’ Dub Side Of The Moon

dub side of the moon“Dub is a form of Jamaican music, which evolved out of reggae in 1960s Jamaica. The dub sound is usually accomplished by removing the vocals from an existing music piece, and adding extensive echo and reverb effects, and occasional snippets of lyrics from the original version.” — Wikipedia

I’ve started this review off with the definition of dub because I wasn’t too sure of it myself. I really enjoy reggae, but I’m not exactly an expert. In fact, I only know that I like it. Having Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff in my CD collection hardly qualifies me as having a knowledge of reggae, since in my mind these two peformers are so widely known that their music defies general boundaries. But I had enjoyed a performance by Matisyahu a few years back, and I’m a huge Pink Floyd fan. Those things, along with my willingness to listen to any music put in front of me (have I mentioned my fondness for Chinese gangsta rap?), cemented my decision to give this DVD a try. So I hunkered down comfortably, popped on my lava lamp, got my munchies in easy reach and got to work.

It’s not like the Easy Star All-Stars play Dark Side with a cheesy reggae track tacked on, then call it their own. They reimagine riffs, add vocals and take different turns with the music, all the while staying true to the course of the original album’s main concepts. A bit of animation starts things off; a lone Rasta man in his spaceship (don’t question it, it’s cool) picks up a transmission on the other side of the moon. He wakes from suspended animation and gets to grooving. “Speak To Me” fits with the reggae genre seamlessly, and not because they do a spot-on mimicry of the tune. In fact, they take the basic concept and roll with it, injecting a heavy back-beat into the mix. This instrumental is something I could have listened to for as long as they wanted to continue, but “Breathe in the Air” begins without breaking the band’s stride. The lyrics of “Breathe” work well with the reggae interpretation; the lyrics “And all you touch and all you see / Is all your life will ever be” sound just as purposeful here. “Time,” the next song on the album with vocals, takes a turn from the expected and launches into a rap in-between verses, then blends into “The Great Gig in the Sky” which showcases an amazing vocal performance by Tamar-Kali.

The animated Rastanaut makes a quick appearance between songs in order to take a ganja break (hey, it’s in the oxygen mask they supply on ship, who are we to question?) then the musicians get back to the groove. The Easy Star All-Stars make “Money” their own; if I had heard this version before the original, I would have sworn that the Floyd was the cover band here. “Brain Damage,” the last vocal track before “Eclipse” takes off into an instrumental finish, is the most similar to the original, at least to start. Just as I was wishing that the band would weed out the sax, trombone and other instruments in order to focus on the reggae backbeat, I got my wish. The pared-down tune is a cleaner, more powerful tune, and the song finishes on a high note.

This DVD seems short at 51 minutes, but considering it’s a live performance based on only one album (albeit the entire album), it packs a lot into that time. The bonus features have brief interviews with the band members, along with a bit of a pre-show peek, bios, a photo album and a “Making of Dub Side” video clip. These bits are short, but let’s face it, the live concert is the reason people are popping this in, not the backstage extras.

After I watched this DVD, I wondered what members of Pink Floyd would think, so I checked around a little. Nick Mason, during a Q&A session at Vue Cinema on July 3, 2006, referred to DubSotM as one of the interpretations of Pink Floyd’s material that “come to mind.” Then I took a look at the cover packaging and saw “‘Dub Side of the Moon is fun!’ — David Gilmore” front and center. The slightly different yet familiar take on the classic triangle/prism artwork on the original Dark Side must have distracted me, I guess.

So take it from this wanna-be reggae aficionado, Dub Side Of The Moon is good fun, good music and a great interpretation of the original material. No spliffs required.

(Easy Star Records, 2006)

Denise Kitashima Dutton

Denise Kitashima Dutton has been a reviewer since 2003, and hopes to get the hang of things any moment now. She believes that bluegrass is not hell in music form, and that beer is better when it's a nitro pour. Besides GMR, you can find her at Atomic Fangirl, Movie-Blogger.com, or at that end seat at the bar, multi-tasking with her Kindle.

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