The King of Rub-a-Dub

Fraser is an engaging musician with a fluid, melodic approach that is at odds with the jump-cut sensibility of dub. After the promising disc opener "Ram Dance Hall" (complete with slap-back echo effects, spidery guitar runs, and precious little sax soloing), this Tribute tells its honoree to buzz off via eleven successive instrumentals. Their overarching jazz feel, with Kenny G flurries, elbow out the rub-a-dub credibility. From time to time, a multitracked Fraser compensates with faux section-work meant to stand in for the horn charts that power the hottest cuts on Dub Like Dirt, but it isn't quite enough to summon Tubby's driving force.

The backing tracks have the tight, spare soul of classic roots reggae with enough borrowed riffs to activate sagaciously wrinkled listeners' nostalgia. And the Firehouse Crew (which shares billing credits and production duty with Fraser) traces their lineage directly to Tubby's studio. So does "special guest" Winston "Boo-P" Bowen, who lights up the mento-flavor "Brucking" with his angular, no-nonsense lead guitar. But as pleasant as Tribute may be, it has little to do with dub. Of far more interest than Fraser's Firehouse foray would have been a brave attempt to add sax leads to actual Tubby tracks, a la melodica impresario Augustus Pablo, now on a comeback trail of sorts and with a back catalogue well worth seeking out. Dub's past is deader than the day before yesterday, and though we can't recapture the uplifting strangeness of King Tubby's first slew of commercial releases, we can certainly do better than bury his memory beneath medicated goo.

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