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Rupie Edwards: Minimal Dubs, Minimal Song, Minimal Songwriters

Playing dubs for people not invested in the music or its history winds up being a pretty difficult task. Of course, the figures in Jamaica working to break in the genre must have been looked upon as utter loonies. Maybe they were. Maybe not. But there’re a number of producers who worked during the late sixties and early seventies, apart from King Tubby, who haven’t been showcased in the same way that innovator was.

Clearly, Tubby was massively talented. But ignoring the likes of Hugh Mundell or Rupie Edwards only serves to reduce the music’s history and make it seem as if there were only a few people working in the medium.

Edwards didn’t ever have hits the way Tubby did – as a singer or producer. But that doesn’t mitigate the talented displayed over the course of his career. We’ll just ignore some of the recent Jesus-related albums. Anyway, during the latter portion of the sixties, as other producers were concerning themselves with versioning songs for inclusion on singles, Edwards figured he was more than capable of altering a single track enough times for ten different singers to use the track, creating an album. The single song disc seems like an odd concept – and it is, because, any performer whose having an off day is gonna wind up making a good composition sound awful. Partially, that’s because of the album’s form, but still…

Either way, with Edwards’ foresight, he worked up what would become Yamaha Skank, focused on the Slim Smith composition “My Conversation.” That track alone should be familiar to JA music fans who’ve delved into the rock steady era. So strong is that track, that hearing it roughly ten times, in slightly variegated settings, is still entertaining. Of course, the Smith original should still stand out a bit. But nothing here counts as a bummer.

Beyond recording work for other folks, though, Edwards had a go at a few long players under his own name. Ire Feelings, as released in 1975, has been cited by some as one of the earlier examples of the most minimalist of dubs. Getting to hear “Feeling High,” or the title track, which uses the same rhythm, points to that fact. What’s surprising, though, is how confident Edwards is on the mic as he croons everything from love songs to reality tracks. There’s really not a let down in the pack even as it becomes clear the Edwards has more to say sonically than he does lyrically (“Boogoo Yaga?”).