Monday, May 23, 2016

Classic Album Review: Easy Star All-Stars – Dub Side of The Moon (2003)

I’m usually highly sceptical about projects of this nature. Even just to take a classic album and remix or re-master it provides risk enough on its own, let alone taking one of the biggest-selling albums of all-time and reproducing it in a completely different style. And when the original recording was made by one of rock’s all-time legendary and most critically-acclaimed groups … well, you really are on a hiding to nothing.

However, as much as the dreaded (no pun) words “novelty item” are screaming out at me to be written here, I have to say that Dub Side of The Moon is seriously good stuff, and the Easy Star All-Stars deserve enormous credit for pulling this one off in the stylish manner they did.

Dub Side does exactly what it says on the box – namely, take the 1973 Pink Floyd epic Dark Side of The Moon and record it in a reggae/dub style. The Easy Star All-Stars largely remain faithful to the Pink Floyd original, making minimal alterations to the overall feel of the music, other than the obvious changes to structure. Changes that convert the prog rock of Floyd’s original into the roots reggae found on this. But even then, the spacey atmospheric nature of prog, full of echo and reverb as it is, adapts well to the reggae format, and the All-Stars strike just the right blend of styles on Dub Side. In many respects, this material only serves to confirm how remarkably similar the two genres can be.

That the album is reproduced track for track suggests the All-Stars weren’t prepared to compromise, dilute, or offer up any short cuts along the way - despite any temptation there may have been to omit a few of the more challenging tracks. On ‘Us and Them’, the All-Stars offering actually almost surpasses the quality of Pink Floyd’s version (what? Blasphemy! – Ed), and Frankie Paul’s vocal is one of the album’s most obvious highlights. ‘Brain Damage’ is another quite brilliant interpretation (see clip below), while the “Alt version” especially (one of two) of ‘Time’ adds an earthy melancholic flavour.

The Easy Star All-Stars subsequently produced a similar covers album/version of Radiohead’s late Nineties masterpiece ‘OK Computer’ - titled ‘Radiodread’ (2006) - which was equally as impressive. There’s also been ‘Dubber Side of The Moon’, where the stuff found on Dub Side gets a makeover of its own, via a selection of remixes by the good and the great of the dub world.

Dub Side of The Moon is a worthy tribute to Pink Floyd and their original album. I can scarcely believe 13 years have passed since this slice of stoner heaven was released.


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