Keith Hudson – Torch Of Freedom (Hot Milk Records)


It’s simple really: If you like reggae from the 1970s then chances are you’ll like this 1975 album from the man known as “The Dark Prince Of Reggae”. Keith Hudson was best known for his production work in the early-’70s, having worked the boards for some of the biggest and best names around, but his singing career was just as, if not more, important. So what if his singing isn’t great in the classical sense of the word? His lack of expansive range or perfect tone just forced him to work harder on his lyrics, which are far more introspective than his peers. Working in a lo-fi recording studio? That’s fine, Hudson just filled the room with the hottest talent from Jamaica’s session musician pool and had them lay down basic rhythms, which he then flew over to London for overdubs. The overdubs are where things get really interesting. British guitarist Buster Pearson laid down some truly wild (and, for reggae purists, heretical) fuzz and wah-wah guitar runs and there’s also layers of synthesizers from Ken Eliot. The synth makes Torch Of Freedom a singular listening experience, as the instrument hadn’t yet been widely used in reggae, and Hudson employed it to create something akin to a reggae-fied “wall of sound”. The music on these songs is dense and swampy – the perfect accompaniment for his tales of struggle and heartache. However great the album is, be warned: Although there are thirteen tracks listed, there’s really seven songs, with six of them followed by their instrumental counterpart. While some may find the dearth of original vocal material annoying, the instrumentals give you a behind the scenes look into how the tracks were constructed, which in this case actually enhances the listening experience.

Tracklisting:

1. Lost All Sense Of Direction
2. Jah Jah
3. Don’t Look At Me So
4. Look At Me
5. Don’t Let The Teardrops Fool You
6. Teardrops
7. Like I’m Dying
8. Turn The Heater On
9. So Cold Without You
10. Five More Minutes Of Your Time
11. My Time
12. Torch Of Freedom
13. Freedom Movements

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Keith Hudson – Rasta Communication: Deluxe Edition (Greensleeves)


Keith Hudson’s career was in a bad place when this album was released back in 1978. Even though the man known as “The Dark Prince Of Reggae” was a well respected producer in Jamaica, success as a vocalist was elusive. Virgin Records signed him to a big four-album contract in 1976 with the label seeing him as “the next Bob Marley”, but that ended after one disappointing album of soul-influenced songs given the all too fitting title Too Expensive. Back on his own label, Joint, Hudson got back to what he did best, releasing a dub album called Brand in 1977, which helped him reconnect with the hardcore reggae faithful. For Rasta Communication Hudson added vocals on top of the rhythms from Brand. Hudson wasn’t a particularly great vocalist in the traditional sense of the word, but, like Peter Tosh, he used his limited range as a delivery mechanism for his dead serious Rastafarian beliefs. He also had a group of Jamaica’s finest sessions musicians at his disposal, creating backing tracks featuring layers of atmospheric guitar, nyabinghi drumming and synths that were more sophisticated than the typical reggae productions of the time. His songs were strong too, with his ode to Rastafarian struggle and determination “Felt We Felt The Strain”, the opening title track, and “I’m No Fool” among reggae’s best. Only “Musicology” falls flat, with a simple rhythm and lyrics that are both slight and cloying.

The original ten track album is expanded to an astounding twenty-seven songs for this new two-disc reissue. In addition to the regular album, the first disc features the non-album single “Nah Skin Up” (featuring perhaps Hudson’s most militant lyrics) presented in 12″ mix version, and alternate mixes of four album tracks. The second disc is a reissue of Brand, with twelve dub versions of rhythms from Rasta Communication. Interestingly, some of the rhythms were used to make multiple dub songs, illustrating how the tracks Hudson concocted were dense enough that they could be pulled apart and reconstructed in several different directions. He also left the vocal tracks in for many of the dubs which is a plus for those who find instrumental dub repetitive. Greensleeves have done an excellent job with this reissue in terms of sound, bonus material and presentation, making it an essential purchase for reggae fans. The only thing that could have possibly made it better would be if they included Green Valley, the album Hudson produced, featuring deejay Militant Barry toasting over Rasta Communications’ rhythms.

Tracklisting:

Disc One:

Rasta Communication (5:00)

Felt We Felt the Strain (3:46)

Bloody Eyes (3:51)

Rasta Country (3:44)

I Broke the Comb (2:35)

I’m Not Satisfied (2:49)

I’m No Fool (4:24)

Jonah (2:51)

Musicology (3:12)

I Won’t Compromise (2:47)

Nah Skin Up (12″ mix) (7:25)

Felt We Felt the Strain (12″ mix) (6:36)

Bloody Eyes (12″ mix) (4:10)

Rasta Country (7″ version) (3:00)

(Jonah) Come Out Now (2:27)

Disc Two:

Rub Dub (3:51)

Felt the Strain Dub (2:44)

My Eyes Are Red Dub (4:15)

Bloody Eyes Dub (4:10)

National Item (3:10)

National Anthem (3:05)

I Broke the Comb Dub (2:29)

Barrabas Dub (2:25)

Image Dub (3:35)

(Jonah) Come Out Now Version (2:33)

Musicology Dub (3:25)

Darkness Dub (3:07)