If Soul Jazz can lay claim to introducing the venerable Studio One catalog to the new generation of music cognoscenti in 101-fashion, then the relatively older Rounder has dibs on offering graduate-level courses. After a quick, catch-up cram session with two best-of volumes, Rounder has begun reviewing less recognized artists or ideas with an exceptionally fine comb. Version Dread explores the seemingly familiar ground of versions, mostly instrumental B-sides of A-side singles that predated dub music (and heavily influenced the “dub” versions found on countless stateside dance twelve-inches throughout the ’80s).
However, where dub has been championed as a separate movement from reggae, like ska and rocksteady, versions have been viewed more as a recording obligation or a useful tool in deejay mixing. Version Dread breaks this tradition by treating versions as a distinct music style; as Chris Wilson notes in his liners, “[label owner Coxsone] Dodd, who himself mixed many of the tracks on this collection, was more interested in the musicality of his mixes.”
This compilation collects eighteen versions that have until now been unavailable on CD, many only available on the B-sides to the original singles. The presentation is comprehensible and convenient, and the track selection exceptional. Such classics as the edit-heavy Willie Williams’s “Armagideon Version” and Sound Dimension’s take on “Pick up the Pieces” quickly give way to the reverberating “It Deep, Pt. 2” by Lloyd Robinson & Brentford Disco Set and Sound Dimension’s booming “Zion Lion,” charting the migration path toward dub. I hope Rounder follows up with deeper digs: This course promises innumerable rewards.