Album review
Playing It Cool & Playin It Right
Keith Hudson
Basic Replay-Indigo
14 - 07 - 2003

Tracking list

  1. Playing It Cool
  2. Playing It Right Dub
  3. Trust & Believe
  4. In I Dub
  5. California
  6. By Night Dub
  7. Not Good For Us
  8. Formula Dub
  9. Be What You Want To Be
  10. Be Good Dub
  11. I Can't Do Without You
  12. Still Need You Dub
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)

Vocals : 4/5 Backing : 4/5 Production : 5 Sound quality : 5 Sleeve : 2

Keith Hudson's "Playing It Cool & Playing It Right" has now been (re)released on the Basic Replay imprint of mysterious Berlin dub-techno duo Moritz Von Oswald and Mark Ernestus a.k.a. Rhythm & Sound, as part of their rerelease program of the complete Wackie's catalog. More on their own releases, whether technodub on Basic Channel or their Rhythm & Sound and also on their classic Wackie's (re)releases can be found at www.basicchannel.com. Keith Hudson, the 'ghetto dentist' emigrated in the late 70s to New York City, where he died way too young in 1984. Known for his seminal DJ-productions in the early 70s of Big Youth and U Roy, and singers like Horace Andy and Ken Boothe, he later released one of the best ever dub albums 1974's "Pick A Dub" and his 1973 album "Flesh Of My Skin, Blood Of My Blood" is the historical first concept album in reggae. This 1981 album is in the once very popular showcase style, where each song is immediately followed by its dub, recorded for the small US-label Joint International, a cooperation between Keith Hudson and Wackie's Lloyd 'Bullwackie' Barnes. It's got a very gloomy vibe throughout the album, on opener "Playing It Cool" he wails repetitive I'm allright yet it sounds, even over the sweet backing vocals, as if that's certainly not the case. After the corresponding dub "Playing It Right" he sings the love plea I Want You, Why Won't You Understand in the very much US soul influenced and once again supported by beautiful female backing vocals "Trust & Believe" and its disorienting dub "In I Dub" with the wonderful echoing piano part. It's nice but unfortunate that the original cover has been reproduced, as there is virtually no information on who took part in these session, Lloyd Barnes as executive producer is the only one mentioned besides Keith Hudson, but I'd guess the Love Joys are contributing the backing vocals. On "California" a sad US soul mood takes a a strong hold on the listener, a sort of weeping guitar backs the darkest nighst - wet-looking road female vocals, that Keith Hudson counters in this sad song with the driving all to way to California lyrics, and the blue "By Night Dub" following. The piano chords played in "Not Good For Us" are the only sounds that are not depressing in this piece about too much formula, ain't good for my head, an aural trip into the darkness side of a man's mind, with the wicked (both interpretations meant) "Formula Dub" working even more threatening with the banged piano echoing in and out of the mix. "Be What You Want To Be" and its dub "Be Good" are over a hand-drum and rhythm-guitar dominated riddim, with even some positivity shown in the half-spoken/half-sung lyrics. The last tracks "I Can't Do Without You" and "Still Need You Dub" do remind in a very positive way about the soul and funk influences in some of the muddier Lee 'Scratch' Perry Black Ark recordings, and are a great way to finish off this (only) 30 minutes wicked, disturbing aural trip of Keith Hudson's tormented genius.