We were somewhere in the kitchen on the edge of dinner when the music began to take hold.
I’m not going to lie to you: when I first heard about Dub Like an Antelope: Legends of Reggae Celebrate Phish, I figured it had the potential of being a real ring-tailed stinker. (After being pummeled by waaayyy too many “Pickin’ On …” bluegrass salutes to various bands, for example, I tend to be leery of genre-specific tributes.) “A reggae tribute to Phish? Right …”
The only reason for telling you all that, boys and girls, is to help you avoid making the same mistake. The fact of the matter is, when this album arrived I popped it into the player with a “Might as well get it over with” attitude and began helping my wife do up a batch of stir-fried holy basil with big ol’ chunks of lobster. (Not a traditional Maine dish, by the way.) I think it was about halfway through “Bug” – bumping hips at the counter in time to the beat – that we both turned to each other (with big chef’s knives in our hands) and said, “Hey – this album is a hoot! ”
And it is.
Why does it work? You have to start with the Phish boys’ original approach to tunes like “Bouncing Around The Room”, “Wolfman’s Brother”, and “Makisupa Policeman”, I suppose. If you’re beginning with what often sounds like the soundtrack of a psychedelic cartoon, putting a reggae spin on things isn’t that much of a reach. (It’s really just a matter of adjusting the equalizer: cut the “lovable geek” setting back and bump up the bass.) Even the deeper swirls of “Waste” and the aforementioned “Bug” lend themselves willingly to a reggae setting. And Toots and the Maytals doing “Back On The Train”? That one’s simply a no-brainer good time.
Executive producer Henry K (Mr. Red Hillz hisself) did a neat job of putting this project together. Dub Like an Antelope features both reggae vets such as Bob Andy, Steel Pulse, and Chalice (who team up with King Yellowman to have some fun with “Bouncing”) as well as younger artists such as Rootz Underground and powerhouse vocalist Tessanne Chin.
Oddly enough, the weakest track on the album is “Boogie On Reggae Woman”, a song which – although it is a popular Phish cover tune – really has nowhere to go in this setting that it hasn’t already been. Personal fave: guitarist Earl “Chinna” Smith’s take on “Slave To The Traffic Light” … smooth.
So there you have it. A lesson in keeping your head open, boys and girls – don’t slam the door shut too soon. Dub Like an Antelope is a big ol’ bowlful of butt-shakin’, head-boppin’ fun.
Now go dance around the kitchen.