Keith Hudson, aka The Dark Prince of Reggae, died in 1984 only 38 years old. He was a creative and innovative producer turned singer that worked with some of the biggest singers and deejays in the 60s and 70s, including Ken Boothe on Old Fashioned Way and Delroy Wilson on A Place in Africa.
He’s known for his moody, haunting rhythms and a vocal style that’s an acquired taste. That’s why I have always preferred his role as a producer than a singer. And that’s also why I had slightly low expectations on a new Keith Hudson album that surfaced out of the blue in early December.
The tracks on Tuff Gong Encounter were recorded around 1984 with Carlton Barrett and Aston “Family Man” Barrett, known as the Wailers’ riddim section, on drums and bass. These key musicians were joined by Junior Marvin on guitar and Tyrone Downie on keys, two players that have also worked extensively with Bob Marley.
The cuts were intended for an album that never saw the light of day. Until now. More than 30 years after the recordings took place. But the album is not full-blown vintage material. Prior to the release King Jammy finished off the existing mixes for the six vocal cuts and also mixed six woofer testing dub versions.
Tuff Gong Encounter is solid. It’s one of Keith Hudson’s most accessible albums and his singing is more on pitch than usual. The dub versions are nicely mixed with just a dash of effects. And Keith Hudson’s voice is almost completely removed from the dub versions; the bass, the drums, the guitar and the keys does most of the talking.
The album comes with fascinating and detailed sleeve notes courtesy of Vincent Ellis, who is currently writing a biography on Keith Hudson. Probably the final album from one of reggae’s most ingenious producers.