The Hudson Affair: Keith Hudson and Friends
Keith Hudson's death in 1984 (he was only 38) robbed reggae of one of its most complex, innovative, and woefully underappreciated artists. As a writer, singer, and producer, Hudson had a dark and maverick vision that led to him being labeled "the Dark Prince of Reggae," and he was in many ways the artistic flip side to Bob Marley, although the two shared the same essential views on matters of politics, race, and religion. As a singer, Hudson was somewhat pitch-challenged, but his fierce, impassioned delivery replaced skill with sheer emotional commitment, and it's hard to imagine spooky, haunted songs like "Melody Maker" or "Darkest Night on a Wet Looking Road," or the huge-sounding "Healing Up the Land" sung by anyone else. It was as a producer, though, that Hudson's legacy will ultimately be defined. Prone to sparse, deep, and groove-hungry rhythms that carried more R&B and funk DNA then most Jamaican productions, Hudson seemed at ease with gifted singers like Alton Ellis, Ken Boothe, and Delroy Wilson, as well as foundation DJs from the 1970s like U-Roy, I-Roy, and Dennis Alcapone. His classic Pick a Dub album from 1974 was not only one of the first, but also one of the best sequences that dub has ever produced. This much-needed two-disc set is an update and expansion of sorts of Trojan's single-disc Studio Kinda Cloudy collection from 1988, and it includes highlights of Hudson's production work with various artists during the late '60s and mid-'70s, plus the above-mentioned singles and several dubs, versions, and instrumentals. The result is an indispensable collection that is startling in its range of emotions, and shot through as it is with those trademark dark rhythms, it stands as a fitting testament to a major (if little recognized) figure in Jamaican music.