Mad Professor: ‘Dubbing With Anansi’ Album Review

Neil Joseph Stephen Fraser AKA Mad Professor returns to the mixing board with Dubbing With Anansi (Ariwa), his latest album which features long time musical collaborators Horseman and Black Steel on the instruments and the vocal talents of Brother Culture, New Flower, Delroy Williams, Vivian Jones, Vivian Dour, Frankie Paul, and Mad Professor himself. The Professor and his Ariwa crew have truly delivered over the past several years on all projects, especially the showcase albums with Luciano and Cedric Myton of the Congos. 

Dubbing  With Anansi celebrates the African/Caribbean folk hero Anansi, one of the few fictional protagonists to survive the Atlantic crossing during the slave trade, and the transition made from free, African citizens to exiles in the western world. The Anansi tales originated from the Ashanti people of present-day Ghana, however, they have also been popular for ages in the West Indies, where it is often celebrated as a symbol of slave resistance and survival.

The album opens with Anansi making its way across the Atlantic on a slave ship bound for hell. “Atlantic Crossing” opens with the sounds of the ship cutting its way through the waters of the Atlantic followed by a “jump-the-funk-up-tempo” horns and melodica-driven riddim. The opening tune has a very funky, almost lounge-y vibe that will sound foreign to most Mad Professor fans. “Rebels Gathering” finds Professor right in the pocket doing what he has done so brilliantly for thirty years – re-interpreting some of reggae’s most popular and influential riddims. The horns come strong again backed by the skilled drumming of Horseman, all of which is melded and mixed to near-perfection by Mad Professor. On “The Sound Tester (Sound Crash)” Professor reprises Dennis Brown’s “No General” riddim with grand effect. Barking dogs and Brother Culture blow up the guest spot on “Tribal Dance,” a righteous, dubbed out re-cut of the Michigan and Smiley “Diseases” riddim which is easily the hardest banger on Anansi. The barking dogs feature yet again on “Middle Passage” which revisits Aston “Family Man” Barrett’s brilliant “Sun Is Shining” bassline. 

Mad Professor utilizes cutting edge experimental audio tricks to create a dazzling dub album, employing melodies that take you from West Africa to the Caribbean. Dubbing With Anansi builds on the dub sound that the producer has skillfully crafted over the past thirty years, crafting a collective of cohesive tracks that match the quality of his impressive back catalogue.