Keith Hudson was one of reggae's odder practitioners, as he never adhered very well to orthodox production techniques (or even instrumentation) and had an oddball voice some found endearing but others found nearly unlistenable. His artistic vision was likewise liberated from reggae norms . . . what would have been considered innovatory for anyone else was just par for the course for him.
"Torch Of Freedom" is one of the great missing pieces of the Keith Hudson oeuvre. Out of print for years, it's been long sought after by both aficionados and the mildly curious, many of whom discovered Hudson's "Turn The Heater On" (included here) from New Order's "Peel Sessions" release, one of very few covers they attempted, and apparently a personal favorite of Ian Curtis. "Torch Of Freedom" finally sees CD release courtesy of the Hot Milk imprint, who've done an outstanding job with sound and presentation. The artwork reproduces the original cover, and the 16-page booklet has extensive liner notes, credits and photos. This is Hot Milk's debut release.
Hudson's is known as "The Dark Prince Of Reggae," which overstates the extent to which his music actually sounds sinister or menacing, though it's generally not light-hearted fare. Some of the mystery and intrigue that mark his reputation may rest in the fact that his song craft was one in which vibe nearly always took precedent over form. Guitar and synth parts weave around the rhythm tracks in a way that's untypical for reggae, but it's not exactly jazz or rock and roll either. Consequently, dub pieces don't always emphasize the intensity or elasticity of the rhythm as is the norm, but may simply be meditative explorations on a groove, melody or feel that seem incomplete, but still satisfy.
One Hudson technique I really love is the way a rhythm will start with only a short drum beat or perhaps on bar of rhythm before Hudson hops in and starts singing, with rarely a break of instrumental space, then rides the song through to its conclusion with little more than a fragment of chorus or bridge. One such song is Five More Minutes Of Your Time," which has a bridge structured almost entirely by a rise in intonation of Hudson't voice, and a chorus that's four seconds long at best. It lasts 1:31! And it's really all you need! Hudson managed to cram a lot of ideas into a very short period of time (only "Turn The Heater On" and its dub version break the 3:00 mark) without his songs seeming minimalist or fragmentary.
Hudson may have been one of the few reggae producers who continued to produce deep and inventive music after reggae's heyday, but we'll never know. He passed away in 1984 at the age of 37.