Keith Hudson — as is Lloyd Bullwackie Barnes, his collaborator here — was a one-off innovator with impeccably classical lineage: his first studio recording involved former Skatalites; his earliest releases provided solid-gold hits for Ken Boothe (Old Fashioned Way, 1967), John Holt, Delroy Wilson, U-Roy and the rest. Also like Bullwackies, his splitting from this tradition is dynamic and all his own: Hudson’s mature music finds its conditions away from JA, in London and New York studios and transatlantic audiences, with his dark experimentalism increasingly better suited to the the LP than the cardinal seven-inch reggae format.
Playing It Cool And Playing It Right was released in 1981 on the Joint International label, in NYC. It was originally intended that one of Hudson’s teenage sons would voice the dubs: in the event the Love Joys, Wayne Jarrett, and most inimitably Hudson himself featured at the microphone. Like Wackies, Hudson was a Studio One devotee — ‘I used to hold Don Drummond’s trombone for him so I can be in the studio’, he once recalled — and the album follows Coxsone’s recent strategy of overdubbing signature rhythms.
The Studio One sides were aimed at the dancefloor; Hudson’s reworks of tracks like Melody Maker are more psychological. Here deep Barrett Brothers rhythms are remixed deeper with reverb, filters and other distortion, pitched down, everything; and overlaid with new recordings, often heavily treated, of guitar, percussion, keyboard, voice.