Over the Moon: Pink Floyd gets a Reggae makeover

Thirty years after Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon began its long run on the charts, a local company is making headlines of its own by duplicating the classic album... in a reggae version.

The story begins in January 1996 when New Yorkers Michael Goldwasser, Eric Smith, Lem Oppenheimer, and Remy Gerstein came up with the idea of starting a reggae record label. Each put up $5,000and within a year they had formed Easy Star Records and released the single "Anything for Jah" by Rob Symeonn. The label was able to capitalize on the Big Apple's healthy reggae scene, and by 2001, Easy Star Records boasted 10 independent releases.

Shortly after the label's conception, Lem Oppenheimer packed his bags and left New York for the greener pastures of Charlottesville. Convinced there was no way to continue his connection with the label from such a distance, he severed his ties with his three partners. That lasted for about a week. Oppenheimer soon found that his move to the slower pace of central Virginia actually freed up his time for work on the label. Internet, email, fax and phone erased the distance issue.

Just before leaving New York, Oppenheimer came up with the idea of remaking Dark Side of the Moon in dub format. Six years later, the album is complete– Dub Side of the Moon is now available in stores worldwide. With an all-star cast of artists including Corey Harris, Gary "Nesta" Prine (The Wailers), and The Meditations, the Easy Star production team managed to recreate Dark Side down to the second.

Skeptics have questioned the validity of such an album.

"In classical music, everyone is always taking other people's music and performing it," responds Oppenheimer. "Jazz is the same. I'm sure someone was upset when Coltrane did 'My Favorite Things' or Miles with 'My Funny Valentine.' We just spliced the DNA and turned Dark Side into a different thing."

The public is responding– even public radio. In January, NPR did a segment on Dub Side. When last checked, Dub Side was near 17,000 units sold in the U.S. alone and steadily moving anywhere from 200-400 units a week. In anticipation of the project's international success, Easy Star has already shipped 40,000 albums worldwide.

Since Easy Star's independent distribution is based in Oppenheimer's home office here in Charlottesville, that makes Dub Side the second largest national release for the city, topped only by DMB.

The success of his album doesn't change Oppenheimer's calm demeanor. "It's not about the bling," he says. "It's about making money to keep putting out more records."

Oppenheimer says he's happy that sales in Charlottesville have been higher than in other cities of comparable size. The ultimate goal, however, is to expose more people to reggae.

"People tend to have one Bob Marley record, and that's it for their reggae collection. We want all those kids with that Marley CD to go out and buy three or four more reggae records and experience the vast culture," he says.

The Easy Star All-Stars will be performing Dub Side of the Moon at Starr Hill Music Hall July 17.