Sound System Scratch

Dub Plate Pressure - Lee Perry
Lama Lava Mix One - Augustus Pablo & The Upsetters
Groove Dubber - The Upsetters
Groove Rider - The Upsetters
Jucky Skank - The Upsetters
Chim Cherie - The Upsetters
The Rightful Organiser - Lee Perry & The Upsetters
Stagger - Lee Perry & The Upsetters
Big Neck Cut - Lee Perry & The Upsetters
Zeal Of The Lord - The Upsetters
Dub Of The Lord - The Upsetters
Returning Wax - The Upsetters
Bush Dub Corntrash - Winston Wright & The Upsetters
From Dub Four - Clive Hylton & The Upsetters
Roots Train Number Two - Junior Murvin & The Upsetters
Locks In The Dublight - Lee Perry & The Upsetters
Moonlight Version - The Upsetters
Dub History - Carlton Jackson & The Upsetters
Groovy Dub - The Upsetters
Living Dub - Keith Rowe & The Upsetters

Sound Systems and Lee 'Scratch' Perry
This compilation tells the tale of exclusivity, fashion, being in-the-know, of dub plate culture which lived at the heart of a vibrant scene that saw reggae music develop a new musical genre; that of the remix. In fact Lee Perry was probably one of the most creative producers to have worked in this genre in the 1970s. His exclusive mixes, which were often made for sound systems, are at the heart of what this album is about.

A dub plate gave a sound system an exclusive piece of music, although reggae music has always had a fluid concept of what 'exclusive' means, and another reason why their supporters followed them. Sounds had the same passionate following that football clubs had; indeed many fans had the same local loyalty. Sounds had a whole crew to build, move and play the equipment and music: social life was built around where the sound was playing: it was about looking good and checking out the opposite sex. Sounds were about cultural identity, a good time and maybe romance.

In the 1970's sound system culture one man's productions could be heard in exclusive mixes. That man was Lee 'Scratch' Perry who, more than any producer or performer of the time, used dub plates for one-off projects and mixes: his 'specials' are the thing of legend.

Lee Perry and the Black Ark Studio
A newspaper article from 1972 reports Perry as saying he wants to open a studio where "all the sufferers can record at the lowest possible rates". Over the next five years the studio became a legend for its vibe and the way in which Perry managed his visions.

Perry & his Black Ark studio gad become the birthplace of mystical tales: 'his sessions were always about vibes... rum, weed and chat'. Indeed Scratch wasn't all about doing deals and having hits like Bunny Lee or the rugged individualism of Prince Buster. He was about the people' the music' the message and creating new sounds and experimenting: indeed some in Kingston called him 'The Mad Scientist'.

As the new technology of early sampling and mixing came onto the market Perry used earnings from his UK hits by Susan Cadogan ('Hurt So Good') and Junior Byles ('Curly Locks') to buy the latest equipment. He always used technology up to and beyond it's capabilities and if the audible quality of the finished track was degraded... too bad! Indeed Island's rejection of his, now classic, album by The Congos ('Heart Of The Congos') was in part due to its poor audio quality.

Perry used his Black Ark studio to produce finished work that was both recorded and mixed by him. Many other producers, such as Yabby You, recorded at the Ark and then went to Dromilly Avenue and employed King Tubby to create the final mix. Perry often created several mixes of a track almost a decade prior to remixes becoming commonplace in mainstream music.

The studio was situated in the garden of his house where he had set up home with Pauline Morrison and their children one of whom preceded their relationship. It's another element to Perry's unique story that often gets overlooked: Perry was a family man whose home was at the centre of much of kid 1970's reggae. Many of the classic images of the Ark capture not only the heavily 'decorated' internal walls of the studio but the way in which Perry had many external walls adorned with large paintings and images: some by Jah Wise who features briefly in the film 'Rockers' and also famously added yellow lines to the cover of the first press of the 'Heart Of The Congos' album.

The Ark became the centre of the whole 'Rasta Rebel' vibe and, whilst various Rasta brethren took root at the Black Ark, Perry pushed his equipment, his family and himself to the point of destruction... searching for that production or mix.

Many dub plates, even when first cut, had jumps in them or sounded like someone was frying bacon in the background and once a few over-used needles had dug deeply into the fragile groove the sound quality was gone forever. The tracks on this collection have been restored to the highest current standards and we believe the quality of the music shines through. We hope you enjoy it.

Black Ark Music on this set
1968 saw Perry issue his first remix of a single. It was an early marker to a life as a producer who created a whole new craft through the re-imagining of existing rhythms and sounds. His pre Black Ark days were noted for his frequent re-use of rhythms as the basis for new tracks sometimes even mixing them up with other, existing, rhythms. He sampled all kinds of stuff from American soul songs to a toilet flushing before 'sampling' existed.

The special, and the essentially ephemeral nature of dub plates, gave Perry a wonderful platform to express himself and now these aluminium discs, with their wafer thin coating of lacquer, provide us with great snapshots in the creation and development of his studio's trademark bouncing bass with lashings of phasing: The Sound of The Black Ark.

'Sound System Scratch' finds Perry having a spat with Pablo and Clive Chin, playing with words, pushing known rhythms into new territories and building an unheard groove that drives. His love of sweet Southern soul music was used in the distilling of another fine sound: a heady cocktail of his own style of reggae/soul that was undoubtedly one of the key inspirations for the UK Lovers Rock movement. 'Sound System Scratch' also tells the tale of the personal storm fermenting inside Scratch with the tempos and energies of the tracks reflecting his changing head space.

The songs are about the harsh reality of ghetto life, about Jamaica's history of cruel and barbaric slavery and about love and Rasta set against a wave of hope for a better future for Jamaica. The mixes and grooves chart Scratch's own battles as he worked long hours fuelled by rum, Dragon Stout and lots of weed. The relentless energy of 'Dub Plate Pressure' tells its own story of Perry's spiritual and mental state as the Black Ark closed its gates. Perry was one of the emotional and spiritual lightning rods for the hopes of the Rasta movement: a role which cost him dearly.

And, Lo! Lee 'Scratch' Perry, of the Rasta Tribe, was at the Genesis of a Revelation: There is another realm in which a producer can create music and 'dub' and 'remixing' were begat.

Praises to Jah for access to The 'Ark of the Dubenant'.
Thanks RHP
Dedicated to Dub Heads Martin & Jake: thanks for a decade on the sofa.

Sleevenotes: Jeremy Collingwood

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