Lee Perry- The Return Of Sound System Scratch

Righteous Land - Aleas Jube
Righteous Rocking - The Upsetters
Get Ready (Bongo mix) - Junior Murvin & The Upsetters
Natural Dub - The Upsetters
Long Enough - Candy Mackenzie & The Upsetters
Kiss Me Mix - The Upsetters
Strong Drink (Melodica version) - The Upsetters
Time - The Unforgettables
Longer Dub - The Upsetters
Revelation Time - Leo Graham & The Upsetters
I've Got The Dub - George Faith & The Upsetters
Deep and Deadly - The Upsetters
Jah Jah Ah Natty Dread - Lee Perry & The Upsetters
Mr Dubz - The Upsetters
Enter The Upsetter - Lee Perry & The Upsetters
Darkness In The City - Jimmy Riley & The Upsetters
Economic Crisis - Jack Lord & The Upsetters
Rejoice Jah Jah Children - The Silvertones

If punk rock kicked in the front doors of the mid 1970s music scene, then Lee 'Scratch' Perry must have seeped in through its walls and floors. By the time Perry established himself at the Black Ark there was probably no one quite like him working in popular music. Anarchic, spiritual but with a healthy rude sense of humour, he popped up in all kinds of unlikely places; at the time his working methods baffled many, but no one could argue with the results.

This album is a snapshot of some of Perry's more extreme and overlooked productions from the 1970s. Defining his musical output can be tough, as it is varied in style and he worked with both the mainstream and the obscure. You can end up chasing shadows trying to work out where he was 'at' during his 70s heyday. Just about all of his music an this album comes from his Black Ark period. A couple of tracks are from before he moved there. But in essence this is a Black Ark album.

His regular trips to the UK meant there was always the opportunity to create specials and dub plates. He also ran regular sessions for Jamaica's top soundmen. This is where many of our tracks come from. There are also a few obscure gems that came out as 45s and have been overlooked in the past, such as Jimmy Riley's 'Darkness In The City' and Leo Graham's 'Revelation Time'.

On 'Long enough' by Candy Mackenzie his production ideas are wrapped around a fairly conventional song. Candy was one third of the Full Experience backing group and originated from Guyana. It's a fantastic slice of soulful pop and was to have been on an album that Island Records rejected. During this period you can appreciate why Perry must have got frustrated with major label meddling.

'Deep And Deadly' is taken from a dub plate is from the other end of the musical spectrum where there was not quite the same pressures to 'hit' the definitive mix of a song. The sound is sparse with a few sonic surprises thrown in later in the mix. There is a Junior Delgado vocal of this rhythm, a deep mix that must have rocked sound systems.

Not all the tracks are fully painted pictures but they can be revealing in that they show the way that Perry worked at the time. his attention to the sonic extremes of sound demonstrated on the mix of 'Jah Jah A Natty dread' is fascinating. There is a great energy to 'Scratches' vocal that drives the whole tune along; pushing the sound to the edge of what is acceptable just before it starts to distort. Occasionally he goes over the edge and yet it still hangs together. It works and works in a way that had people queuing up to collaborate with 'Scratch' at the Black Ark.

The benefits of running his studio and living at the same address had both advantages and disadvantages. He could not escape his pressured work environment or the endless hangers-on. But if he had an idea at least he was able to get on with it quickly often involving whoever was available at the time when he was ready to roll the tapes. The track by Aleas Jube is a fine example. Aleas Jube was someone who used to 'hang around' the studio in Perry's words. Yet Perry was able to fashion a distinctive song with an unknown singer into something really quite unique. The ride cymbal is used in an unusual way for a reggae song; the drums feel closer to jazz or rock rather than reggae. 'Righteous Land' and its version 'Righteous Rocking' have as far as we know never been released before.

On Leo Graham's 'Revelation Time' the 'drop' and where the rhythm lands is all important. That beat and the Perry rhythm are often overlooked. His rhythms are often as recognisable as the sounds of his productions themselves.

Black Ark recording and mixing sessions were often open ended. There was loose time keeping and not the rigid 'time is money' equation, as there was elsewhere in the Kingston studio scene. His signature rhythms and laid back production style can be deceptive. The music often sounds like it might just fall apart it's so loose. On Junior Murvin's 'False Teachings', transformed by the lead melodica, the whole mix teeters close to the edge of collapse giving the music an extra tension and dynamic. The ethereal Perry 'sound swirl', as distinctive as anything in popular music, is used in a way that many have tried to copy without ever really pulling off in the way that Perry does.

Perry's reference points are often from soul and r&b. Like Studio One where Mr. Dodd used jazz as an influence to create something new within reggae, Perry was great at pulling in sound ideas from soul and r&b. Many of the colourings of wah wah guitar and funky keyboard shuffles are straight from Memphis or New Orleans. He was not a great one for using other Jamaican producer's rhythms preferring to create original rhythms with the regular Black Ark session musicians. The players were absolutely pivotal to Perry's production techniques, they were obviously well directed yet they seemed to enter Perry's 'headspace' quite readily as soon as they arrived at the Black Ark to start recording. A kind of Perry induced sense of suspended reality for the duration of the recording tended to take over. Bob Marley more than anyone was intuitive enough to realise that what you got with Perry was totally special and consequently returned to record with Scratch on a regular basis.

Lee Perry was actually always pretty good at diffusing tension when he felt like it. Then building it up again when he felt it served his purpose.. He became known as the Upsetter for a reason!! His maverick approach to both music and life has been - as he puts it so well - "A serious joke". He keeps people on their toes, which is often advantageous when you are trying to create music beyond the capability of most producers. I hope at some point he feels like climbing back into his own personal musical space ship once again. Behind a mixing desk is where his true genius has always belonged.

Pete Holdsworth

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