Lee Perry & His Upsetters - Roaring Lion

Truths And Rights - Jah Lion & The Upsetters
Upsetters Shuffle - The Upsetters
Roaring Lion - Jah Lion & The Upsetters
Pride - Augustus Pablo & The Upsetters
Loco Negril - Althea & Donna
Big Gal Sally - The Upsetters
Generation From Creation - Jah Lion & The Upsetters
Big Boy Wally - The Upsetters
Beat Down Comrade Man - Junior Byles & The Upsetters
Stand And Look - The Fantels
Rocky Road Dub - The Upsetters
Natural Mystic - Bob & The Upsetters
Anasawa Dub - The Upsetters
Dub Dyon - The Upsetters
Emotional Dub - The Upsetters
Dub Stand - The Upsetters

1976 was the third year in the short life of the Black Ark Studio. It also marked more than a decade since Lee 'King' Perry started in the business as a vocalist and it proved to be a defining year for the man's music.

Scratch's deal with Island Records meant that three albums and a dozen singles received the marketing and promotion from the coolest label in the mainstream UK & US markets. Scratch's Black Ark studio enabled him to continually pursue developing his production signatures. The studio was now generating a unique sound with its bouncing bass, atmospheric and textured mix and its cultural currents. Perry himself was in creative overdrive: he used Island's advances to buy the latest studio technology and then used it for a purpose it wasn't designed for! He worked massive hours - fuelled by spliffs and rum and rum and spliffs - in his search for 'that' sound. Everything else, from paying bills to family life, slipped into the background as he drove himself and his musicians ever forward. Meanwhile an undeclared political war engulfed the streets of Kingston. Max Romeo's 'War Inna Babylon' and his own 'Super Ape' albums were breaking into the mass music market and were receiving critical acclaim from the hugely influential NME. they wrapped up political and cultural voices in a dense dub-reggae sound: a sound that came to define the Black Ark. Perry described his deal with Island as "The best deal I ever had to raas claat man! It's loose working man to man". He stood alongside Toots, Burning Spear and Bob Marley as the 'Ghetto Rockers' sound of now. Yard only singles from the likes of Devon Irons (Vampire), The Congos (Ark Of The Covenant), Leo graham (Voodooism) and Junior Murvin's 'Police & Thieves' were loved by a burgeoning number of UK Sound followers - for whom Perry's tunes spoke deep spiritual and cultural truths. Perry's exclusive dub plates were giving mythical status to his most obscure productions. Scratch's visits to London yielded serious money from Island records, DIP and Black Wax (Birmingham) - alongside cash from wholesaling pre's to the growing number of independent reggae record shops and distributers - all topped of with a few lucrative exclusive dub plates cutting sessions. His studio built vision was delivered on vinyl & acetate, not live. Now, some 37 years later, Roaring Lion delivers unknown tunes and mixes from that crucial year. With a dozen tracks straight of a single master tape our set offers a unique snap-shot of Perry's creative vibrations as Producer, and re-mixer, to the rising cultural religion of Rasta. The Black Ark was peaking in the red as he revved himself to full throttle and created his finest ever work. Scratch was the fizzing, joking ringmaster - whose studio buzzed with a positive vibe of creation and roared with the voices of the new kings of Kingston. by now Perry was 'anointing' master tapes with great clouds of weed smoke, There's a trio of tracks from Jah lion - the nom de guerre that Scratch gave the erstwhile Jah Lloyd, when he was recording at the Ark. Island promoted the Jah Lion album, in 1976, as being by Scratch himself - such was the mystery surrounding the running's at the Black Ark. The tunes capture perfectly the passion and belief of that generation searching for an identity linked to their African roots and not their colonial past. they are built from a lexicon that defined the era. 'Generation from creation' uses the obscure Hombres 'Africa' to DJ over Winston Heywood & the Hombres anti capitalistic 'Backbiting'. Both vocals were rare JA only singles and both toasts capture the passion for Old Testament certainties that would surely help to chant down Babylon. For many Jamaicans the Old Testament was a lingua franca. This sets' title track sets the tone with its open lines:

"When the Lion Roar the weak heart tremble".

It's quintessential Black Ark with its bouncing bass and Augustus Pablo's melodica lines drifting over the top. LION! And if you listen carefully you can hear Perry reminding Jah Lion of the next line... The Fantels 'Stand & Look' is a first issue of the track and its dub as Perry recorded and mixed it. A strange UK issue, with different mixes and running times, surfaced a while later but this is the real deal. 'Speak the truth & speak it ever' cries The Fantels as they seek witnesses to what's happening on the streets: 'Babylon kill a Rastaman & don't even know the reason why!'

Scratch was a prime mover in the remixing of rhythm tracks as pieces of music in their own right - Dub - starting with Blackboard Jungle Dub, back in 1973. By 1976 Perry was helping to transform this new concept into an art form and he was beginning to create several different dub mixes of each rhythm. As an independent producer and studio owner, the re-mixing strategy meant he could offer different product to UK companies and exclusives to Sound Systems: who would pay several hundreds of pounds for each dub plate, in today's money that's into the thousands. Scratch was not only a sharply dressed operator! Roaring Lion offers six such tracks that all remix rhythms tracks from 1976 into four-minute plus explorations of those tunes. 'Emotional Dub' sets sail with fine mixing of Junior Murvin's vocals into a sea of the 'False Teaching' rhythm and 'Rocky Road' likewise starts with a vocal (from unknown vocalist) and then into a rhythm dub of 'Stand & Look'. The rhythm driven tracks are real 'Smokers delights' as they weave patterns in glorious swirling and bouncing rivers of sound: only snippets of vocals remain from the original female/male slack tunes in 'Big Boy Wally' and 'Big Gal Sally'. Roaring Lion is built around a 50 minute celebration of Perry's developing production style, and cultural vision, as the Black Ark reached its pinnacle of creation. Though the studio hummed with the forces of the Rebel Rasta culture in 1976 within 18 months the Island deal was gone and the city was 'Too Hot' for Perry and like a 'Cool Lion' he was heading for the mountain top... though maybe not an actual one, more a spiritual one. The next advance from Island was spent in a single visit to the jewellery store.

Bonus Tracks
Culled from Dub plates and rare vinyl offer a handful of tasty morsels for Scratch-a-holics! Junior Byles revoiced 'Beat Down Babylon' as a political tune in support of Michael Manley, who actively courted the rising Rasta following: a piece of social history. 'Upsetting Walk' is another mix of the classic Skylarking rhythm that only appeared on plate circa 1974. 'Loco Negril' is a bizarre combination of a tame Althia & Donna tune and Scratch's mixing. He cranked it through his desk toward the end of the Black Ark's life: it's choc full of signature moves and effects. Extraordinary. Cut in 1976 'Natural Mystic. is the original dubplate mix, of what became one of Bob Marley's most iconic tunes when re-recorded for Island. Originally cut for Jah Wise's 'Tippertone' Sound, it's Bob with the Upsetters and Scratch at the controls. Later Perry added harmonies from the Meditations: this latter mix was used for the tracks first ever vinyl issue, posthumously, in 1981, (when it was mastered at the wrong speed and also used the flat studio take!)

Jeremy Collingwood

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