Friday, 26 April 2019

Bread



Bread (1969)


Dismal Day/London Bridge/Could I/Look At Me/The Last Time/Any Way You Want Me/Move Over/Don't Shut Me Out/You Can't Measure The Cost/Family Doctor/It Don't Matter To Me/Friends And Lovers      

This album was a real surprise to me, as, for many years, I had (misguidedly) viewed Bread as a somewhat wishy-washy student bedroom band, full of gentle melodies and earnest, lovelorn lyrics. This album, from the very late sixties, sort of contradicts that, showing first of all that they could certainly play (the musicianship and sound quality is uniformly excellent), and secondly that they had considerable rock sensibilities in there. The album was a veritable pioneer in Californian country/folk-ish soft rock. The Byrds were heading this way, and Crosby, Stills and Nash too, of course. In the wake of these artists would come the excellent America and the genre would spread out to include some aspects of the music of The Doobie Brothers and the early Eagles.

Bread also were quite Beatles-influenced, in their McCartney-ish lyrics and melodies at times and in the Ringo Starr-esque drumming. Their vocals are wonderfully harmonious, often falsetto from David Gates, and the acoustic guitars clear and sharp. The electric guitar is subtly riffy and the bass beautifully subtle.

There are no well-known Bread songs on here in the Baby I'm A Want You/I Want To Make It With You category, but there is some beautiful, laid-back material and some deceptively rocking fare too, admittedly very much in a breezy late sixties style.
                    
Dismal Day features a strange high-pitched vocal from David Gates, but is also an appealing, lively hippy-ish track. London Bridge is very Beatles-esque, with that instantly recognisable Ringo Starr-style drumming. 

Could I has a great piano and percussion intro and a very late sixties vocal feel to it. It sounds very representative of its era. The electric guitar on it is superb. 

Look At Me is a very hippy, dreamy acoustic number. This was very much the period of the "serious", contemplative song. This is a fine example of it.

The rocky The Last Time shows a distinct sixties inventiveness borrowed from psychedelia, slightly. Anyway You Want Me is pleasantly driven by its electric guitar riffs and upbeat drums. Its vocal is stronger, more direct, too. Lovely guitar/drum interplay in the middle as well. 

Move Over is one of the album's rockiest, powerful numbers, driven along by some great drums and fuzzy electric guitar. Great stuff. Most underrated and misjudged. Turn this up and you can feel the band's power. This is Bread, remember. The rock continues on the cowbell-driven rhythm of the catchy Don't Shut Me Out.

You Can't Measure the Cost is an airy, acoustic and harmonious America-style ballad that moves on to include a deliciously heavy bass line. 

Family Doctor has strong echoes of The Band all over it, and Crosby, Stills & Nash too. Check out those harmonies on It Don't Matter To Me. Beautiful. Add to those the freaky, buzzy electric guitar interjections and you have a great song. 

Friends And Lovers is a pleasantly enigmatic and infectiously catchy folky rock number. There is no way that this album should be dismissed as romantic, drippy pop (Bread were, it seems, very unfairly labelled in that respect). This is a highly credible, truly worthy late sixties album full of songs and musicianship of the highest quality. I really like this album.



On The Waters (1970)


Why Do You Keep Me Waiting/Make It With You/Blue Satin Pillow/Look What You've Done/I Am That I Am/Been Too Long On The Road/I Want You With Me/Coming Apart/Easy Love/In The Afterglow/Call On Me/The Other Side Of Life             

Bread became instantly more well-known with this, their second album, due to the huge hit Make It With You, although this album is one that provides many different sounding tracks to that one. It is quite a rock album, in its hippy Californian warm but airy sound and vague psychedelic influences appearing here and there. It is very Crosby, Stills and Nash-influenced and laid foundations for groups like America to follow. I should imagine many who bought the album on the back of Make It With You may have been slightly disappointed in its hippy rock earnestness and, at times, quite heavy passages. Not me, though, I think it's great. A most underrated gem. It is, though, quite a dense,  serious album, despite its West Coast inherent sunny disposition. Personally, I prefer the group's debut album. It is Bread's equivalent of The DoorsWaiting For The Sun, quite experimental and uncommercial in places. Of course, this is not a full-on rock record, but it is certainly not an album of slushy, acoustic ballads. Far from it.
            
Why Do You Keep Me Waiting is an upbeat, rocking number to begin with, with hints of Neil Diamond's early material in its vaguely Latin strummed riff. Its changes of pace and rock rhythms are redolent of Crosby, Stills and Nash

Make It With You is, of course, the song that really made it big for Bread and tended to make people pigeonhole them. You can't deny its laid-back, hot Californian summery sound is completely intoxicating. A classic of its type. 

Blue Satin Pillow has a big, heavy rock riff and a typically early seventies rock feel, with airs of Cat Stevens in its vocal, for me. Beatles harmonies are in there too.

  

Look What You've Done had a riff that sounded like a prototype of the later Guitar Man at the beginning. When it breaks out into its "rock" passages, its is truly uplifting. It almost goes a bit proggy in its organ sound. 

I Am That I Am also continues that proggy, pace-changing sound. It reminds me slightly of Ringo Starr's It Don't Come Easy at times.

Been Too Long On The Road has that Marrakesh Express breezy, harmonious feel to it and features some killer electric guitar over a quirky, staccato beat. 

I Want You With Me has a haunting air to its beguiling, gentle vocal, over its gently melodic bass line. This is something approaching what The Beach Boys were trying to achieve during the same period, and sometimes coming up short. This album gets it right, in my opinion, anyway.

Coming Apart is a very CSN-style appealing, tuneful rocker. Like lots of the material it is very typical of its era. 

Easy Love begins with a Byrds-style jangly guitar and has a lovely vocal and drum sound. In The Afterglow is a very McCartney-esque song, with those Beatles drums again. 

Call On Me has Bread going a little blues rock-ish. It has hints of The BeatlesCome Together and is very Lennon-influenced. The album ends with the low-key, gentle The Other Side Of Life. This is an album that deserves more than a few listens. It has hidden depths.



Manna (1971)


Let Your Love Go/Take Comfort/Too Much Love/If/Be Kind To Me/He's A Good Lad/She Was My Lady/Live In Your Love/What A Change/I Say Again/Come Again/Truckin'            

It is popularly thought that Bread were a slow, acoustic-based band that delivered slushy romantic songs. Sure, they did a few of those, but it is often forgotten that they could actually rock quite hard. Their brand of country-ish rock packed a harder punch than their notable contemporaries CSN, CSNY, The Byrds and America. There was a fair amount of solid riffing, and muscular drums around on many of their tracks. In my opinion, Bread have always been a bit unfairly maligned and pigeonholed. This is largely an upbeat album of quite strident country-influenced, typically early seventies rock. It is quality easy listening rock.
                              
Let Your Love Go is an upfront, rocking number to begin with, while Take Comfort starts with some solid guitar riffing and thumping drums. It moves into a dreamy, hippy-ish slow part in the middle, before returning to the buzzy guitar. Like much of their material at the time, there are vague proggy aspects to it. Too Much Love is a laid-back country-ish rocker with a delicious bass line and a distinct Beatles influence in places.


If is the archetypal Bread track that many know them for - a gentle melody, a sensitive lyric and David Gates' melodic, almost angelic voice soaring high above it. 

Rhythmic rock is back for the next one, however, with the appealing, bluesy groove of Be Kind To Me

He's A Good Lad is a very CSNY-esque plaintive number. She Was My Lady rocks gently, tunefully and captivatingly. It features some excellent guitar soloing. Unfortunately it ends too soon. 

Live In Your Love is a McCartney-esque rock ballad that just reminds me of Wings.

What A Change has those airy, sweet uplifting CSNY harmonies once more. I Say Again is another one in that style too. The Ringo Starr-influenced drums and their interplay with the bass is lovely. 

Come Again continues the sensitive, thoughtful balladry. It has some beautiful piano and strings in its backing, underpinned by some subtle electric guitar. Just at the tempo had slowed down a bit we end the album with the roadhouse rollicking of Truckin', as Bread go all Doobie Brothers/early Eagles.

This is a beautifully even-tempered warm wind of an album that cannot help but relax you while lifting your spirits at the same time.




Baby I'm A Want You (1972)


Mother Freedom/Baby I'm A Want You/Down On My Knees/Everything I Own/Nobody Like You/Diary/Dream Lady/Daughter/Games Of Magic/This Isn't What The Governmeant/Just Like Yesterday/I Don't Love You       

For many, this was Bread's best album, containing two of their biggest hits and successfully merging sensitive ballads with some deceptively hard rocking cuts. It shows that they were more than just slushy pop balladeers, despite the perfection of their tracks that fit that particular bill. This is an eminently listenable example of early seventies Californian rock.
                          
Mother Freedom is a powerful rocker with some killer buzzsaw guitar. Baby I'm A Want You is known to many, it's great. Lovely vocal, lovely atmosphere, lovely bass line. Just a perfect easy rock song. So wonderfully early seventies. 

Byrds-esque jangly guitar riff introduces Down On My Knees. The track rocks from beginning to end in a seventies-era Fleetwood Mac style. Everything I Own is, of course, beautiful. As a reggae fan, I always associate this song with the Ken Boothe 1974 cover that hit number one in the UK, but this is the original. It is moving, sensitive and timeless. When that chorus kicks in - oh yes.

Nobody Like You is an Elton John-esque piano-driven rock/blues rousing rocker. Yes, Bread could do bar-room rock too and sing about "having a fight" without sounding strange. 

Diary is thoughtful and moving. Dream Lady has some of Bread's regular prog-rock influences as a swirling organ, heavy guitar and drums interplay dramatically. 

Daughter is another deceptively heavy rock ballad, with power chords and pounding piano, together with a convincingly strong, harmonious set of vocals.

Games Of Magic is a gentle, acoustic, sleepy and sensitive number. Now, up next Bread get all political, for the first time, on This Isn't What The Governmeant, a rousing country style questioning of the rule-makers of the time. 

Just Like Yesterday is a lovely, stately and inspiring song. The gruff, mid-pace rock of I Don't Love You is a surprisingly acidic end to the album. There is more Elton John about this, for me.

If you like West Coast early seventies rock mixed with some classic rock ballads played with seriously good musicianship then you can't go far wrong with this. A classic of its genre.




The Sound Of Bread


In the seventies I was never into Bread like many were (usually girls). I saw this as very much wishy-washy student (usually members of the Christian Union) bedroom fare. As many, many years have passed by, my attitudes have matured, thankfully, and I view their music in a totally different light.

It is all very typically early seventies stuff - clear, airy, breezy vocals (in the style of America and many other country rock groups), razor sharp, melodic acoustic guitars, gentle bass rhythms, tuneful lead guitar and rhythmic but understated drums. The sound quality on this atmospheric, nostalgic collection does the group's excellent musicianship justice. There are hints of CSNY swirling around and some Beatles influence also. Many of the tracks are surprisingly upbeat and rhythmic, gently rocking. It is not all contemplative romantic material. The cover is pretty uninspiring, though, isn't it?

Everyone knows the beguiling opener, Make It With You, with its entrancing, evocative vocal. It is a timeless classic. Dismal Day features a strange high-pitched vocal from David Gates, but is also an appealing, lively hippy-ish track. 

London Bridge is very Beatles-esque, with Ringo Starr-style drumming. Anyway You Want Me is pleasantly driven by its electric guitar riffs and upbeat drums. Its vocal is stronger, more direct, too. Lovely guitar/drum interplay in the middle as well. 

The bass on Look What You've Done is just beautiful and when the song breaks out into the "rock" bit, it is quite gloriously uplifting. Check out those harmonies on It Don't Matter To Me. Beautiful.

There are so many (for me) undiscovered gems on here, apart from the well-known hits. Another one is the harmonious and rocky The Last Time

Let Your Love Go rocks more than I ever thought Bread could. It is sort of Doobie Brothers meets America with even a touch of Status Quo in the riff and the vocals. The percussion is absolutely sublime. The rock continues on the infectious country rock of Truckin'. I love this one. These have been some surprising rockers.

If is a plaintive track most people know. This is the original, not the awful version Telly Savalas took to number one in the mid seventies. 

The America-esque and totally gorgeous Baby I'm A Want You was as big a hit as it totally deserved to be. Then we get the sublime Everything I Own, although as a long-time reggae fan, I always associate it with Ken Boothe. It is a true classic, either way. 

Time to rock again, with the Fleetwood Mac-ish Down On My Knees

Just Like Yesterday has some excellent instrumentation. Bread could play, something that is often forgotten. This may sound completely bonkers, but this has all the ingredients of an Ian Hunter/Mott The Hoople ballad. No? Just one of my strange ideas. It also reminds me of Clifford T. Ward's Wherewithal. Is that more like it?

Diary is a gentle, acoustic, bedsit-ish sensitive number, in a sort of Al Stewart (early seventies era) way. Sweet Surrender is a lovely mid-tempo laid-back number with some great guitar. 

Guitar Man was another huge hit, again quite rightly, it is packed with both instrumental and vocal hooks. 

Fancy Dancer is a surprisingly funky-ish groover. She's The Only One is a delightful country-ish number with an Eagles feel to it. 

Lost Without Your Love is what I imagined an archetypal Bread song was, actually, listening to this, I realise I was completely wrong. I really enjoyed this. Who would have thought it?



Thursday, 25 April 2019

Lee "Scratch" Perry




"From Genesis to Revelation - Here I come - Here I come to dub the nation!" - Lee "Scratch" Perry

Return Of Django (1969)


Return Of Django/Touch Of Fire/Cold Sweat/Drugs And Poison/Soulful I/Night Doctor/One Punch/Eight For Eight/A Live Injection/Man From MI5/Ten To Twelve/Medical Operation

Before the embryonic roots/Rasta sounds that producer Lee "Scratch" Perry introduced on 1970's Clint Eastwood, and the jaunty organ-driven skinhead skanking of The Many Moods Of The Upsetters from the same year, we had this, one of the first reggae "albums", (although it was more collection of singles). The sound showed a fair few signs of the skinhead sound, although the influence of the previous decades' ska sound is still there in places. Unlike those two albums, this one is all instrumental, with only occasional vocal interjections.

Despite its being recorded in 1969 in no doubt pretty rudimentary studios, the remastered sound on this, although mono, is probably as good as you could expect it to be, and at times is pretty good, better in fact than on the next two albums.

This album laid down the foundations of the skinhead/boss reggae stomping sound that would dominate much of reggae's output between here and 1972, before roots and Rasta consciousness started to fully take over.
                                
Return Of Django is the most obviously ska-influenced cut, full of melodic ska brass and a toe-tapping beat. The organ sound that would become so popular in the early seventies is to the fore on the excellent Touch Of Fire (which has a surprisingly good sound quality) and the lively Cold Sweat, with its expressive organ flourishes. 

Drugs And Poison is a fine slice of late sixties reggae, full of organ but also saxophone and a solid stomping beat - get those boots on.



Soulful I sounds like something from a late fifties/early sixties British fairground with its Telstar-style keyboard sound. The same applies to Night Doctor

A slightly different sound is found on the mysterious, deeper bassy tones of One Punch although it is punctuated by some swirling, trilling organ breaks. 

Eight For Eight features some absolutely killer organ and some growling early "toasting" from Perry. A Live Injection features the best of keyboardist Glen Adams, who is given free rein to swirl and swoop. He certainly does that, too, with much dexterity.

Man From MI5 was an introduction to a slightly deeper, bassier sound complete with sonorous, menacing vocal intro. It features some excellent guitar and a lovely big, rumbling bass sound. That big, booming sound system bass groove started on tracks like this. 

Ten To Twelve is almost rock 'n' roll in its lively beat. Perry also uses cock crowing noises, something he would do a lot over the years. 

Medical Operation is another enthusiastic skinhead stomp. You simply can't beat the sheer vitality of these early reggae recordings, can you? As I said, nice remastering on this too, some the best I have heard from the period.

Also, check out the new extended release of the album for some really early dub rhythms on Love Me Baby (Take 1).


Clint Eastwood/Many Moods Of The Upsetters (1970)

  

Both these albums were released in 1970 and are now being issued together as one package which is understandable as they are, to an extent, indistinguishable from each other, it would seem. Actually there are clear differences, however, that are more than worthy of mention as we progress. What is for sure is that they both contain fast-paced, largely instrumental, organ-driven "skinhead" or "boss" reggae - stomping drum beats behind trilling, parping fairground organ sounds and often punchy brass. Vocals appear occasionally on the odd fully-fledged song, but more often than not, when vocals are added they are improvised "huhs", "haaahs, "pick it ups" and "work its" thrown in to provide almost an extra instrument. To a certain extent, that organ sound was "cheesy", but also it was so very representative of reggae at the time and has an important chronological and developmental status. It is the sound of 1969-1972 reggae. The organ was king and was the essence of the skinhead sound.

The sound is mono and, as most of these tracks were cut in rudimentary studios it is certainly not audiophile. The recordings have been cleaned up as much as possible but there are still variations in quality in the recordings. However, in this lo-fi sound lies much of the music's home-grown, raw appeal.


CLINT EASTWOOD - (by The Upsetters unless stated)/Return Of The Ugly/For A Few Dollars More/Prisoner Of Love - Dave Barker/Dry Acid/Rightful Ruler/Clint Eastwood/Taste Of Killing/Selassie/What It This (Ba Ba) - The Reggae Boys/Ain't No Love - Jimmy & The Inspirations/My Mob/I've Caught You 
                                                  
Now for those differences. Clint Eastwood is by far the earthier of the two albums, though. We get embryonic "toasting" on For A Few Dollars More, Perry growls vocals over a frantic skank and Return Of The Ugly also has a quirky, upbeat appeal. Its organ breaks are almost rock 'n' roll in places. 

Dry Acid is an excellent early toaster with croaked vocals demanding "mercy" and "pick it up, pick it up" over a full-on organ and drum-driven stomp. It is one of the album's most important cuts, its vocal enhancements providing a sign of the future. 

Actually, equally important, if not more, is Rightful Ruler, when we hear Rastafarian conciousness expressed for one of the first times on a reggae record, with U-Roy making an early appearance rapping righteousness and praise of Haile Selassie over a Rasta drum backing. Make no mistake this one of the very first roots reggae records.

On Clint Eastwood, the track, Perry gruffly informs us that "Clint Eastwood tougher than Lee Van Cleef..". This cowboy/gunslinger fixation was extremely popular in reggae at the time. 

Taste Of Killing is an instrumental, but it is much less "cheesy" than some of those on Many Moods Of The Upsetters

Selassie sees the Rasta devotion return on a classic early slice of blood and fire piety. There is certainly nothing like this on the album's sibling release, nothing at all. This is the birth of roots reggae.

Prisoner Of Love is a classic full; vocal skinhead stomp, with Dave (Dave & Ansil Collins) Barker on convincing lead vocals. 

What Is This (Ba Ba) is also is fine serving of skinhead fare. Ain't No Love is a fast track with an almost soulful groove and vocal. 

Both My Mob and the initially slightly rootsier I've Caught You are organ-powered, infectious instrumentals in the style of the material on its partner album.

MANY MOODS OF THE UPSETTERS - (by The Upsetters unless stated)/Exray Vision/Can't Take It Anymore - David Isaacs/Soul Stew/Low Lights/Cloud Nine - Carl Dawkins/Beware/Serious Joke/Goosy - Pat Satchmo/Prove It/Boss Society - Pat Satchmo/Mean And Dangerous/Games People Play 
                                                                   
Many Moods Of The Upsetters features a vocal track in the melodic Can't Take It Anymore with (I think) David Isaacs on lead vocals. It is one of the album's catchiest numbers. Another full vocal is found on their grainy, muffled cover of The TemptationsCloud Nine, this time wth Carl Dawkins singing. 

Pat Satchmo provides gruff, growling vocals on the catchy, saxophone-driven Goosy and Boss Society.

The rest of the album is instrumental, with a positively sixties, almost easy listening sound on Low Lights and some prototype seventies skanking in Beware, the cookin' groove of Exray Vision and Soul Stew

Serious Joke has a fine, clear organ sound, I must say, while Prove It gets almost funky in places. 

The album ends with a couple of gems in the appealing saxophone sounds of Mean And Dangerous and the joyous, carnival steel band skank of the soul song Games People Play.

Overall, the cuts on this album sound earlier than on Clint Eastwood. There is no early roots vibe and certainly no Rasta references or grooves. It makes this a far more inessential album than its partner. Also, the sound is better on Eastwood too.


Africa's Blood (1972)


(all by The Upsetters unless stated)/Do Your Thing - Dave Barker/Dream Land/Long Sentence/Not Guilty/Cool And Easy/Well Dread Version 3 - Addis Ababa Children/My Girl/Saw Dust/Place Called Africa Version 3 - Winston Prince/Isn't It Wrong - The Hurricanes/Go Slow/Bad Luck/Move Me/Surplus      

From the end of the sixties into the early seventies, slowly but surely, reggae artists started releasing proper albums, as opposed to merely a procession of singles. The now legendary Upsetter Lee "Scratch" Perry had released a few before this one, but they were now coming thick and fast. The unmistakable dub sound that Perry made his own in his iconic Black Ark Studios in KingstonJamaica had not quite started to fully take shape as yet and the sound is still very much in that Dave & Ansil Collins-style organ-driven skanking vein, all trilling organ bleeps over a fast, steady beat. In fact Dave Barker ("Dave") features on the first track. Each track has that typical Upsetter sound that gets the feet moving. Most of the tracks are instrumentals with only incidental vocals. Most of the music still bore the influence of ska and the deep, reverberating dub of the mid-seventies and beyond is still a few years away.

The sound quality is surprisingly good, although it seems to be in mono, it is a good, solid, warm and bass mono with no distortion.

Dave Barker's Do Your Thing sets the tone for the album - a fine slice of skinhead-style organ-powered stomping, enhanced by lots of "huhs", "haaahs" and "work its". Try keeping still while this is on - classic early seventies reggae skanking. 

Dream Land slows down the pace to a slow groove, driven along by a fairground-style organ. This stuff is like Booker T & The Mgs with a reggae backing. The material is like a whole set of backing tracks for the hits that populated the Reggae Chartbusters and Tighten Up compilations of the time. 

Long Sentence skanks along at a faster pace again dominated by the organ, although Not Guilty starts to sound a bit more like the sort of reggae you would expect from 1973-74 with a mid-pace, solid skank whose organ is less "parping" if you know what I mean.



Cool And Easy the introduction of the brass sounds that would feature in so many reggae backing tracks of the period. A very early piece of roots is notably found on Addis Ababa Children's Well Dread Version with an introductory vocal in praise of "Jah Rastafari", something pretty unusual in 1972. The drum sound is pure Rastafarian drumming too. The skank is very similar to the backing of Eric Donaldson's Cherry Oh Baby, though. 

The Upsetters instrumental take on The TemptationsMy Girl speeds the tune up a lot. 

Saw Dust is a cut typical of the reggae of the time, this time with less of the organ, more of the drum, bass and electric piano. The album's second roots track is Winston Prince's Place Called Africa and on this track we really do get an example of the roots sub-genre in its infancy, complete with "toasting" vocals and the use of the "I and I" pronoun, again this was pretty unusual for the time.

The HurricanesIsn't It Wrong is the album's only "proper" song, with full verses and choruses. Go Slow is an example of how it is the bass and guitar, together with piano, which is becoming more important, to an extent, than the fairground organ by the end of this album. The organ is back, however, on the brassy Bad LuckMove Me is a nice, lively skank, as is the jaunty Surplus.

This is an interesting album in the development of the remarkable talent that is Lee "Scratch" Perry, and of reggae itself, but it is not really an essential one.


Super Ape (1976)


Zion's Blood/Croaking Lizard/Black Vest/Underground/Curly Dub/Dread Lion/Three In One/Patience/Dub Along/Super Ape 

As well as producing Max Romeo's iconic roots reggae album War Ina Babylon in 1976, already legendary producer Lee "Scratch" Perry recycled some of the "riddims" and ones from other productions of his for this solo album, credited to him. It is largely a dub album, the tracks containing only occasional vocals, all sort of sound effects, repeated horn breaks, melodica, infectious, deep bass lines and that archetypal Perry percussion sound. It was, like his other classic recordings from the period, recorded at Black Ark Studios in Jamaica and has that trademark heavy and murky, slightly mysterious sound - check out Underground as a prime example.
                            
As you listen to it, all sorts of other musical refrains from various Perry-produced songs will pop into your head. Some you will recognise, like the bass line to War Ina Babylon that underpins Black Vest. Others will frustrate you, like the beguiling Croaking Lizard does for me. For ages, I could not place it, then I found out it was a re-imagining of Max Romeo's Chase The Devil. Then it all started to fit into place. Max Romeo's vocals are replaced by some DJ-style "toasting". 

Curly Dub, if you ask me, has echoes of The BeatlesThe Things We Said Today in its horn breaks. Maybe that's just how I hear it though.

  

The album's only really fully vocal track is Zion's Blood, I am not sure who it is on vocals. The track, despite its deep dub riddims has a cool feel of Third World about it in its melodic vocal. 

Three To One, to be fair has a fair amount of vocals too, and is packed full of roots atmosphere. The instrumental Patience brings to mind another song's backing but I can't place it.

Dread Lion is a marvellous piece of deep, melodica-drenched dub. It positively drips with addictive dub heaviness. 

Dub Along has some beguiling female vocals giving it an infectious irresistibility. 

Super Ape has flute lines swirling all around it, highlighting just how inventive Perry could be. This is a short album, only just over half an hour or so, but it is up there as one of the best dub albums, particularly as it is not a compilation, as many dub releases are. This was part of the soundtrack to the "punky reggae crossover" years of 1977-79.



Rainford (2019)


Cricket On The Moon/Run Evil Spirit/Let It Rain/House Of Angels/Makumba Rock/African Starship/Kill Them Dreams Money Worshippers/Children Of The Light/Autobiography Of The Upsetter  

83 year-old legendary dub producer and self-styled “dub shepherd” Lee “Scratch” Perry returns with this remarkably innovative and inventive dub reggae offering. There is a wide variety of instrumentation used on the album and various sound effects as well as the obligatory deep, rumbling dub bass rhythms. It really is a slightly different dub album, full of interesting soundscapes. Perry is not quite as bonkers as his legend (and himself) would often have you believe. He is (and always was) in total control of his work. Don’t let his crazy approach fool you.
                             
Cricket On The Moon is sort of staccato, funky dub with Perry growling his vocals gruffly, as you would expect, over an intoxicating, bassy beat. A fervent Perry tells us all to repent before an addictive wah-wah style guitar comes in. Despite its heavy bass thump, there is a sort of looseness here that is continued throughout the album.

Of all the many Dub artists, Perry has always had one of the keenest ear for a melody, and nowhere is this better exemplified than on the catchy rhythms of Run Evil Spirit, which is brought alight by some excellent saxophone, somewhat unusual for dub. 

Let It Rain finds the octogenarian Perry croaking over another really attractive beat, this time enhanced by some deep strings. Nobody can croak quite like Perry, apart from maybe Prince Far I. The track has a lively, dancehall “stepping” beat to it. Producer Adrian Sherwood assists Perry on all these tracks to give us a bit more than the traditional thumping dub sound popularised in the late seventies. This is dub for 2019 and very appealing it is too. The usual vows to “wipe out Babylon and drown Satan” mean that it hasn’t strayed too far from dub traditions, however.



House Of Angels uses an infectious brass backing, lots of backing vocals and a somewhat mournful vocal from Perry. He sounds old, but he sounds reassuringly wise, despite his madcap persona. It is a track absolutely overflowing with atmosphere. 

Makumba Rock is packed full of African-inspired rhythms and multiple animal noises (something Perry has also used in the past). It has echoes of Manu Dibango and those Cameroonian sounds that often emanate these days from the banlieues of Paris. Perry starts crying manically at a few points and the whole thing gets more than a little disconcerting. Perry for some reasons tells us that Prince Charles will be King of the United Kingdom - true, of course, but bizarrely irrelevant.

African Starship is a more traditional sounding dub with echoes of Prince Far I in the deep “chanting” style vocals. The scratchy sound is more seventies-influenced than anything else on the album. 

Kill Them Dreams Money Worshippers is an anti-capitalist rant, something Perry has always enjoyed delivering. It is enhanced by appealing echo and tuneful backing vocals as well as all sorts of sound effects and a lilting slow guitar skank. 

Children Of The Light is a brassy dub that once again uses the backing vocals strongly. Its guitar and drum interplay is superb. The old Augustus Pablo-inspired melodica is used on here too.

Autobiography Of The Upsetter is a most evocative narration by Perry of the events of his own life from his birth and upbringing in Jamaica to producing records. He references Bob MarleySusan Cadogan and Max Romeo. He also tells us of Island Records founder Chris Blackwell drinking chicken's blood, perpetuating his own mythology. Incidentally, Rainford is Perry's birth name. If this is to be Perry's final album, what a fine way to bow out.

This is a highly recommended album if you like dub, but be prepared for some fascinating and slightly different sounds. It is dub in a modern day style.




The Best Of Lee "Scratch" Perry (Trojan)


This is quite an impressive compilation from Trojan Records covering the output of legendary, supposedly madcap, producer and studio knob twiddler Lee "Scratch" Perry, king of the Black Ark studios in Kingston, Jamaica. It differs from collections such as Arkology or Sipple Out Deh, in that, good as those ones are, they only cover the deep dub roots years from 1975-79. This one, as well as obviously including lots of stuff from that period, also features Perry's pop reggae productions for artists such as Susan Cadogan (Hurt So Good), early ska-influenced fare from The Upsetters (The Return Of DjangoDollar In The Teeth) and lighter, skanking "sweet sing" reggae from Gregory Isaacs (Mr. Cop). Perry certainly knew a poppy tune as well as he did a roots one. Junior Byles certainly falls into a similar category too. His tracks here, exemplified by The Long Way are seductive skanks. Byles had a rootsiness beneath his melody as well, though.

It is dubby roots that Perry is best known for, though, and this is here by the bucketload in crucial cuts like the atmospheric Bushweed Corntrash from Third World's Bunny Rugs, Perry's own evocative Roast Fish And Cornbread and the conscious Black Man Time

He could do lively roots too, like the upbeat, punchy Stay DreadThe HeptonesMistry Babylon is a cool, rhythmic but Rasta-motivated track. All of these differing styles within the same basic reggae format show just what a versatile producer Perry is. Check out the congas on The Meditations' intoxicating Think So or that typical Perry jangly percussion on his own Big Neck Policeman

Then you have the original, irresistible ska of Tighten Up by The Inspirations. Cool roots are here too in The GatherersWords Of My Mouth. Jazzy, soulful reggae too with Susan Cadogan's cover of FeverNeville Grant's Sick And Tired also has swing/jazz/rock'n'roll influences. No deep roots on this early and lively, good-time number.



Some of Perry's notable artists are obviously here too in Junior Murvin (Bad Weed) and Max Romeo (Sipple Out Deh/War Ina Babylon) . The Congos also appear with the typically harmonious but devout and Biblical Neckodeemus

We also get the mysterious Augustus Pablo on the strangely spooky Vibrate On (Jamaican Mix). Perry's own Soul Fire is a superb, grinding piece of heavy roots too. Junior BylesCurly Locks is just typical Perry in its backing but deliciously light in its vocal delivery. Byles really does have an appealing voice.

A track like Ital Corner by Prince Jazzbo and Max Romeo is probably archetypal roots Perry, but this collection is certainly not all material in that fashion. There are a whole host of different reggae styles present on here. It is the deep roots and infectious riddims that take most of the attention, however, unsurprisingly, but there are also some different, earlier tracks too, as mentioned, and this is what makes this one of the most truly career-covering Lee Perry compilations around.


Arkology Box Set 


This is a 3CD compilation of roots reggae tracks produced by the legendary Lee "Scratch" Perry and recorded at his own Black Ark Studios in Jamaica.

Although it purports to be a career-spanning anthology, it is not quite so. Most of the material is drawn from the classic roots reggae/punk crossover period of 1975-1979.  Perry produced a lot of stuff before those dates, but a lot of that would have been in the vein of Susan Cadogan's Hurt So Good - classic 70s reggae singles. The emphasis on here is definitely on the roots - Rasta consciousness material railing against Babylon, praising Jah and warning of "weepin', wailin' and a gnashin' of teet' ..", as exemplified on Rasta Train by Raphael Green & Dr. Alimantado. That is not a bad thing as that is the period which probably saw the "dub" side of Perry, the master of studio experimentation, at its finest. If you think of Scratch, you think of him as a master of dub and roots cuts - big, bassy, pounding, speaker thumping, echoey, with that jangling percussion sound and innovative instrumentation such as the use of the melodica. 

Vibrator by The Upsetters definitely falls into this category. Notting Hill Carnival material, just as darkness is falling and those speakers start to vibrate under the Westway and the atmosphere gets just a little menacing. 

Another in this vein is the mesmerising Vibrate On which features Augustus Pablo on melodica. Life Is Not Easy Dub by The Vibrators is an example of a full, powerful, bassy dub, with weird animal noises and some "toasting" style vocals over a skanking guitar and thumping drum rhythm.

The rootsy classics on here are many - Max Romeo's iconic War Ina Babylon with its "Sipple Out Deh" refrain and One Step Forward, also Errol Walker's John Public

Then there are the several different incarnations of Junior Murvin's Police And Thieves riddim - the track itself, plus Soldier And Police War; the dub of Grumblin' Dub and Glen Da Costa's alluring saxophone version Magic Touch

Perry's Soul Fire, Curly Locks and the wonderfully atmospheric Dreadlocks In Moonlight are excellent contributions from the man himself, as also is the delightful Roast Fish & Cornbread

Then there is the classic Congoman by The Congos, Junior Murvin's Tedious and, in case all the roots and Rasta vibe is becoming too much then there is the marvellous, romantic almost "Lovers' Rock" of George Faith's To Be A Lover(Have Some Mercy). Do not forget The Heptones' uplifting, almost anthemic Sufferer's Time either.

A lot of the tracks are dubby versions of vocal tracks from the album, such as Revelation Dub which is the dub version of War Ina Babylon. Rather than plough through all of the compilation, a good thing to do is put it on "shuffle" and play half an hours' worth of righteous roots reggae.