Thursday, 25 April 2019

Lee "Scratch" Perry - Super Ape (1976)

Croaking lizard....


Released August 1976

Running time 37.37

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.


1. Zion's Blood
2. Croaking Lizard
3. Black Vest
4. Underground
5. Curly Dub
6. Dread Lion
7. Three In One
8. Patience
9. Dub Along
10. Super Ape                                

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 Beatles' The 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.


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