Monday, 22 April 2019

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 Django", "Dollar 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 Dread". The Heptones' "Mistry 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 Gatherers' "Words Of My Mouth". Jazzy, soulful reggae too with Susan Cadogan's cover of "Fever". Neville 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 Byles' "Curly 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.

TRACK LISTING * tracks by Lee "Scratch" Perry unless indicated otherwise

1. Return Of Django - The Upsetters
2. Hurt So Good - Susan Cadogan
3. Beat Down Babylon - Junior Byles
4. Enter The Dragon - The Upsetters
5. Tighten Up - The Inspirations
6. Words Of My Mouth - The Gatherers
7. Fever - Susan Cadogan
8. Roast Fish & Corn Bread
9. Bushweed Corntrash - Bunny Rugs & Ricky Storm
10. Mr. Cop - Gregory Isaacs
11. The Long Way - Junior Byles
12. Stay Dread
13. Mistry Babylon - The Heptones
14. Ital Corner - Prince Jazzbo & Max Romeo
15. Big Neck Policeman
16. Think So - The Meditations
17. Disco Devil - The Full Experience
18. Bad Weed - Junior Murvin
19. Sipple Out Deh - Max Romeo
20. Free Up The Prisoners
21. People Funny Boy
22. Dollar In The Teeth - The Upsetters
23. Shocks Of Mighty - Dave Barker & The Upsetters
24. A Place Called Africa - Junior Byles
25. Black Man Time
26. Three Blind Mice  Max Romeo & The Upsetters
27. Do It Baby - Susan Cadogan
28. Rejoice Jah Jah Children - The Silvertones
29. White Belly Rat
30. Bad Food  - Seke Molenga & Kalo Kawangolo
31. Ethiopia Land - Peter Lewis & Paul Lewis
32. Neckodeemus - The Congos
33. City Too Hot
34. Sons Of Slaves - Junior Delgado
35. Cross Over - Junior Murvin
36. Bionic Rats
37. Vibrate On - Augustus Pablo & The Upsetters
38. Soul Fire
39. Curly Locks - Junior Byles
40. Sick And Tired - Neville Grant

B+

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