Monday, 25 November 2019

Lee "Scratch" Perry - Africa's Blood (1972)

Do your thing....


Released in 1972

Running time 39.04

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 Kingston, Jamaica 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.

TRACK LISTING (all by The Upsetters unless stated)

1. Do Your Thing - Dave Barker
2. Dream Land
3. Long Sentence
4. Not Guilty
5. Cool And Easy
6. Well Dread Version 3 - Addis Ababa Children
7. My Girl
8. Saw Dust
9. Place Called Africa Version 3 - Winston Prince
10. Isn't It Wrong - The Hurricanes
11. Go Slow
12. Bad Luck
13. Move Me
14. Surplus                                                                        
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 Temptations' My 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 Hurricanes' Isn'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 Luck. Move 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.