Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Lee "Scratch" Perry/The Upsetters - Clint Eastwood/Many Moods Of The Upsetters (1970)

For a few dollars more....

  

Released in 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 - TRACK LISTING (by The Upsetters unless stated)

1. Return Of The Ugly
2. For A Few Dollars More
3. Prisoner Of Love - Dave Barker
4. Dry Acid
5. Rightful Ruler
6. Clint Eastwood
7. Taste Of Killing
8. Selassie
9. What It This (Ba Ba) - The Reggae Boys
10. Ain't No Love - Jimmy & The Inspirations
11. My Mob
12. 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 - TRACK LISTING (by The Upsetters unless stated)

1. Exray Vision
2. Can't Take It Anymore - David Isaacs
3. Soul Stew 
4. Low Lights
5. Cloud Nine - Carl Dawkins
6. Beware
7. Serious Joke
8. Goosy - Pat Satchmo
9. Prove It
10. Boss Society - Pat Satchmo
11. Mean And Dangerous
12. 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 Temptations' Cloud 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.

C+/C