Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Lee "Scratch" Perry/The Upsetters - The Return Of Django (1969)

A live injection....


Released in 1969

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.


1. Return Of Django
2. Touch Of Fire
3. Cold Sweat
4. Drugs And Poison
5. Soulful I
6. Night Doctor
7. One Punch
8. Eight For Eight
9. A Live Injection
10. Man From MI5
11. Ten To Twelve
12. Medical Operation                                      

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).