Tag Archives: Black Ark

Thick smoke on The Super Ape Strikes Again

004898028_300World-renowned reggae producer and dub legend Lee Perry has collaborated with a big number of artists over the years, and one of the best such was with UK’s Daniel Boyle, who produced the massive and Grammy-nominated album Back on the Controls. That album successfully re-created Lee Perry’s erratic and colorful sound from the mid-70s.

Belgian band Pura Vida has also been disciples of Lee Perry and his sonic adventures at his (in)famous Black Ark studio in Kingston. Now they have had the opportunity to work with the myth himself.

Their collaborative album The Super Ape Strikes Again carries a bold – and promising – album title since it refers to some of Lee Perry’s best work – his 1976 landmark release Super Ape, which is by some considered as his best album.

And it’s a pleasant listening throughout, even though it’s not in the same league as the innovative Super Ape set. But The Super Ape Strikes Again has all the classic Lee Perry elements – dubwise effects and dread atmosphere where instruments and vocals swirl around in thick ganja smoke. Lee Perry’s half-sung/half-spoken wordplays are also in full effect and are as usual an acquired taste.

This album could be mistaken for one of Lee Perry’s more accessible productions from the 70s. It doesn’t have some of the bizarre vibes sometimes associated with him, but it has the same lo-fi feel and grim bass lines. It’s something of a time capsule and pays respect to one of the masterminds of contemporary music.

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Lee Perry back on the controls

LeePerry_BackOnTheControls_01For the past two and a half years or so legendary producer and overall mad man Lee “Scratch” Perry has worked together with producer Daniel Boyle in his Rolling Lion studio in the UK. The result is a sweaty and swirling set with a whopping 24 tracks. It’s the first part of a two stage project, where Daniel Boyle in the next phase aims to record a follow-up in Jamaica with a number seasoned singers and deejays.

Together they have worked with the aim of re-building the sound from Lee Perry’s mythical Black Ark studio. To create this very distinct sound they have utilized bits of vintage studio equipment – microphones, compressors and effects – originally used back in the days. And the analogue and organic sound is certainly close to the original Black Ark style. The bass is a little louder though.

And what is unique in this project is that the tracks have been jointly created by Lee Perry and Daniel Boyle. Lee Perry has for the first time in years been pushing the knobs and being active on the mixing desk and at the mixing stage.

Back on the Controls is deep roots music and features a number of well-renowned musicians – guitarist Hughie Izachaar, Hornsman Coyote, singer Christine Miller, bass player Dennis Bovell and drummer Style Scott.

On top of the ethereal and esoteric music created by the players of instruments floats Lee Perry’s half sung, half-spoken mumblings and grumblings. It’s sometimes hard to understand a word of what the man says, or rather preaches. But then again, even if I had heard the words, I probably would not have understood anything anyway. He’s not big on context or storytelling.

This is an overall pretty dark and dense album, but the backing vocals provide some well-needed brightness and lightness.

Lee Perry’s latest releases have been partly in the more electronic field, and he has worked together with UK’s The Orb and Dubblestandart out of Germany. This set, however, brings back his raw signature style. Lee Perry has relocated from the factory to the rain forest.

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Blazing hot from Pura Vida

Naamloos-2If might be easy to dismiss Belgian musician and multi-instrumentalist Bregt De Boever, his band Pura Vida and their producer Poddington Krank as Lee Perry copycats. Well, they might be, but that doesn’t matter when it’s sounding as great as it always does.

On Pura Vida’s latest album – Red Hot – the atmosphere is ghastly similar to when Lee Perry was recording some of his best material at his legendary Black Ark studio in the mid to late 70s. The sound is swirling, ethereal and sticky. It’s like the album was recorded in a rain forest. Impressive to say the least.

As usual Pura Vida uses live instrumentation with strong horns, nice melodica and a groovy accordion. The set comes with 13 tracks, of which two are live recordings and three are churning dub versions.

Bregt De Boever’s voice is complemented with beautiful and powerful back-up vocals, vocals that adds quite a lot to the songs, especially the melancholic Life is a Gift, the countryfied Broken Hearted and thumping album-opener Jah Make Yah.

Pura Vida has previously proved their skills and showing their talents working with reggae luminaries such as Prince Alla and The Congos. Now they’re on their own showcasing a set that is just as strong as their previous efforts. They’re still waiting for a big break. Hopefully Red Hot helps them to gain a wider audience. Because they definitely deserve it.

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Congo Ashanti Roy’s swirling new album

In Belgium there is a studio named The Lost Ark. It’s a nod to Lee Perry’s legendary Black Ark studio in Kingston, Jamaica, where he crafted his unique sound. Calling the studio Lost Ark certainly sounds too good to be true, but when listening to some of the music recorded there it’s fascinating how it resemblances Lee Perry’s mid to late 70’s output.

The latest set to come out of the Lost Ark is Congo Ashanti Roy’s and Belgian band Pura Vida’s Hard Road. Congo Ashanti Roy is one third of the original Congo’s who recorded their world-renowned debut album Heart of the Congos at the Black Ark with Lee Perry, and also last year recorded the album We Nah Give Up together with Pura Vida at the Lost Ark.

Hard Road is the brainchild of Pura Vida’s lead singer Bregt “Braithe” De Boever and Congo Ashanti Roy and collects eleven tracks, of which two are dub versions, recorded in Belgium and Jamaica. The production and mixing were handled by Poddington Krank.

The album is swirling, richly textured and atmospheric and sounds like it was recorded in a dense greenhouse full of ganja. The musicians  utilizes a number of unexpected instruments, such as harmonica on the country-tinged Shadows of the Evening, strings on Hard Road and what sounds like a pan pipe on album opener Only Jah, a nyahbinghi track similar to Ras Michael’s album Love Thy Neighbour.

Even though Lee Perry has not been involved in this project his fingerprints are all over the place, and Hard Road is a fascinating musical journey with call-and-response singing, trancelike grooves, sublime horn arrangements and adventurous song structures.

Hard Road is available on digital platforms worldwide and a limited edition vinyl copy can by ordered via Lost Ark Music.

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Perry’s pre-Ark period covered in fine style

Producer Lee Perry is probably best known for his work with Bob Marley and for his swirling productions recorded at his own Black Ark studio in the mid to late 70’s.

But Lee Perry was a strong force in reggae music already in the late 60’s and early 70’s. This is the period when he dropped his UK top 5 Return of Django and the raving organ dominated scorcher Live Injection. And this is also the period when he together with Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer created classics such as Small Axe, Duppy Conqueror and Sun is Shining.

UK’s finest reissue label Pressure Sounds has dedicated their sixth Lee Perry compilation to this period, and High Plains Drifter – Jamaican 45’s 1968-73 collects 20 obscure and overlooked tunes from his early years as a producer, vocalist and musician. During these five years Lee Perry founded his own Upsetter imprint, toured Europe and released a weighty 280 plus singles and more than 20 albums.

This charming and diverse compilation includes up-tempo instrumentals, jiving deejay chatter, roots vocals and soulful singing. And the sound is a long way from what was created at Black Ark some years later.

Highlights include The Ethiopians rootsy Awake, The Upsetters hip saxophone driven Val Blows In and The Silvertones He Don’t Love You with some fine, yet a little rough, harmonizing.

High Plains Drifter drops on February 14th on CD and double vinyl LP with limited edition artwork. And Pressure Sounds has as usual given the details an extra effort. The sound quality is surprisingly good and the liner notes from Lee Perry aficionado Jeremy Collingwood are well-written and informative.

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Sounds like The Congos are back at the Ark

Jamaican vocal harmony group The Congos are responsible for one of the best reggae albums ever made – Heart of The Congos. It surfaced in 1977 and showed the extraordinary talents of producer and engineer Lee Perry.

A full-blown masterpiece like Heart of The Congos is naturally hard to follow-up. Maybe one or two thought The Congos would manage to do it in 2010, when the album Back in the Black Ark was put out. This was a decent set, but no way near their debut, and felt more like a marketing gimmick.

But last year The Congos quietly dropped We nah Give Up – a 17 track double disc recorded and produced together with Belgian reggae rockers Pura Vida. This album is by far the best album by The Congos since their magnum opus back in the 70’s.

We nah Give Up is the brainchild of Pura Vida’s lead singer Bregt “Braithe” De Boever, and the blueprint of the set was laid in Jamaica.

The album boasts nine excellent cuts from the Congos with lead vocals shared between Cedric Myton’s falsetto, Congo Ashanti Roy’s tenor and Watty Burnett’s baritone as well as eight equally first-rate vocals and dubstrumentals from Pura Vida.

The atmospheric, steamy and hypnotizing Black Ark sound texture is present throughout the album. The vocals soar overhead the swirling instrumentation with sublime melodies and unexpected arrangements.

It’s a shame this album was so poorly marketed. Had I heard it last year it would have been put on my list of best albums of 2011. Anything else would have been an outrage.

We nah Give Up is available as a limited edition double LP from Lost Ark Music and as digital download.

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Jamaicas Abbey Road

Inspelningsstudion är en viktig ingrediens för en framgångsrik artist eller en enskild platta. Teknik, ljudtekniker och ”husband” gör ofta mer än vad många tror för att få ljudet att låta så där perfekt – inte nödvändigtvis rent, snarare personligt och varmt, och med tryck.

I musikhistorien finns många kända inspelningsstudior. Den mest kända är sannolikt Abbey Road i London – studion där Beatles spelade in sitt sista album. I Abbey Road-studion fanns uppenbarligen goda möjligheter att spela in bästsäljande skivor, annars skulle inte storheter som Pink Floyd och U2 valt att förlägga sina inspelningar där.

Utöver Abbey Road finns kända inspelningsstudior som Muscle Shoals, Sun Studios och Hitsville U.S.A. Samtliga har sin hemvist i USA, och inhyst storheter som Wilson Pickett och Aretha Franklin (Muscle Shoals), Elvis Presley och B.B King (Sun Studios) samt Marvin Gaye och The Temptations (Hitsville U.S.A, som för övrigt var högkvarter för skivbolaget Motown).

Jamaica har trots sin ringa befolkning många inspelningsstudior, eller hade i alla fall under guldåren under 70- och 80-talet. I reggaens begynnelse på 60-talet startade vanligtvis producenten en studio för att kunna spela in och ge ut skivor. Det gjorde bland annat demonproducenterna Joe Gibbs och Lee Perry.

Framlidne Joe Gibbs startade inspelningsstudio i eget namn, där han producerade klassiska skivor som ”Two cultures clash” med Culture och ”Under heavy manners” med framlidne Prince Far I.

black-ark-wallLee Perry – som faktiskt startade karriären som inspelningstekniker för Joe Gibbs, men slutade efter ett bråk – drog igång Black Ark i början av 70-talet. Ljudet Lee Perry lyckades skapa i inspelningsstudion är oerhört speciellt, och byggde till stor till på hans stora experimentlusta. Tack vare innovativa och säregna produktioner lyckades Lee Perry dra till sig några av Jamaicas mest berömda artister – Bob Marley, Horace Andy, The Heptones, Max Romeo och The Congos är bara några exempel.

Oavsett storheterna hos Joe Gibbs och Black Ark, så är de ingenting jämfört med Studio One – en studio som startades på 60-talet av demonproducenten Clement ”Coxsone” Dodd.

Studio One är Jamaicas i särklass mest kända inspelningsstudio – bland annat tack vare en mängd odödliga riddims som ”Drum sound”, ”Rougher yet”, ”Throw me corn” och ”Real rock”. Det var på Studio One Bob Marley startade sin karriär, och det var där som orgelfantomen Jackie Mittoo och basisten och sångaren Leroy Sibbles fick utrymme för sina kreativa ådror.

Inspelningarna som kom från Studio One har ett väldigt speciellt ljud. Vissa kan säkert kalla det en smula burkigt, men det är inte ljudets renhet som räknas, utan värmen och själen. Och det var precis det som Studio One handlade om – själ, personlighet och värme.

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