Tag Archives: Lee Perry

Shake it with The Upsessions and Lee Perry

upsessions-shake-it-8714374963824Eccentric Jamaican music legend Lee “Scratch” Perry is a little bit of everywhere these days and works in several genres. In May he was part of the vintage sounding Back on the Controls album and he has also worked with more future-sounding acts like The Orb, Dubblestandart and EasyRiddimMaker.

Now he is involved in another project with a vintage sound. But it’s not swirling roots like Back on the Controls, almost the opposite actually. Shake It! is Dutch band The Upsessions’ fourth album, and it features 14 tracks in the ska, rocksteady and early reggae vein, largely inspired by Desmond Dekker, The Maytals and The Skatalites.

They teamed up with Lee Perry while on tour in Germany and he has injected his distinctive half-sung/half-spoken style to several of the songs. It certainly adds a rough flavour to the otherwise smooth, yet often up-tempo, material.

Just as many albums in this vein Shake It! blends vocal cuts with instrumentals. And the set ranges from the calypso-tinged and risqué The Big Bamboo Treat and Punani Strike via the funky 100.000.000 Tons of Reggae and Funky Lumpini to skanking dance floor crashers like the title track and Hold Your Wining.

Sharp and infectious for your dancing feet.

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Sounds like Pura Vida and Congo Ashanti Roy are at the Black Ark

Congo Ashanti Roy & Pura Vida Step by Step (2014)Belgian band Pura Vida has managed to create a sound almost identical with what Lee Perry did at his famous Black Ark studio in the mid-70s. It’s swirling, sweaty and raw, and has been a successful recipe on a number of albums over the past years.

Pura Vida’s latest set is yet another combination with The Congos, and this time with Congo Ashanti Roy, one of The Congos’ lead singers.

Step by Step collects 17 cuts, of which five are dub versions and one is an instrumental with acclaimed trombone player Tommy Tornado taking lead. It offers well-crafted and live-played riddims as well as interesting arrangements, especially when it comes lead and back-up singing.

But, the problem with this set also lies in the vocals. Because Congo Ashanti Roy isn’t at the top of his game. He suffers occasionally from pitch lapses, and is off-key several times. A pity since he has emotional intensity, an intensity particularly showcased on the skanking and swinging Be True to You with its infectious sing-a-long chorus.

Even though Congo Ashanti Roy’s singing isn’t always up to par, he’s still a powerful exponent of vintage-flavoured roots reggae.

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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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Analogue extravaganza from The Breadwinners and Kalbata & Mixmonster

a3776480918_2The Breadwinners – a one man show directed by a lad called Al – has dropped a discomix extravaganza on Horus Records. Far As I Can See and Mr Landlord recall mid 70s Jamaica and especially Lee “Scratch” Perry’s work at his famous Black Ark studio. Two raw vocal cuts by City Culture and Stevie are followed by their gritty dub and instrumental counterparts.

Another all-analogue scorcher comes from Israel and Jamaica courtesy of Kalbata & Mixmonster featuring veteran vocalist Little John and organ maestro Kutiman.

Prisoner in Love is the first singles taken from Kalbata & Mixmonster’s debut album Congo Beat the Drum, set for release on April 28 on vinyl, CD and digital download.

When recording the mellow and down-tempo Prisoner in Love Kalbata & Mixmonster aimed for getting the spirit of the late King Tubby and the early dancehall era of the late 70s and early 80s. For this purpose they used a 16-track tape machine and an old analogue mixing desk as their main instruments.fsr7077

Little John’s singing floats easily on top of the dreamy piano and the deep bass lines. The flip is owned by Kutiman’s organ, who delivers a killer instrumental in proper old school Jamaica style.

Both releases are directly aimed at fans of well-produced and vintage Jamaican roots and early dancehall.

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Lee Perry rarity gets a well-deserved reissue

UPSETTERSHot Milk Records, a subsidiary of Cherry Red Records, has recently re-issued an ultra-rare Lee Perry-produced album with a fascinating background story.

The Upsetters’ The Good The Bad and The Upsetters was released by Trojan Records in 1970. And since The Upsetters was sound alchemist Lee Perry’s band one might think he was involved in that particular release, but apparently he was not.

Following the success of Return of Django in the UK in 1969 Lee Perry and The Upsetters were booked on a UK tour that very same year. When the tour ended the musicians in The Upsetters had nothing to do while still in the UK. So Bruce White and Tony Cousins – two former singers that ran the booking agency responsible for the tour – persuaded The Upsetters to record an album, which Trojan then released.

Lee Perry had nothing to do with it, altough it had the Upsetters name on it. It was released without his invovement or permission. Frustrated he issued his own version of the album in Jamaica using the same artwork but with totally different songs and a new stickered tracklist on the back.

And this little known gem is now made available for the masses for the first time ever. The Good The Bad and The Upsetters – The Jamaican Edition collects 14 tracks, of which 13 are instrumentals and one is a deejay cut from an uncredited deejay. Four of the songs are versions of The Wailers material – Mr Brown, Who the Cap Fit, It’s Alright aka Night Shift and Soul Rebel all receive the Lee Perry sonic treatment.

The album is not as cheesy as many other reggae instrumental albums released in the same period. It is darker, sparser and more like a precursor to dub.

Be aware of one thing with this album though. The last track is too short and is abruptly cut-off a few seconds too early.

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Co-produce a Lee Perry album

EasyRiddimMaker – producer and multi-instrumentalist Olivier Gangloff and producer and sound engineer Romain Ferrey – put out Lee Perry’s album Humanicity in late 2012. Now they and Lee Perry need your help to finish another album.

Via crowdfunding site Ulule you can be a co-producer of the new album and receive 1 percent of the royalties, i.e. percentage of digital and physical album sales. The funds will for example be used for mastering, photo sessions, distribution and promotion.

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As a contributor you have also have the chance to get a pre-release copy, a signed copy, a signed photo and your name in the album credits. You will of course go down in history as one who has worked with Lee Perry.

Read more here and get the full picture.

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Unreleased material on new Lee Perry compilation

PSLP82 Litho AWV3.inddWhen UK reissue label Pressure Sounds announced a new Lee Perry compilation they wrote “we know what you are thinking, another Lee Perry album on Pressure Sounds.” Well, I could not have said it better myself. It was my first thought when I heard about the release.

The majority of the previous seven Lee Perry compilations issued on Pressure Sounds have been very strong, particularly some of the earliest ones. And Roaring Lion – as the latest eight set is titled – is no exception and definately not just another Lee Perry compilation.

The material on the album was mostly recorded or re-mixed in 1976 and it delivers 16 unreleased tracks, of which eleven come from a master tape that has been laying in storage for 30 years. The other five are made up of dub plates and alternate takes of previously released tracks. All in all the set includes no less than five previously unreleased tracks from Jah Lion, Augustus Pablo and The Upsetters.

The audio quality is surprisingly good and you have all of Lee Perry’s trademarks at the Black Ark put on wax – bouncing bass, creative arrangements and a dense and atmospheric soundscape filled with cultural currents and vocal snippets dropping in and out of the swirling mixes.

Fans of Bob Marley will probably be super excited, since the album collects an unreleased dub plate mix of Natural Mystic, one of the man’s most crucial tunes put out on Island Records.

Roaring Lion comes with excellent liner notes from Lee Perry enthusiast Jeremy Collingwood and in tandem with the album release Pressure Sounds has put out three Lee Perry produced 7”, two of which are not on the album.

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Adventurous sounds on Kung Fu Meets the Dragon

220px-TheUpsetters-KungFuMeetsTheDragonIn 1974 Lee “Scratch” Perry opened his mythical studio Black Ark. A year after he dropped the dubstrumental album Kung Fu Meets the Dragon, credited to The Mighty Upsetter.

This set was recently reissued by UK’s Sunspot Records. But not as the initially released album. This version collects no less than seven bonus cuts and comes in a beautiful gatefold sleeve with two LP’s.

According to the excellent liner notes by Harry Carpenter, Lee Perry was obsessed with martial arts, hence the album title and several song titles referring to motion pictures from the 70s and kung fu.

Musically Kung Fu Meets the Dragon is similar to Scratch albums such as Musical Bones, Rhythm Shower and Cloak and Dagger. It’s not dub, but not completely instrumental either. Scratch plays with the mixing board like a child on a sugar overdose and showcases his forward thinking and innovativeness.

It’s funky with lots of odd sound effects and gracious melodica played by the late Augustus Pablo. Just listen to the haunting and spaced out Iron Fist or the up-tempo Scorching Iron.

Kung Fu Meets the Dragon collects several riddims only utilized on very few occasions and it has been reissued several times before, but I believe this version excels all the previous ones.

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Evolution of Dub 7 is a fiesta for dub-heads

Evolution Of Dub Vol.7 - ArtworkReggae giant VP Records’ bargain priced dub series Evolution of Dub has served as a great way to pick up a number of excellent – and previously very had to find – dub albums. The latest volume Creationist Rebel is no exception.

But when most of the other volumes have also been a nice introduction to a producer and a mixing engineer, this seventh volume collects nearly all dub material from the chosen producer – acclaimed producer Joe Gibbs’ cousin Winston Edwards, who was born in Jamaica, but moved to the UK in the mid 70’s. When settled in London he started to travel back and forth to Jamaica producing music and trading records.

Creationist Rebel collects four Winston Edwards produced albums put out between 1974 and 1980 – Natty Locks Dub, King Tubby Meets The Upsetter At The Grass Roots Of Dub, King Tubby Surrounded By The Dreads At The National Arena and Dub Conference at 10 Downing Street. All of these are nearly impossible to find today, even though some of them have been reissued before.

Natty Locks in Dub was Winston Edwards’ debut album as a producer and is more an instrumental set with jazzy, soft flutes and easy skanking horn parts rather than a high voltage dub album. The effects are held to a minimum and the bass are somewhat turned up, but won’t disturb any neighbors.

Winston Edwards’ second album was the sparse and naked King Tubby Meets The Upsetter At The Grass Roots Of Dub, a set that introduced and helped to establish dub music in the UK and to an audience other than sound system followers. At the time of its release it was heavily marketed and put forward two of the best and most in-demand mixing engineers at the time, each of them got one side to flex his skills. This head-to-head style proved to be very popular with dancehall albums in the 80’s.

King Tubby Surrounded By The Dreads At The National Arena took its title from a concert at the National Arena in Kingston in 1975 when King Tubby’s sound system entertained the audience that was there to listen to The Wailers. The set includes a number of tracks from that particular session, including three vocals cuts from Melodian Tony Brevett, Prince Heron and Carvin Bradford. The boasting opening track I Am, I Am The King sets the tone.

UK musician, producer and mixing engineer Dennis “Blackbeard” Bovell teamed-up with Winston Edwards and The Well Pack Band for the eclectic Dub Conference at 10 Downing Street. This ten track album was released in 1980 and is an erratic effort showcasing Blackbeard’s idiosyncratic mixing style. It’s more exuberant and lively and adds more effects compared to the other three albums.

This colorful music box also includes a twelve page booklet featuring classic photos and images along with sleeve notes by reggae historian Noel Hawkes. King Tubby Meets The Upsetter At The Grass Roots Of Dub is also available on vinyl.

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Tasty Lee Perry influences on Seek the Kingdom First

887158304217_cover-170x170-75Belgian reggae band Pura Vida aka The Lost Ark Band – led by multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter Bregt De Boever – have previously worked with well-known heavy as lead roots singers and groups such as The Congos, Prince Alla, Sylford Walker and Congo Ashanti Roy.

Now, they’ve teamed up with a completely different artist – the obscure pub rock reggae singer and musician G.T. Moore, who has played with giants such as Van Morrison, Dr. John and Johnny Nash.

If you have ever searched the vinyl bins at a record store you might have stumbled upon Move It On Up or Reggae Blue released by G.T. Moore and The Reggae Guitars in the mid 70’s. I know I have, and I never bothered to give them a listen.

But maybe I should have. Because G.T. Moore’s new reggae project with Pura Vida is a punch in the face. In a good way. G.T. Moore has a tone reminiscent of a folk singer. He has no rush and his voice is scared, honest and rugged.

Seek the Kingdom First is musically in the same vein as previous Pura Vida material, i.e. highly influenced by Lee Perry’s heydays at his legendary Black Ark studio. It’s ethereal and swirling and you can almost feel the water drops slowly finding its way down the veins of the leaf in the humid jungle.

The album collects six vocal cuts and two dub versions. The majority of the tracks run over five minutes and they are in no hurry to finish. The music is slow, mellow and beautiful.

This album is currently only available on digital platforms, but previous Pura Vida material have been pressed on vinyl too, so this might change if there’s a demand.

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