Tag Archives: Lee Perry

Unreleased material on new Lee Perry compilation

Sound wizard Lee ”Scratch” Perry have had some busy days recently with new recordings with The Orb and ERM and also two newly issued compilations focusing on the 70’s and early 80’s – one on Trojan collecting some wicked 12” mixes and one of Pressure Sounds with hard to find singles and dubplates.

The Sound Doctor: Lee Perry And The Sufferers’ – Black Ark Singles And Dub Plates 1972-1978 is the seventh Lee Perry compilation on Pressure Sounds and actually the second in 2012. It collects some really rare and obscure material and also a real treat – a previously unreleased track by the great Junior Byles, a track that rates as high as his other Lee Perry produced material.

According to the liner notes by Lee Perry aficionado Jeremy Collingwood Scratch was working on an album with Junior Byles in the 70’s, but the project fell apart due to Junior Byles’ mental health.

The backbone of the set is Lee Perry’s cuts with Kingston’s rasta singers, ranging from Pat “Jah Lion” Francis, to the unknown Jah T via a bunch of familiar singers and groups, including U Roy, The Ethiopians and Dillinger.

The title gives the impression the all tracks were recorded at the legendary Black Ark studio, but some of the material was rather recorded at Dynamics and Randy’s and doesn’t have the esoteric and swirling sound Lee Perry created at his own premises.

Despite some audio quality disappointments this is a great set and it’s certainly impressive that Pressure Sounds still manage to dig out previously unreleased material and not recycle the same stuff over and over.

The Sound Doctor: Lee Perry And The Sufferers’ – Black Ark Singles And Dub Plates 1972-1978 is now available on CD, LP and digital download.

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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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A Lee Perry compilation for a new generation

Producer, singer and general sound wizard Lee Perry is one of those people whose material has been reissued to death. Often it’s already available material in a new packaging. And this is partly the case with Trojan’s latest Lee Perry compilation – the two disc showcase set Disco Devil: The Jamaican Discomixes.

It collects the cream of Lee Perry’s classic 12” mixes recorded and produced at his legendary Black Ark studio. All 18 tracks were recorded between 1976 and 1980 and each vocal is directly followed by a dub or a deejay cut.

Most of the material on the album has been released via fantastic compilations such as Arkology and Open the Gate. Those were however released in 1997 and 1989 respectively, so you could argue it was time for a new one, one for the new generation of reggae listeners.

Disco Devil comes in a neat package and has sleeve notes by reggae historian Harry Wise. The music is needless to say sublime. And each track is a highlight with mesmerizing bass lines, hypnotic mixing and sweet vocals from the likes of George Faith and Junior Murvin as well as raw and rugged tones from singers such as Watty Burnett and Junior Delgado.

Yes, it has been done before. Many times. But this fresh compilation is a must-have for anyone who doesn’t already own all the tracks. It’s just that good.

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An intimate portrait of Lee Perry

In the early 70’s producer, sonic wizard and singer Lee ”Scratch” Perry declared his will to build his own studio, a place open for everyone, especially dreads and rastas. In 1973 his studio Black Ark opened its doors. Seven years later it was burnt down by Lee Perry himself and looted.

In the documentary The Upsetter: The Life & Music of Lee “Scratch” Perry he says the studio had been polluted, corrupted and biased by dreads and rastas, and pinpoints The Congos, an outfit he calls “demons”.

After it had burnt down Lee Perry declared he was born again.

The Upsetter is directed and produced by independent filmmakers Ethan Higbee and Adam Bhala Lough and narrated by Academy Award-winning actor Benicio Del Toro. Lee Perry’s story is told through an exclusive in-depth interview filmed in Switzerland in 2006. He took refuge in Switzerland to confront his demons, and several of these are addressed in The Upsetter.

It has taken seven years to finalize and includes classic Lee Perry produced music and archival footage selected from throughout his extensive career. These video footage gems – both professional and homemade sequences – as well as extraordinary photographs taken from the vaults of music history span nearly five decades and paints an intimate and private picture of Lee Perry’s past, present and future.

The story about Lee Perry has been widely told before – in books, in previous documentaries and in liner notes to CD’s and LP’s. But The Upsetter is nonetheless an insightful look into the elusive personality and creative genius of one of the most legendary and pioneering music figures of all time. He’s usually credited for discovering Bob Marley, one of the first to use samples and one of the masterminds behind dub and remixing techniques.

For Lee Perry nothing was off limits or too bold, and he has worked with Paul McCartney, The Beastie Boys and The Clash. With the latter he had a relationship described as “The Clash looked at me like the children of Israel looked at Moses”.

The Upsetter is a captivating and fascinating journey. But it’s also a tragic story about a man that feels betrayed and robbed by everyone around him.

Lee Perry has often been portrayed as a mad man, and this documentary doesn’t change that image. He talks nonsense and sometimes seems to belong with Gabriel Byrne in the TV-series In Treatment. But according to Lee Perry himself he plays mad to avoid people.

Whether it’s just a front or not is hard to know, but The Upsetter is definitely one of the most disclosing reggae documentaries ever.


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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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A journey with a few detours

I’m a big fan of singjay Omar Perry. His first two albums Man Free and Can’t Stop Us Now got a lot of spins in my home and on my way to work. His efforts on riddims such as Soprano and Gorilla have also been pleasant acquaintances.

On his third album The Journey Omar Perry has teamed up with a variety of producers from around the world, including Lockdown, Bost & Bim, Tune In Crew, Itation Records, Danny Champagne, Watch Out Production, Wake Up, Mad Professor, Mafia & Fluxy and Ruff Cut. Plus a host of others.

As you can guess this many producers makes for a non-cohesive whole. The Journey collects 18 tracks put together in one set without a clear story behind it. However, this makes something of a classic Jamaican album with singles from different producers thrown together.

Even though it lacks cohesiveness there are several highlights, and unfortunately a few train wrecks.

Be sure to check Bost & Bims’ relick of The Gatherer’s eerie Words of My Mouth, I&I Raising over a bass heavy relick of the Declaration of Rights riddim, the hip-hop infused Ready for the World with its tough harmonies or Thinking of You with Earl 16, a tune with a beat reminiscent of the Diwali riddim.

The shaky part of this journey is when Omar Perry wants to make contemporary RnB and experiments with the criminally overused auto-tune effect. A tune such as World Let Us Down would have been enjoyable without Omar Perry sounding like a cartoon character. Same goes for the electronic She is So Nice featuring vocalist and producer Fabrice Boyer.

The Journey is no straight road and includes several detours and it would have gained from being more cohesive and with fewer songs.

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Not just another Lee Perry compilation

Reissue label Pressure Sounds has released numerous compilations dedicated to the work of production genius Lee Perry. Almost all of these are essential listening, and I am especially fond of Produced and Directed by the Upsetter and Voodooism, both released in the late 90’s.

Last year Pressure Sounds put out Sound System Scratch with 20 exclusive dubplate mixes of some of his familiar tunes.

Now it is time for another Lee Perry compilation of exclusive dubplate mixes, this time it is called The Return of Sound System Scratch. But Pressure Sounds has also thrown in two unreleased vocals from obscure vocalists Aleas Jube and Candy McKenzie.

The latter singer was part of backing group Full Experience and the former was according to the liner notes a “hang around” at the Black Ark studio. Both tunes are actually very nice, especially Long Enough by McKenzie, a tune with a tremendous soul and pop flavor.

Included are also some wicked mixes of Junior Murvin’s Rasta Get Ready – a reworking of The Impressions’ classic People Get Ready – and George Faith’s I’ve Got the Groove. The Junior Murvin tune includes some wicked percussion work and I’ve Got the Dub is nicely stripped to the bone.

Other highlights include the obscure Darkness in the City from Tarrus Riley’s father Jimmy Riley and The Upsetters’ melodica cut of Junior Murvin’s Strong Drink.

When I have listened to this compilation a number of times I find myself thinking what the hell I am listening to. I mean, it is a musical mayhem going on. The sound quality is very rough at times and the sounds are twisted, turned, pushed and pulled to the extreme. Just listen to Jah Jah ah Natty Dread where Lee Perry screams James Brown style “the devil is a baldhead, but Jah Jah is ah natty dread”.

But for some reason it is great, really, really great.

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Even more Scratch from Pressure Sounds

There has been scarce with releases from the great reissue label Pressure Sounds lately. This has caused some rumors that the label might be folding.

But Pressure Sounds is still alive and kicking. Some weeks ago they launched their new website and mp3 shop. And now they have a new release scheduled.

The Return of Sound System Scratch – More Lee Perry Dub Plate Mixes and Rarities 1973-1979 is a new compilation ready to hit the streets in early April – from the label – and late April, from other vendors.

The compilation includes 18 tunes, where of two are previously unreleased. The majority of the tracks is exclusive dub plate mixes and follows in the same footsteps as last year’s Sound System Scratch.

 This is the fifth release from Pressure Sounds that is dedicated to the works of Lee Perry and if you don’t already own Divine Madness, Voodooism and Produced & Directed by the Upsetter you should definitely upgrade your record collection.

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Jeremy Collingwood knows his Lee Perry collection

Lee Perry is undoubtly one of the most acclaimed producers in reggae music, and his work is well-known to music aficionados, but also to a broader public. This is probably for two reasons – his work with Bob Marley and Max Romeo as well as his mythical persona.

About ten years ago, music journalist David Katz put out the critically acclaimed book People Funny Boy, a book that gives a rather full examination of Lee Perry’s life and work through many interviews.

Last year saw the release of another book on Lee Perry – Kiss Me Neck by Jeremy Collingwood, a long time reggae fan that has been documenting Jamaican music on CD and in books for a decade.

Kiss Me Neck is divided in three main sections – a description of Lee Perry and the Jamaican music business from the 60’s up until the 90’s, a discography and appendices.

In most books the descriptive parts are the longest. In Kiss Me Neck it is the other way around. Out of the 300 pages, about 230 are dedicated to discography and appendices.

When reflecting on the amount of work that has been put into the sorting of records and information, I actually feel overwhelmed. I mean, it is so much information. You have Jamaican singles, albums, UK singles, UK and European discos, tunes related to Lee Perry, mysteries, confusions and doubts about singles and albums. And so forth.

This book is written for collectors. The 70 pages about Lee Perry and Jamaica are much better described and well-written in People Funny Boy or in other books on reggae. If you decide to get better – or, rather, infinitely better – acquainted with Lee Perry and feel you need to know every matrix number, then you should definitely buy this book.

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