Hot 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.
In 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.
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.
Engelska reggae/ska/soul-gruppen Pama Internationals nya singel Happenstance infriar de högt ställda förväntningarna. Det är en reggaerökare i moll med tung bas och fet orgel och den första av tre singlar innan albumsläppet i oktober/november.
Happenstance ackompanjeras av instrumentalversionen Dub-A-Dance, där orgeln ges ännu mer utrymme än i originalversionen. Dub-A-Dance påminner en hel del om de orgelintensiva låtarna från The Upsetters, Harry J Allstars och The Dynamites. Sköna 60-talsvibbar med andra ord.
Singeln finns ännu inte att köpa. Däremot kan man lyssna på Happenstance via Pama Internationals Myspace-sida. Ingen dum idé om man gillar reggae med 60-talskänsla.