Welcome to Eternal Thunder, the first web site dedicated to the works of Lee "Scratch" Perry. First launched in 1996, Eternal Thunder is the only Lee Perry fan site to get official approval from the Upsetter. This web site includes a discography, biography, library, podcast and magazine, all with exclusive and upsetting content. Stay red and enjoy your visit.
Okay, okay, let's take it from here...
February 6, 2016
Aura Lewis – who played a small but crucial role at the Black Ark – has passed away at the age of 68.
Aurelia Lewis was born in South Africa and experienced a turbulent youth due to the strain of apartheid. The Lewis family fled South Africa, and spent time in Rhodesia, Botswana, and Congo before eventually settling in Sierra Leone. In 1968, at the age of 21, Aura relocated to New York to attend college. In 1973, she saw the Wailers perform and was suddenly inspired to pursue a life in music.
Lewis began writing music with her American friend Pamela Reed, and a chance meeting with Jimmy Cliff led to the two of them joining Cliff as backing vocalists on a tour of West Africa. Passing through London at the end of the tour, Lewis and Cliff met up with Lee Perry, who was recording some tracks with Bob Marley. It was then that Lewis met Candy McKenzie, a British singer who was providing backing vocals to Marley's epic "Punky Reggae Party."
Soon after, Lewis found herself in Jamaica, working with Jimmy Cliff on his Give Thankx album. Lewis was reunited with Reed and McKenzie, and the vocal trio Full Experience was born. The trio's first recordings included the landmark Heart of the Congos album as well as Lee Perry's feverish "Disco Devil."
While a Full Experience album was planned and recorded with Lee Perry at the Black Ark, the finished tracks never saw the light of day. Some unfortunate tension between Lee Perry and Jimmy Cliff resulted in a game of hide-and-seek with the master tapes. Lewis was given a poor quality tape with only five songs, which she eventually got released via the French Blue Moon label in 1990 and quickly became a collector's item. Aura Meets Lee Perry at Black Ark Full Experience was re-released on the Sunspot label in 2012.
After her frustrating experience in Jamaica, Lewis continued her nomadic life, moving back to the United States, then France and Belgium, and continued to work in music with a variety of artists. She eventually returned to her South African homeland in 1997. It was there that she suffered a stroke on Christmas morning in 2015 and died a few days later.
December 3, 2015
Sad news out of Switzerland: Lee Perry's home has been severely damaged in a fire.
As The Upsetter himself reported on his Facebook page, he forgot to extinguish a candle, and it led to a fire. According to Scratch's anguished Facebook post, "MY WHOLE LIFE COLECTIONS, ARTS, MY MAGIC HATS, MY MAGIC BOOTS, ALL MY CRAZY SHOW OUTFITS AND COSTUMES: KING, POPE, GENERAL, MAGICIAN... ALL MY ELECTRONICS AND STUDIO EQUIPMENT AND MY MAGIC MIC, BOOKS, MUSIK, CDS... EVERYTHING GONE!!!!"
The good news is that Scratch and his wife Mireille are alright. The Facebook post doesn't explain whether their entire home was destroyed, or only the area that Scratch refers to as his "secret laboratory."
Update (December 5): Lee and Mireille talk to CBC Radio about the fire.
In happier news, a new series of 7" singles from Reggae Fever looks upsetting. Titles include "Open The Gate" by Watty Burnett, "Street Walking" (AKA "Walk The Streets") by Rajah Ruffin & The Upsetters, "Norman" by Max Romeo, and more. Let's hope there are more on the way!
September 15, 2015
Not content with producing a massive, Grammy-nominated album with the legendary Lee Perry, UK producer Daniel Boyle is at the controls again with reggae veteran Max Romeo for an exciting new album project.
Daniel describes the album as "recorded 1970s style and featuring some legendary singers and players, including some of Scratch's Black Ark brethren." Using the same vintage equipment and ace production style that he employed for Back On The Controls, Daniel has once again crafted something very special.
"I'm an independent producer," says Daniel. "Max is an independent artist. We don't want any big record label involvement in this project, we want to do it ourselves. This is an album by the people, for the people, and so once again I'm asking the Kickstarter community to get involved."
Last time Daniel asked for Kickstarter support, the results were incredible, enabling Scratch's dynamite album to be released on double vinyl and CD, with gorgeous packaging and lots of incentives for backers. He wants to do it again with this Max Romeo project, so be sure to check out his Kickstarter page and consider a donation!
August 31, 2015
Has it really been almost a year since I last updated this site? Shocks of mighty! That is upsetting, and not in the good, Lee Perry way.
For almost two years, I've been slowly but surely working on a major overhaul to Eternal Thunder. The work is mainly about modernizing the HTML and CSS, along with some new content, improved graphics, and a cleaner look. And of course I need to bring the discography up to date. It's a huge web site, the work can be tedious, and so I do it little by little when I have the spare time.
My hope is to get a new and improved version of the web site online in 2016, just in time for Eternal Thunder's 20th anniversary. Stay tuned...
October 4, 2014
Rock A Shaka Records does it again!
The latest single from Rock A Shaka is an alternate take and alternate dub of Carlton Jackson's excellent "History" on a crisp new 10" single.
This alternate take is straight from the master tape and apparently previously unreleased. The B-side is another unheard gem from the Black Ark vaults, an unknown song presented simply as "Upsetting Rhythm". Both dubwise tracks are literally straight from the master tape, as you can hear the musicians warming up and Scratch giving instructions before the song begins!
Currently the record only seems to be available from the Rock A Shaka web site, but will most likely hit shops in the UK, USA, and France before long. Don't miss your chance to get a copy of this crucial platter!
March 24, 2014
Two eagerly anticipated Lee Perry projects are soon come.
First of all, we have Back On The Controls, the Kickstarter-funded album from Scratch and UK producer Daniel Boyle. Daniel decked out his Rolling Lion Studio with vintage equipment in an effort to recreate the sound of the Black Ark in his own productions, and that vibe certainly is in full effect with Back On The Controls. The Kickstarter campaign was so successful that Daniel was able to release both a CD and an LP version along with some bonus tracks. The album is now at the pressing plant, and so it should be available very soon.
The next interesting project is a collaboration with Pura Vida, a Belgian reggae combo who will be releasing a song on their Lost Ark label called "Heaven Gate". Several years ago, Pura Vida singer Bregt De Boever met Scratch at a festival in France and then later reconnected at another festival in Belgium. The meeting led to De Boever creating a Black Ark-esque rhythm track that was custom made for Lee Perry, who added a mystical vocal and created "Heaven Gate".
After too many "collaborations" where Scratch has phoned in his vocals for a project, it's refreshing to hear some material that's been well-crafted with deep vibes and attention to detail, resulting in something special instead of something forgettable.
February 15, 2014
One of the most sought after Lee Perry productions – which never really existed – will soon be available.
"Play On Mr. Music" by The Upsetter Revue will at long last be available on a crisp 10" single from Rock A Shaka Records in Japan. This wonderful tune has intrigued every Lee Perry fan who has seen the wonderful documentary Roots Rock Reggae: Inside The Jamaican Music Scene by Jeremy Marre. For years, fans have wondered if this recording was ever released, but it was improvised on the spot for Marre's camera crew and was never released. The tapes were rolling, however, and the song was included as a bonus feature in the DVD release of Roots Rock Reggae.
However, what we really want is the song on record! Reggae heavyweights Rock A Shaka will be pressing the tune along with an alternate Jamaican mix of "Dread Lion" on the B-side. Although it's terrific for us to finally have this song properly released, the choice of label is decidedly odd: Emidisc, which was a label dedicated to test pressings in the UK; why not create some nicer-looking Black Art or Upsetter artwork?
"Play On Mr. Music" will be released on February 22.
December 12, 2013
Cherry Red Records will be releasing the Jamaican version of the infamous The Good, The Bad, And The Upsetters.
The Good, The Bad and The Upsetters was originally released by Trojan Records in 1970, but Lee Perry wasn't involved in its conception or production. While touring the UK in 1970 after the success of "Return Of Django", The Upsetters went into the studio with Bruce White and Tony Cousins, two English promoters who were involved with the tour, and quickly recorded an album's worth of material. The music was rather lackluster compared to the band's vibrant Jamaican recordings with Perry, and as a result, the album didn't sell very well.
Angry that an Upsetters album was released without his involvement, Perry issued his own version of The Good, The Bad and The Upsetters in Jamaica using the same album artwork from the Trojan release but with different songs and a new track listing stickered on the back. It was released in very small numbers and has remained a mystery for all but the most dedicated Lee Perry fans. Although some of the tracks are well known, most are otherwise unreleased, making this reissue one to look forward to.
The Good, The Bad and The Upsetters will be released in January 2014.
December 3, 2013
Reggae legend Junior Murvin has passed away at the age of 67.
Everyone knows Junior Murvin for his timeless record "Police And Thieves", but of course his career goes far beyond that famous tune.
Born in Montego Bay in 1946, Junior moved to Kingston as a youth and – like so many others – felt himself drawn to the music scene. He became friendly with Delroy Wilson, Ken Boothe, and Alton Ellis, all of whom encouraged Junior to record. Due to his love of American soul (he credits Sam Cooke and Brook Benton as influences), he soon earned the nickname "Junior Soul" and using that name, he cut his first record, "Miss Kushie", for Sonia Pottinger in 1966.
In the early 1970s, Junior recorded a handful of tunes for Derrick Harriott, including the original versions of "Solomon" and "Rescue The Children". While he was recording, Junior also performed live with several bands, including some time in the Hippy Boys, whose ranks included not only the Barrett brothers but another future Black Ark luminary, Max Romeo.
After several years of performing live and recording sporadically, Junior had an idea for a song but knew it needed a producer with special qualities. And so it was that Junior sought out Lee Perry, who had the "heavy hardcore" sound that Junior was looking for. The song, of course, was "Police And Thieves".
"Police And Thieves" is a timeless piece of reggae: whether its political violence on the streets of Kingston or protesters smashing up McDonalds on the streets of Seattle, Murvin's epic tune is just as crucial now as it was in 1976. Almost 40 years later, "Police And Thieves" is still the theme song to a wide variety of world unrest as well as the continuing violence that plagues Jamaica.
An epic album of the same name soon followed, filled with the trademark Black Ark sound. Police And Thieves was the most successful of Island's Black Ark albums, not only because of the strong material and Scratch's distinctive production, but because it really captured the mood of the time in both Jamaica and England. Police And Thieves is more or less a psychedelic blues album: Scratch's smoky sound swirls around Junior's staggering falsetto as he warns off bad women, dismisses hoodlums, and laments a life working in the hot sun.
Junior also recorded some incredible singles with Lee Perry, including two more songs on the "Police And Thieves" rhythm, "Bad Weed" and "Philistines On The Land", both notable for their deep, Biblical imagery. Perhaps the most mind-bending is the hypnotic "Cross Over", where Junior sounds like an Old Testament prophet delivering a dread sermon in the shimmering heat of the desert. A stillborn second album with Lee Perry was recorded, but other than a few songs such as "Childhood Sweetheart" and "Let's Fall In Love", the material remains a mystery.
After the international success of Police And Thieves, Junior Murvin was in demand and went on to record with the Mighty Two - Joe Gibbs and Errol Thompson - including one of his anthems, "Cool Out Son". His next album was the solid Bad Man Possee with Mikey Dread in the producer's chair, followed by Muggers In The Street, recorded for Henry "Junjo" Lawes, and Apartheid for King Jammy. Despite strong material on all albums and several hit singles during this time, Junior simply never returned to the same heights as Police And Thieves.
Junior continued to tour and perform throughout the 1990s and 2000s, recording now and again when it suited him. His last album was the wonderful Inna De Yard, a live acoustic album from 2007 recorded in Jamaica with Earl "Chinna" Smith. Over the years, his amazing falsetto voice never deteriorated, no doubt thanks to Junior's clean lifestyle.
A gentle and spiritual man, Junior Murvin died in hospital on December 2 from complications resulting from diabetes and hypertension. His music lives on.
November 23, 2013
As regular readers will know, London-based producer Daniel Boyle has been working with Lee Perry for more than two years on a set of songs that have finally been mixed down for an exciting new album, Back On The Controls.
Daniel decked out his Rolling Lion studio with vintage equipment in an effort to recreate the sound of the Black Ark in his own productions. He spent years trawling the Internet and auctions to find the exact kit Lee Perry had at the Black Ark and was lucky enough to find most of it. The results speak for themselves: the previews of the new album sound deep, warm, and authentic.
Even more exciting is that unlike other recent "collaborations" where Scratch wasn't even in the same room as the producer, the Upsetter took a very definite interest in working with Daniel on the mixes. "For the first time in many years, Scratch has been active on the mixing desk," explains Daniel. "He created his own dub versions of each song, using the phasers, tape delays and reverb units. It was such a treat to see him in action, just like we see in that old footage of him at the mixing board in the Black Ark!"
Now that the album is complete, it needs to be mastered and released. Daniel is looking for donations through the Kickstarter community. For £6,000, a single album can be released; if £8,000 can be raised, it can be expanded to a double album including all of the dubs and some bonus tracks.
For the most part, I am usually skeptical when it comes to new material from Scratch, as he is only as good as the people he's working with. Daniel is a very talented producer, and from what I've heard, this album really does stand out as something special. As Daniel points out, "This album will be a seminal release in the Lee Perry catalog, not only a chance to bring his new and personal works to the world, but a chance to hear the master and founder of dub music back on the controls, doing what he does best – adding his touch to create some sublime dub soundscapes, through the very same vintage equipment he used all those years ago in the Black Ark studio."
So if you're a serious Lee Perry fan and would like to help the Upsetter get this project finished, throw some water in! Donate to the Rolling Lion Kickstarter project now!
Update (December 6): Daniel is pleased to announce that his Kickstarter project was fully funded in only 14 days! More than £8,000 has been pledged, so it looks like an expanded release is on the way.
October 15, 2013
Two tasty looking new Lee Perry releases will help keep our stereos warm this winter. Pressure Sounds' bag of unreleased Black Ark material just got a little deeper, and the result is Roaring Lion, another collection of deep and deadly music from the master tapes.
Roaring Lion gathers together 16 previously unreleased Black Ark tracks from 1976 - 1978, including songs from Jah Lion, Augustus Pablo, Junior Byles and even Althea and Donna.
Pressure Sounds are also pressing some new 7" singles with tracks not found on the album and a strictly limited edition silk screen edition of the LP.
Truths and Rights - Jah Lion & The Upsetters
Another upsetting release comes courtesy of Get On Down Records, who have announced a limited edition vinyl release of Super Ape. This high quality set is slated for exclusive release as part of Black Friday Record Store Day (November 29). The double LP contains the original LP on one platter and the other record boasts some rare Black Ark dubs on side three and an upsetting looking etched image on side four.
May 3, 2013
After Lee Perry split from Studio One, he ended up working for West Indian Record Limited as session supervisor and even record distributor, roaring around Kingston on his Honda 50 motorbike delivering WIRL's latest platters. More importantly, he was able to hustle some studio time where he could record now and pay later.
While at WIRL, Scratch recorded a handful of songs, including the remarkable "Set Them Free" and "Run For Cover", the first of a few songs aimed straight to the head of his former employers. Later on, when he finally struck out on his own as a producer, several of his first hits, including the monumental "People Funny Boy" were recorded at WIRL.
There have been previous releases of this material, but on cheap and dubious labels that are best left on the shelf. (Although Kingston Sounds' twin Jamaican Recordings can be quite doubtful themselves: their Dub Treasures From The Black Ark set from 2010 was a huge disappointment, as it was a crudely remixed set of Perry produced instrumentals that were mostly not recorded at the Black Ark.) While this looks like a nice set, it's not as interesting or complete as it could be, perhaps due to Trojan claiming rights on several of Perry's recordings from this period.
Lee Perry at WIRL Records is scheduled for a May 20 release.
March 30, 2013
From Lee Perry's Facebook page:
NEWS FLASH FROM LEE "SCRATCH" PERRY
People of the universe,
This is a very important message to all my fans!
One morning I woke up and had a dream, the dream manifest and has to become true NOW: Compulsory!
I want to return to JAMAICA to create a self-sustained community with full natural anti-poison plantations, LSP special healing magic house, run by electric solar sunshine energy natural agriculture.
I found a piece of land huge with its own spring of clear water source of life and sound, I want to start building cottages and am looking for fans and investors who could support and participate in this project - people who understand and decide quickly.
I need to go back to the jungle, the birds, the trees, the water. If you love to share my dream, contact me.
Also worth a news flash is this nice looking preview of Scratch's forthcoming album Back On The Controls with Daniel Boyle from Rolling Lion Studio. Daniel says that the album should be released later this year. Until then, check out House Of Dread, a set of tasty dub tracks from the Rolling Lion crew on iTunes.
January 19, 2013
Director Volker Schaner describes Vision of Paradise, his documentary about Lee Perry, as a "mind blowing encounter" and a "fairy tale documentary". Schaner has spent the last 13 years chronicling the life and ideas of the Upsetter, and the result is "an immense collection of intimate footage full of surpise, excitement, and poetry."
Schaner first discovered Scratch's music as a teenager in Germany and it came as a revelation to him. After finishing university, he formed his own production company and worked on everything from children's animation to documentaries and TV commercials. Schaner's desire to make a movie with Lee Perry eventually began to take shape in 2000 when he began to meet regularly with Scratch and got the encounters on tape.
Rather than a strict documentary, Vision Of Paradise seems to be many things – a platform for Lee Perry's message, a guide on how to change the world through music, and above all, a film that gives us a unique insight into the mind and work of Lee Perry. Currently Schaner is looking for post-production funding via the popular Kickstarter website (he is encouraging people to help him "kick finish this project"). Featuring video shot in Switzerland, England, Germany and Ethiopia, Vision Of Paradise looks like a fascinating project ("the vision of Perry's eyes is the vision of paradise!"). Check out the trailer and see for yourself.
Lee Perry's exciting new album with Daniel Boyle recorded at Rolling Lion Studio last year is nearing completion. Daniel is currently mixing the tracks with Scratch's input and hopes to have an album released later this year. Unlike other ill-fated collaborations, this one seems to be the real deal. Take the YouTube tour!
November 20, 2012
Trojan presents the return of Return Of The Super Ape this month as they release an expanded version of Super Ape that also includes the Return Of The Super Ape album along with 10 bonus tracks.
Or is this Retread Of The Super Ape? It's a rather odd release, considering that Trojan more or less did the same thing in 2007 when they released Apeology, a neat collection that included the original Jamaican version of Super Ape, Return Of The Super Ape, and some bonus tracks.
The bonus tracks on this new release are certainly puzzling – how did they think that songs such as "Party Time" by The Heptones and "Big Pussy Sally" by Lord Creator would be a good fit for this collection? Certainly Super Ape and Return Of The Super Ape are amongst the most distinctive and atmospheric works Lee Perry produced and so to include a hodge-podge of Black Ark numbers which mostly seem to have no direct relation to these two albums is certainly clumsy. There are a few tracks that intrigue me (such as an eight minute version of "War Ina Babylon" and a six minute "Chase The Devil") but unless these are previously unheard alternate mixes or disco mixes, it seems that Trojan is simply recycling material instead of giving us a more solid new Lee Perry compilation.
October 28, 2012
Lee Perry has been a busy man in 2012, keeping the tapes rolling with three releases this year: The Orbserver in the Star House, Humanicity, and Master Piece.
For many years, Scratch has only been as good as the people he's working with. While some collaborations have resulted in some fine music, more often than not, the combinations have been decidedly ill-fated, resulting in mediocre and even awful material. Of course, these days Lee Perry spends his time as shambolic journeyman, often walking in and out of projects, leaving the other participants scratching their heads behind the mixing desk and wondering how to craft a final product.
The Orbserver in the Star House – a collaboration between Scratch and Alex Paterson from The Orb – was highly-anticipated, given the aura surrounding that influential ambient band. Certainly Paterson's trippy, dub-influenced and science fiction-inspired endeavors in the 1990s with The Orb makes him a good candidate for a collaboration with the Upsetter, whose own eccentric and cosmic outlook is well known. It seems as if Paterson and Perry genuinely had a good time while making Orbserver in the Star House, even if the end result is somewhat tepid.
Overall, Orbserver in the Star House is, well, okay. While the album does certainly contain some enjoyable dub/pop moments, the album as a whole lacks cohesion. As one reviewer muses, Perry bumbles his way throughout the album, albeit in a agreeable way. While some songs work really well, others are quite lopsided. Perry's strange cover of "Police And Thieves" is perhaps the most awkward number, sounding as if Scratch was listening to a completely different rhythm track while recording his vocals – square pegs in round holes.
Perhaps if I was a serious Orb fan I would find more to like on Orbserver in the Star House; overall, the album leaves me rather nonplussed. However, when it's good, it's quite good, with Perry and Peterson in a lively mood and obviously glad to be in each other's company.
Speaking of good company, Humanicity is a nice surprise. This new digital album is a refreshing set of songs that are the brainchild of French multi-instrumentalist Olivier Gangloff (AKA Easy Riddim Maker or ERM). Olivier got together with his friend and engineer Romain Ferrey (AKA Easy Mode) to record an album specifically for Lee Perry then invited Scratch to their studio in Strasbourg to hear the results. Perry obviously liked what he heard, as the Upsetter sounds lucid and full of energy throughout this wonderful album.
Unlike many recent works where Perry's vocals sound practically shoe-horned into the mix, on Humanicity they fit like hand in glove. Scratch reins in his usual ramblings and sounds very focused on almost every song. Musically, the album is very tight, with excellent playing from Gangloff and expert production by Ferrey. Even when Scratch indulges in some eye-rolling scatology on "Rastafari" (chatting about his "electric cock"), it's playful instead of embarrassing. Overall, Humanicity is quite brilliant and represents Lee Perry at his very best. Look for it on iTunes or Amazon.
From the sublime to the ridiculous: Master Piece is, quite simply, anything but. This story behind this obscure and weird album is that these songs were originally recorded in 2010, released as Unfinished Master Piece and now have been re-released in a more finished state. With music this mediocre, it's hard to tell (anyone who dares put AutoTune on a Lee Perry vocal can't be taken seriously). Master Piece is yet another uninspired and confusing "collaboration" where someone with some rhythm tracks had Lee Perry phone in some incoherent vocals and turn it into an album. Overall, Master Piece is a mess and best left in obscurity where it belongs.
September 20, 2012
Pressure Sounds continues their string of incredible Lee Perry collections with the November release of The Sound Doctor, a mighty set of rare and unreleased Randy's and Black Ark scorchers. From Steve Barker's sleeve notes:
In 1972, Scratch publicly declared his ambition to build a studio where the 'sufferers' could record. By late 1973 The Black Ark was open for business. Sound Doctor documents Scratch's recording of the sufferers as he and his Black Ark studio became the heartbeat of Rasta and rebel culture in Kingston.
The backbone of this set is Perry's cuts with all manner of Kingston sufferers: ranging from Rasta stalwart Pat 'Jah Lion' Francis, to the unknown Jah T and a who's who of Kingston's brethren: Count Sticky, Jimmy Riley, Shenley Duffus, Delroy Butler, Tinga Stewart, and others. These songs are deep and thoughtful with their reflections on the nature of life.
Highlights of Sound Doctor include Delroy Butler's brooding "Oppression", the laid back "Different Experience" by Brother Roy, Tony (Clinton) Fearon's mournful "Message To The Nation", and perhaps the most anticipated track is a previously unreleased Junior Byles song, "Army Of Love". There is also a dub plate mix of the excellent "Roots Train" by Junior Murvin, drastically remixed to become "Horny Train".
September 2, 2012
Good news for Full Experience fans. Hot on the heels of their excellent reissue of Keith Hudson's Furnace, Sunspot Records will rerelease the great Full Experience EP, Aura Meets Lee Perry at Black Ark.
This five track platter was originally released in limited numbers back in 1990 on the French Blue Moon label and quickly became a collector's item. It contains five of the twelve songs that the female trio Full Experience (Aura Lewis, Candy McKenzie and Pamela Reed) recorded at the Black Ark in 1977. Sadly, thanks to some bad vibes between Lee Perry, South African singer Aura Lewis and Jimmy Cliff (who was supposed to release an album on his Sun Power label), these tracks were poorly mastered and never got the proper release they deserved.
More than a decade later, Aura Lewis took the five tracks in her possession to France, where they were released with the dull title Aura Meets Lee "Scratch" Perry at Black Ark Studio. While the material is not as amazing as other Black Ark works, these obscure songs are an interesting piece of the Black Ark pie. While some tracks are similar to last year's Candy McKenzie reissue, other songs hint at what might have been – a unique blend of reggae and West African styles that Aura brought to the Black Ark.
Aura Meets Lee Perry is scheduled for release on September 24 on high quality vinyl.
July 14, 2012
After a long drought of Lee Perry-related releases (with the exception of Pressure Sounds' High Plains Drifter), Trojan gets back in the game with Disco Devil, an excellent collection of Black Ark discomixes.
Years ago, Trojan had a mighty collection of Black Ark discomixes entitled Open The Gate that was essential listening for any Lee Perry fan. Since then, there has certainly been a need for another, more complete collection of Scratch's astounding 12" singles. While not complete as it could be, the track listing for Disco Devil looks very tasty, including massive cuts such as Max Romeo's "Norman", "Roots Train" by Junior Murvin and Dillinger, and the chilling "Open The Gate" by Watty Burnett. If I had been compiling this collection, I would have done my best to include more of the obscure Black Ark discomixes, such as Eric Donaldson's excellent recut of "Cherry Oh Baby", "Punky Reggae Party" by Bob Marley or "Mash Down" by The Roots. However, all things considered, Disco Devil is a good-looking release and certainly fills a gap for those who don't have the original platters.
Disco Devil is scheduled for an August 2012 release.
Norman – Max Romeo & the Upsetters
April 14, 2012
For those of you who have always wanted a Lee Perry doll to sit on your desk, mixing board, or bookshelf, the time is now.
Press Pop has just released this cute little number, a toy figurine of The Upsetter with adjustable arms and head, as well as gold chain and removable ball cap. Personally, I would have preferred a Lee Perry action figure, with 1970s tank top and bell bottoms – kung fu grip, spliff, reel of master tape, Chris Blackwell figure sold separately.
March 17, 2012
Trojan Records hops back on the Upsetting Train and drops a few good looking Lee Perry releases later this month.
Lee Perry Presents Candy McKenzie, an album of previously unreleased Black Ark soul that was previously available in a limited edition LP will now be released on CD. And speaking of soul, George Faith's Super Eight – the original Jamaican release of To Be A Lover – will also be released on CD for the first time. One of the most under rated Black Ark albums, this smooth set has never been properly released on CD except for a limited edition in 2003. Would have been nice to see some better sleeve art, since neither the original Black Art Jamaican release nor the Island version are very attractive. Both CDs will be released on March 26.
The killer Full Experience tune "Young Gifted And Broke" will also be released as a limited edition Attack 7" single, backed with "Can't See You". It's a shame that Full Experience never really got off the ground, despite recording some promising material with Lee Perry; this single showcases two of their best songs.
Check out DJ Komodo's massive Lee Perry mix at Soundcloud.
February 18, 2012
Lee Perry is back at the controls in an intriguing new project with London-based producer Daniel Boyle.
January 22, 2012
Pressure Sounds' latest release is a collection of Lee Perry's early reggae scorchers called High Plains Drifter.
From 1968 to 1973 Lee Perry was truly finding his stride as a producer. After making a splash with "People Funny Boy", Scratch quickly became a force to be reckoned with: he founded his own Upsetter record label, had top ten hits in England, and made crucial collaborations with the Wailers and Junior Byles, creating some of reggae's finest moments in the process. During this time, Scratch's productions were also at their most upsetting, featuring samples, sound effects, wild DJ cuts, and other innovative touches that were years ahead of their time. While most reggae fans revere Scratch for his epochal Black Ark material, the music he produced during these early years stands out as some of the tightest and grooviest music to come out of Jamaica.
High Plains Drifter contains 20 tracks of lost gems ranging from spooky Upsetters instrumentals to reggae ravers by vocal trios such as The Bleechers and The Mellotones. The collection has been compiled from obscure Jamaican singles and one dub plate ("Don't Want To Lose You" by an unknown vocalist).
If you listen closely, High Plains Drifter showcases many of Perry's musical and pop culture passions, from soul to spaghetti westerns to rhythm and blues. The collection also contains a few revelations for serious Upsetter trainspotters – Busty Brown's "It's Growing" is almost unrecognizable as the basis for the eerie "Return Of The Super Ape" almost a decade later; "Buttoo Girl" by The Inspirations uses the well-known "Shocks Of Mighty" rhythm track.
Although the title of the compilation suggests a collection of spaghetti western-inpired numbers, it's mainly soul and blues inspired reggae here. Dave Barker's "Sitting And Waiting" is a terrific cover of "Waiting And Drinking", a jump blues track by Calvin Boze that Scratch might have heard on a Jamaican sound system in his younger days. The soul highlights come from "Ain't No Love" by Jimmy and The Inspirations (a cover of Eddie Floyd's "I've Never Found A Girl") and Busty Brown's "It's Growing". The spaghetti western sound is heard in the title track (an alternate version of "Dig Your Grave" by The Upsetters), Count Sticky's "Boss" (a minimal DJ number) and "The Man With No Name", which sounds more like a Lloyd Charmers Hippy Boys number than the Upsetters. Perhaps my favourite track on the album is "Amigo", a stripped down alternate version of one of my favourite Upsetters tunes, "Sipreano". While not as great as the original, it's a kooky and enjoyable organ skank.
Although most of the album are straight up reggae ravers, there are also a few well chosen roots tracks, notably "Awake" by The Ethiopians (available from Pressure Sounds as a 7" single) and the doleful "Iniquity Workers" by the Faithful Brothers. Also notable is a Junior Byles track – always a cause for celebration, even if it is a rather lightweight calypso number, "Rub Up Festival 71".
High Plains Drifter will be released on February 14 2012 on CD format and double vinyl LP with limited edition artwork.
December 13, 2011
Pressure Sounds will be releasing four new Lee Perry 7" singles in January 2012, followed by a new compilation.
The four singles are rare tracks from 1968-73, including "Awake" by The Ethiopians, "Ain't No Love" by Jimmy & The Inspirations, "Rockfort Psychedelion" by Count Sticky and "High Plains Drifter" by The Upsetters.
The singles will be followed by the album High Plains Drifter in February 2012, a collection of Upsetting productions from the pre-Black Ark days that range from soul-flavoured reggae to spaghetti western Upsetters numbers. While it's always fantastic to hear more Black Ark material, a collection of early Scratch productions looks very tasty.
There will also be a limited edition 12" single of the George Faith roots track "Guide Line" including the original vocal and version and two Perry-esque remixes by Dougie Conscious.
More details about these Upsetting releases at the Pressure Sounds web site.
November 12, 2011
This month sees two new Lee Perry releases of note, one a curious candidate for reissue, the other a forgotten piece of Black Ark soul.
The Return of Pipecock Jackxon is a strange album that was originally issued in 1980 and has just been re-released by Honest Jon's in the UK. The story behind this album is rather fascinating: in 1979, a Dutch impresario named Henk Targowski travelled to Jamaica and contacted Lee Perry with the intent of releasing some of his material in Europe. What started out as an attempt at a business deal soon snowballed into a crazy and overwhelming situation which concluded with Scratch dismantling and destroying the Black Ark before leaving Jamaica for good a year later. Pipecock Jackxon was the result of this imbroglio, an odd mix of 1978 out takes from the Roast Fish, Collie Weed And Cornbread album as well as new material recorded at the Black Ark. While it has some enjoyable moments, it is a decidedly uneven and unfinished sounding album. As Scratch later said of the release, "They were in a haste to catch a flight that isn't ready. If I have an album, I have to be there, I have to mix my album. So it's a bad spell me cast 'pon them, them fall into the twilight zone."
The Honest Jon's reissue makes an attempt to rescue the album from the "twilight zone" Scratch describes. While the original LP was clearly put together in some haste and haphazardly released, this reissue presents it as a more finished document, cutting out the odd pieces of interview clips with Scratch that were a part of the original. In the discography, I describe Pipecock Jackxon as "a strangely enjoyable album" but really have to wonder why it was chosen by Honest Jon's for re-release. At a time when so little reggae is being reissued, it would make more sense to seek out some of the stronger Black Ark material out there (such as the Anachron collection Turn And Fire, a set of killer Black Ark discomixes). An interesting but hardly essential release.
A more satisfying offering is Lee "Scratch" Perry Presents Candy McKenzie, recently released in a limited edition LP from Trojan. Candy McKenzie was a young British singer who first met Lee Perry in London in 1977. Later, she travelled to Jamaica and along with Aura Lewis and Pamela Reed sang as Full Experience, a trio that cut some very promising material at the Black Ark but ultimately didn't get a chance to fulfill their potential. McKenzie recorded an album's worth of material with Lee Perry that remained mostly unreleased until this new Trojan album. The recent Pressure Sounds collection Return Of Sound System Scratch gave us a hint of McKenzie's true talent with "Long Enough" (AKA "Walking In The Sun") which really showcases McKenzie's bold, soulful voice much better than her previously released material, the fun but mediocre "Breakfast In Bed" and "Disco Fits". As Trojan's Laurence Cane-Honeysett notes, the music from the album is really "a variety of high quality music that bordered on both the sublime and the ridiculous." As mentioned earlier, at a time when so little reggae is being reissued, let's hope the album contains more of the sublime and less of the ridiculous.
September 5, 2011
Lee Perry's latest album is a very likeable collaboration with Bill Laswell called Rise Again. When it comes to Scratch's modern solo work, who he works with is an important barometer for what the finished product will be like, so on the heels of the excellent Mighty Upsetter album with Adrian Sherwood, it's good news that the Upsetter has teamed up with the talented Laswell for his latest offering.
According to music critic Chris Brazier, "Laswell's pet concept is 'collision music' which involves bringing together musicians from wildly divergent but complementary spheres and seeing what comes out." Certainly this concept wouldn't be lost on Lee Perry, whose own approach to music involves a lot of diverse influences and eclectic elements.
Although Scratch claims that he recorded his vocals for Rise Again in bits and pieces while on tour rather than spend any serious time with Laswell in the studio, the end result is quite coherent. Keeping in the tradition of featuring "special guests" (who, like Scratch, no doubt recorded their parts in bits and pieces rather than a Black Ark style jam session with Laswell at the mixing desk), the album features Sly Dunbar, Tunde Adebimpe from TV On The Radio as well as the unforgettable vocals of Ejigayehu "Gigi" Shibabaw. Along with Mighty Upsetter, Rise Again represents some of Scratch's best work in recent years.