SKANKING WITH THE UPSETTER, INDEED
Someone has been skanking with these skanks
In Jamaican slang, "skank" has two meanings: to move to the music, or to move with ulterior motives. Both are the case with Skanking With The Upsetter: Rare Dubs 1971-1974, a new collection of dub tracks released by Jamaican Recordings.
For serious Scratch fans, this is a really intriguing album, as it features dub versions of some rather obscure and lesser known rhythms, such as "Start Over" by The Gatherers and "Preacher Man" by The Stingers; most others are not identified. However, after listening to the album, it's clear that these dub mixes that were most likely not done by Lee Perry, and that someone is trying to skank with these skanks.
First things first: the tracks on Skanking were licenced by Bunny Lee, and so there are several Lee rhythms here that are being passed off as Perry productions. Second, as with so many other bogus Scratch collections, all of the songs are mistitled, with names like "Perry's Jump Up" and "Skanking With Lee Perry". Scratch never named his dubs after himself, and so these are clearly not the original titles.
Other things on the album point to Skanking being the work of amateurs, mainly the track annotation. Many simply say "another lost dub from the masters" or fail to point out the origin of the dub. For example, "John Crow Skank" is a dub of "Preacher Man" by The Stingers, but this isn't mentioned. It's claimed that "Good Will Dub" was recorded by Hopeton Lewis in 1972; in fact, it's a dub of "Peace" by Shenley Duffus.
The more you listen to Skanking, the more you realize that someone else was most likely responsible for these dub mixes.
The more you listen to Skanking, the more you realize that someone else was most likely responsible for these dub mixes. Exhibit A: there are dub effects on the studio out-takes and false starts (eg: echo applied to Scratch yelling "rolling" at the start of "Three Blind Dub"). While it's true that Scratch might have done something like that, the way these moments are mixed on Skanking definitely lacks the Upsetter feel. While several of the tracks have the Scratch sound, many don't. Therefore, my theory is that these mixes were done well after the fact, and most likely by someone else instead of Scratch. It sounds as if someone got their hands on the unmixed master tapes, and then messed with them in the studio. If this had been released as a collection of pure rhythm tracks complete with the studio out-takes, it would have been an excellent set.
Despite all of this chicanery, however, I quite like Skanking With The Upsetter. While not completely legitimate, there's no mention of Pauline Morrison or Enzo Hamilton, and so perhaps we can give Jamaican Recordings the benefit of the doubt and consider that they thought these tracks were completely legit. Something similar happened to the good people at Tabou 1 when they got taken for a ride by Mikey Brooks. He provided some tracks and claimed that they were long lost Black Ark recordings; in fact, his vocals had been recorded in the 1990s and the rhythm tracks (mainly from the Heptones' Party Time album) had been clumsily altered in the studio after the fact. Once Tabou 1 found out about this, they quickly pulled the album (entitled Solid Ground) and deleted it from their catalogue.
If you're after some original Scratch dubs, Skanking With The Upsetter is not the place to find them. However, if you're a serious fan and don't mind paying money for curiosity's sake, then check it out.
January 2002 (additional material August 2003)