Awe­some mu­sic from the ar­chives – Lee Scratch Perry’s The Upset­ters

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - NEWS - Donal Di­neen

By the late 1960s, Lee Scratch Perry had sev­ered all ties with the stu­dios where he had honed his en­gi­neer­ing and pro­duc­tion skills. Never a man to go qui­etly, he didn’t so much burn his bridges as blow them up in typ­i­cally flam­boy­ant fash­ion.

In 1967 he re­leased the ex­plo­sive Run For Cover, which was di­rected at his orig­i­nal men­tor Cox­sone Dodd. In their time to­gether at Stu­dio One, they had rewrit­ten the record­ing rule­book and con­jured some of reg­gae’s most en­dur­ing clas­sics, but Perry’s in­cend-ary part­ing words drew a de­fin­i­tive line in the sand: “You take peo­ple for a fool and use them as a tool, but I am The Avenger.”

As well as his com­bat­ive en­ergy, Perry brought an acute spirit of adventure and a mar­tial artist’s pre­ci­sion to pro­duc­tion tech­niques. His ob­ses­sion with the feel of the sound was a game changer.

In launch­ing The Upset­ters and set­ting up the Black Ark stu­dios he gave him­self artis­tic li­cence to go about trans­form­ing peo­ple’s ideas of what a reg­gae song should be. In his stride in the early 1970s Perry was un­stop­pable, sprin­kling star­dust on an in­cred­i­ble ar­ray of mu­si­cal acts and solo artists who flocked to his door.

The Upset­ters Chap­ter 1 is a com­pelling snap­shot of the early stages of that ground­break­ing era. It fea­tures a hand­ful of the pro­ducer’s known col­lab­o­ra­tors along­side some more ob­scure fig­ures. What unites all the el­e­ments is the play­ful­ness of the pro­ducer’s touch. There’s an in­fec­tious sense of fun run­ning through it. Vo­cals are slowed down, speeded up and warped. Pul­sat­ing or­gans duel with dis­torted gui­tar scratches over rolling waves of deep bass. It’s a thrilling sonic ride with a glo­ri­ously un­hinged mas­ter at the wheel. There’s so much blood and fire here, it’s im­pos­si­ble not to feel the heat.

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