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From The Reggae Archives: Lee Scratch Perry and The Upsetters

From The Reggae Archives: Lee Scratch Perry and The Upsetters

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 incendary 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.

Reggae141.com 2016