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LEE SCRATCH PERRY, then, one of the most enduring and original reggae artist/producers of all time. From the early ’60s as a singer and engineer for Coxsone Dodd’s Studio One in Kingston, through producing seminal Wailers classics ‘African Herbsman’ and ‘Soul Revolution’, Perry’s innovative style marks him as one of reggae’s original treasures.
An undisputed pioneer, Lee “The Upsetter” Perry has worked with almost everyone from The Heptones to The Skatalites to The Clash.
Certainly one of his legendary contributions pairing Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, and Bunny Wailer with the Barnet Brothers (Carley and ‘Family Man’) who had been the heart of The UUpsetters.
After his own studio, Black Ark, burned down in the late 70s, Perry laid low only to resurface in England in the mid-80s partnering everyone from Adrian Sherwood to Terence Trent D’Arby.
During this time, Perry moved to the Swiss Alps (“The mountains give me the fresh Swiss air to replenish my structure so I can soon join the immortal race”).
Stream of consciousness, rantings of a lunatic or the offerings of a prophet? Either way, his unique dubbing style is infectious, with groundbreaking sound effects, echo/reverb and rewind adding a new dimension to the folk tradition of reggae.
Always one to follow the beat of his own drum, the eccentric genius Perry is still breaking new ground with the hardest rebel rasta tunes and unpredictable instrumental dubs, expounding on his favourite themes of extraterrestrials, judgment, justice, corruption, carnality and self proclamation, all over some killer rhythms.
Welcome back to York the Mark E Smith of reggae with an arsenal of feelgood tunes. With an ace band launching into the songs as soon as he shouts the titles, he skips from his Upsetters classics such as Zion’s Blood to Marley’s Sun Is Shining and an epic remodel of Exodus retitled Sexy Dust.
Perry’s singing sometimes bears the loosest connection to the song he is performing, and yet the 77-year-old possesses a wonderful tone and childlike, magical fascination with the noises he produces with his mouth: “Bam bam! Yam yam! Rastafari! Yeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaargh!”