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Lee Scratch Perry - Scratch Came Scratch Saw... (2008)



Lee "Scratch" Perry urodził się w 1939 roku na Jamajce. Próbował swoich sił zarówno jako wykonawca, jak i producent. "Wychował" dwa pokolenia muzyków, a jego najwybitniejszym uczniem był Bob Marley. Lee Perry (znany również jako "Little", "Pipecock Jackson", "The Gong", "The Upsetter") rozpoczął swoją karierę sprzedając płyty Clementa Dodda. Później, gdy ten założył Studio One, podjął tam pracę aranżera i łowcy talentów, którą wykonywał wraz z Jackiem Mittoo. Swojemu pierwszemu singlowi, "Chicken Scratch", Perry zawdzięcza pseudonim.

W 1968 roku kłótnia na tle finansowym spowodowała, że Perry opuścił Studio One i rozpoczął pracę u Joe Gibbsa, zakładając wytwórnię Upsetter. W 1969 roku singel "Return Of Django" nagrany przez jego podopiecznych - The Upsetters (w składzie znaleźli się m.in. Aston i Carlton Barret) - znalazł się na brytyjskiej liście przebojów. Za uzyskane z jego sprzedaży pieniądze Perry urządził studio Black Ark, gdzie na czterośladowym magnetofonie nagrywał najbardziej awangardowe płyty reggae lat siedemdziesiątych. Pod opieką Perry'ego zdobywali doświadczenie m.in. The Wailers, The Heptones, Augustus Pablo, Junior Murtancki, czy Max Romeo.

Współpraca Perry'ego z punkrockową grupą The Clash zaowocowała singlem "Complete Control", który cieszył się sporym powodzeniem. W 1978 nagrał z Bobem Marleyem utwór "Punky Reggae Party". Rok później przeprowadził się do Wielkiej Brytanii, a następnie do Stanów Zjednoczonych. W latach 1978-81, do dnia śmierci Boba Marleya, występował i nagrywał z nowojorską grupą reggae Terrorists, założoną przez Dro Ostrowe'a i Garry'ego Schiessa. Współpraca ta zaowocowała m.in. maxi-singlem "Love Is Better Now".

Pod koniec lat 70. spłonęło studio Black Ark. Perry oświadczył, że pożar spowodowała wadliwa instalacja elektryczna, lecz pojawiły się opinie, że winę za to ponosi sam muzyk, który pod wpływem narkotyków sam podłożył ogień. W latach 80. Lee rozpoczął współpracę z brytyjskimi producentami Adrianem Sherwoodem i Neilem Fraserem (znanym szerzej jako Mad Profesor). Wtedy też jego kariera muzyczna zaczęła wracać na dobre tory.

"Scratch" odstawił na dobre alkohol i narkotyki. W jednym z wywiadów przyznał, że chciał sprawdzić, czy to dym tworzył muzykę, czy też on sam. W następnej dekadzie powstało sześć płyt będących wynikiem współpracy Perry'ego z Mad Profesorem. Były to krążki: "Black Ark Experryments" (1995), "Experryments At The Grass Roots Of Dub" (1995), "Super Ape Inna Jungle" (1995), Who Put The Voodoo Pon Reggae" (1996), "Dub Take The Voodoo Out Of Reggae" (1996) oraz "Dub Fire" (1998). Producent działał też na własną rękę, wydając solowe płyty: "Lord God Muzik" (1991), "Sounds From The Hotline" (1991), "The Upsetter and The Beat" (1992), "Excaliburman" (1992), "Spiritual Healing" (1994) i "The Original Super Ape" (1998).

Nową dekadę Perry rozpoczął od wydania krążka "Son Of Thunder" (2000). Dwa lata później powstała płyta "Jamaican E.T.", która przyniosła mu nagrodę Grammy. W 2003 roku Lee sygnował swoim nazwiskiem trzy projekty: "Earthman Skaning", "Encore" oraz "Alien Starman". (Anna Kokot)



Dealing with eccentric geniuses in pop music is always a tricky thing: you can love the work of Sun Ra or Kool Keith or Jandek on purely musical terms, but there's also an undercurrent of lunacy tourism to some peoples' appreciation of them. For those folks, the appeal of the musician's bizarre personality and alleged craziness overwhelms the legit brilliance, turning it from a sideshow into the main attraction. Lee "Scratch" Perry has hovered on the periphery of that divide since the end of the 1970s: as much deserved recognition as he gets for his production innovations, there's also the "he burned down his studio, man" aspect of his legend, the stories and rumors that tend to depict him as a cannabis-fueled goof-off and, with age, a sort of crazy-grampa oddball persona as well.

Scratch Came, Scratch Saw, Scratch Conquered-- the second album Perry has released in the span of two months, coming shortly after the Andrew W.K.-produced oddity Repentance-- should suit fans of Scratch-as-weirdo just fine. His role on this album is in a purely vocal capacity, and even if his voice is mostly preoccupied with croaking out stream-of-consciousness mutterings and aimless non-sequitirs, he still shoots off a few good lines: Opener "Having a Party" invokes "A skeleton from outer space/ With his Remington in his suitcase," and when he gets abstractly spiritual on tracks like "The Game Black" and "Saint Selassie", he seems to harbor a compellingly odd sort of mysticism. And there's still a mischievous spark in his ragged, aging voice, gentle and reserved as it frequently is.



Thing is, he still spends most of the time on Scratch Conquered blue-skying from phrase to phrase in odd moments of free-association-- which isn't bad in and of itself, except when he loses the plot and kind of half-asses it, which is often. Sometimes this aimless randomness is funny, when he concludes "Yee Ha Ha Ha" with shout-outs to New York City, California, Chicago, Wisconsin (!) and "Texas Town"-- which he then appends with a softly-mumbled "George Bush", to the accompaniment of cowboy-movie gunshots. Too bad he repeats that same travelogue almost verbatim (sans W. shoutout) in "Once There's a Will There's a Way". He also tends to ruminate on the same brief snatches of phraseology about banks, money, politicians, and assorted "sinful fuckers," invoking them over and over without making much of it really cohere past the three-word soundbite level.

And if you consider that just Scratch being Scratch-- well, he's being Scratch over some pretty ordinary reggae. Producer John Saxon is stingy with the dub signifiers, and with the exception of the knife-sharpening, melting-synthesizer rhythm on "Jealousy" and the otherworldly skank to "Scratch Is Alive", there's little sign of the percussive experimentation, thick slabs of bass, or echo-chamber deepness one would hope for from a Lee "Scratch" Perry record. It's not really bad, per se, as far as roots-revival reggae goes; it's at least tightly arranged and boasts a good horn section, which would make it a fine record for someone like Jimmy Cliff to sing over. And despite a couple of gratuitous famous-peer-driven genre experiments thrown in-- George Clinton joining in for the spaceman-summit funk jam "Headz Gonna Roll", Keith Richards adding some late-period Stones guitar entropy to "Heavy Voodoo" and "Once There's a Will There's a Way"-- none of these collaborations really feel as momentous as they should. Without the important musical half of Perry's bizarre genius, the one that proved there was plenty of creativity behind his peculiarity, Scratch Conquered is a hollow experience where most of the enjoyment depends on how much you like the idea of one of popular music's strongest visionaries reduced to a novelty act just dicking around. (Nate Patrin)



Few musical geniuses this side of Sun Ra are as eccentric and self-mythologizing as Lee "Scratch" Perry, the Jamaican producer, performer and DJ whose pioneering work helped shape punk, dub and rap. As far as being out there goes, Perry's latest album, his umpteenth in a career that spans four decades, never fails to disappoint -- or delight.

"Hallo hallo, this is a skeleton from outer space having a party," he announces to open the record, after which, over reggae rhythms and a juking saxophone, he exhorts those gathered to "funk [their] funk" and "drink [their] drink." Everyone from Marcus Garvey and Bob Marley to international bankers and an enigmatic character named Shotgun, he promises, will be there.

Next up is "Heavy Voodoo," an incantatory number featuring serpentine guitar fills from Keith Richards. Here again, Perry doesn't so much perform as preside, holding forth like a ganja-inflamed priest while a stirred-up soul sister moans in the background.

Mystical and apocalyptic undercurrents run throughout the record, with several of them, such as Perry's injunctions against corrupt politicians, pronouncing judgment on the wicked. "The Game Black" sounds a similar note over Eastern European melodies played on accordion and clarinet.

"Headz Gonna Roll," with its refrain of "chop chop chop," includes ghostly warnings from the ubiquitous George Clinton. Equal parts dadaism and Rastafarianism, Perry's woozy meanderings might not be for everyone, but the abundance of natural soul evident here, from the slinky Afro-beat of "Scratch Is Alive" to the echo-laden dub of "Jealousy," is undeniable. (Bill Friskics-Warren)

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