It’d be hard to quantify, all those low-rent imprints issuing work. But after Bob Marley, Lee Perry might be the most widely disseminated Jamaican musician in history. There seem to be just about as many compilations of the producer and singer’s work as proper studio albums. JA’s music business has always been a weird animal – sometimes it’s even hard to get records from the island onto turntables due to the center hole being an odd shape. No fear, productions from Perry’s Black Ark are more sturdy than the vinyl it was first issued on. With the endless flow of discographical additions to Perry’s catalog, the 75-year-old’s still recording new music. And with his lofty historical importance, he’s been able to wrangle some pretty high profile players for Rise Again.
Released through M.O.D. Technologies, Bill Laswell’s imprint, this new studio album from Perry includes contributions from Bernie Worrell, Sly Dunbar, and Hamid Drake, among others. With this sort of music – a continuation of Perry’s latter 1970s sides on which he chants occasionally lucid thoughts atop sparse accompaniment – bringing in players associated with jazz and funk isn’t a necessity, but a marketing ploy. Maybe it’s a good one, but paying off the Version City Crew might have resulted in the same end product.
Either way, what’s revealed over Rise Again‘s 11 tracks is that Perry, so late in his career, needs only to reference older works to get over. Repeating the phrase, “You keep knockin’, but you can’t come in,” is an obvious throwback. Laid over a sturdy horn line and a touch of indulgent synthesizer, the vocal bit allows Perry to ride a rhythm indistinguishable from something worked up a few decades back. Just cheesier.
Engaging with the producer’s newer work, while providing for Perry’s continued worldwide stardom, doesn’t do much else but account for the continued flow of re-framed compilation albums. It’s a product. Pressure Sounds, the venerable UK imprint attempting to serve listeners obscure works dating to 1960s and 1970s JA, have released a number of important artifacts from Tommy McCook, Dennis Bovell, Derrick Harriott, and Santic. With its latest foray into Scratch related ephemera, the label’s gone and issued The Return of Sound System Scratch as a follow-up to last year’s Sound System Scratch: Lee Perry’s Dub Plate Mixes 1973 to 1979.
Whereas that earlier anthology dealt in unique mixes (which this new volume does as well), there are a few unreleased tracks on Return bearing significant attention. Leading the disc off with Aleas Jube’s unheard “Righteous Land” and following that composition with Perry’s version allows for listeners to revel in Perry’s process while elucidating the scrap heap of material still available. Sporting the wet echo fans have come to expect, “Righteous Rocking” is all simple melody with just enough variation – a few stray horn or guitar notes – to hook just about anyone in ear shot. Further along, a Junior Murvin rarity crops up along with other unique dubbed versions of relatively well-known rhythms. “Jah Jah Ah Natty Dread,” from the genre defining Return of the Super Ape (Lion of Judah, 1977) finds itself given new life with another mix, despite being reissued as a double-disc with its similarly titled predecessor within the last few years.
To a certain extent, it doesn’t matter what’s on The Return of Sound System Scratch or Rise Again. If one’s familiar with Perry, it’s easy to know what eras of his work best suit your desires. Neither disc demarcates a sensible place to begin a personal excavation of his work, but rank as suitable items to gorge on after The Return of Django (Trojan, 1969) gets tired.Visit: Lee 'Scratch' Perry | Pressure Sounds | MOD Technologies
Purchase: Insound | eMusic