Monday, May 25, 2009
1 MAX ROMEO - tell jah say BOOMING REMIX
2 TOWER CHANTERS - little flute chant
3 BLUEBELLS - come along 45 MIX
4 UPSETTER - come along version
5 UPSETTER - dub along
6 PROPHETS & JAH STITCH - zion gate extended
7 ZAP POW! - river of mystery
8 UPSETTER - return of the super ape
9 U ROY - OK corral
10 UPSETTER - dread lion LP MIX
11 UPSETTER - dread lion BOOMING REMIX
12 UPSETTER - dread lion UTMOST REMIX
13 RICKY & BUNNY w COLLIE BUDZ - no bushweed
14 UPSETTER - simon the sorcerer
15 BLUEBELLS - come along MIX 2
1 MAX ROMEO - TAN AND SEE
2 RAS MICHAEL - HEAR JORDAN ROLL
3 JR MURVIN - CROSS OVER
4 MAX ROMEO - NO PEACE
5 MEDITATIONS - RUNNING FROM JAMAICA
6 THE CUSTOMS OFFICERS - ME NAH RUN
7 UPSETTERS - DOMINO GAME
8 MAX ROMEO - NORMAN DISCO MIX
9 LEE PERRY - BABYLON A FALL
10 RAS MICHAEL - WICKED GOT TO GO
11 UPSETTER IN SESSION
12 LEE PERRY - RAINBOW THRONE A CAPELLA
13 LEE PERRY - RAINBOW THRONE
Seeing Lee Scratch Perry perform live is a lot like the classic tale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. A huge crowd has gathered, eagerly anticipating a monumental appearance of a very important figure. Hype is fever pitch because the media have been telling anyone and everyone that the man who gave Bob Marley his style (and backing band), the producer of “Police and Thieves”, a madman who burned down his own world-class hit studio in the back yard of his house, IS COMING TO OUR TOWN.
Like the king’s tailor in the old tale, who blew smoke up the king’s ass on a regular basis, Scratch’s current record company (different for each new album) has been pounding the waves with tales of his madness and eccentricity. People are on the edge of their heels to catch a glimpse of Bob Marley’s friend and maybe even shake his hand.
Scratch takes the stage very late to much fanfare, overdressed in bright colors. On his head a custom made hat that he fabricated with a glue gun, mirrors and knickknacks over a baseball cap, on his feet are boots that he individualized with similar mirrors etc. In his hands are his water bottle, bible and other personal effects, along with an elaborately embellished microphone not unlike the hat and boots. One night he even had a bright foil Happy Birthday balloon trailing from his hands to hilarious effect.
The crowd’s reaction is immediately loud and approving: they laugh at Scratch’s short stature and crazy clothes, and they are charmed. Women say he is a cute man, and brothers want to get high with him. He was Bob Marley’s friend and producer!
The first song settles in, and everyone is a little surprised at it’s absolute mediocrity- surely Scratch will warm up and really get into it tonight. In fact it’s kind of shitty-has he lost his voice or something?
The drummer counts the next tune, rolls and comes in. The band settles into another one of Scratch’s famous rhythms like “Curly Locks” or “Roast Fish and Cornbread”, and Scratch paces the stage, anointing it occasionally with “holy water” from his plastic bottle, and muttering rhymes like “Super ape/super tape/super ape/super grape…”.
Some people, like the crowd in “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, are wondering to themselves “Does Scratch really suck, or is it just me?”. Many individuals in the throng aren’t paying enough attention, or don’t really know the difference.
Further tunes ensue, drawing from Scratch’s vast catalog of music. He pulls off the cap long enough for everyone to see that he is not a bald old man. He has a neatly combed grey afro, a trick Bo Diddley also used onstage in later shows. Scratch is physically fit, and quite sane really. Although he has never been known as a gifted vocalist (“Roast Fish and Cornbread” is an example of him really trying hard, “Captive” is a well done vocal single), Scratch has always had vibes galore. The crowd begins to pick up on his bitterness, and rhymes like “I am the pussy man, I am the cocky man” and his misogynistic comments turn women off completely. He may think it is dirty and hot like Prince but it is just plain dirty. People start to leave after the third song.
The band pounds through the laundry list of Upsetter rhythms as Scratch keeps pacing the stage and chanting things like “Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King” or “I am Jesus, I am Inspector Gadget” or maybe his favorite “When I shit, my enemies cry, when I piss, my enemies die”. He feels no obligation to try harder, it is almost a contempt he seems to feel for the people who paid top dollar to hear him at least sing “Curly Locks”. Scratch has already cashed the deposit for the gig, and looks forward to a few minutes from now when he will collect the rest of his large fee and leave quickly.
By now the place is emptying out steadily, the people got to “see” Scratch but they feel ripped off, like a cowboy who spent his entire paycheck at the brothel on payday and didn’t even get laid. “Oh well,” they seem to be thinking, “better to leave than stand here and listen to this noise.” A few faithful followers are still dancing, waving Red Stripes and yelling “Jah” when Scratch does. The band wraps up their last song, and Scratch leaves without an encore, and is gone instantly in a discrete van.
(This article is a composite of several impressions of The Upsetter in person, inspired by seeing Lee Perry six or eight times since the nineties in Vancouver and Seattle- Johnny Horn)
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Tired of that cute kind of blues that makes you yearn for something a little stronger? These blues will scare the fucking shit out of you, make you question our own mental state and maybe even make you call a friend or your mom.
These blues are not for the faint of heart- the lyrics are desperate, eerie and bleak, and the production is spooky, heavy-handed and horrific. These blues will make you realize without a doubt that someone has made a voodoo doll of you and has slowly started to maim it. These blues do not have a happy ending.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
The ultimate home studio in the world, The Black Ark, was in Scratch’s back yard in the Washington Gardens area of Kingston, Jamaica.
Better gear and fresh tape made a distinct difference in the heavy sound Scratch was getting from his Teac four track, Space Echo, phaser and Soundcraft board.
His sound took on a dense, mystical sound that chugs like an underwater sci fi movie- it is a deeply psychedelic sound that is breathtaking at top volume.
Art began to take over the walls inside and out of the Black Ark, and pressure from local gangs made Scratch eventually relocate overseas.
On the way out, he carefully saved every inch of crucial master tapes and “did the manly thing” in his own words, burning the studio down to end an era in music.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
It is already ten years since Augustus Pablo passed from this realm on May 18, 1999. It really doesn’t matter though because a deeply spiritual dreadlocks like Pablo would not acknowledge death or funerals. The legacy left behind is staggering, the years worth of music almost impenetrable considering all the different mixes and pressings of Rockers productions.
The story has been told over and over, but the poster boy of the melodica was born into a middle class Kingston family as Horace Swaby in the fifties, and attended Kingston College. He eventually emerged as an instrumental artist with his new pseudonym, but still toiled as a sideman for little or no pay. Having a vision of Rastafari, he embraced the lifestyle and went bongo dread and I-tal despite his high tone background.
Like countless frustrated musicians, Augustus Pablo realized he could be a producer and control the sound of his music, and make more money of course. The very humble Pablo always maintained that the father guided his music and often credited Selassie as producer. He made history with his Rockers and Message labels, a natural outgrowth of the Rockers Sound System that Pablo ran with his brother Garth Swaby. Quite often it was Pablo who was the operator, and Jah Bull was resident deejay.
Without him, New Order, The Beat, Joe Jackson, or even Jamaicans like Joe White and Peter Touch might have never picked up a melodica- The German company Hohner must have felt Pablo’s impact on their international sales of melodicas, and the images of Pablo with his locks down, holding the instrument, have been seen worldwide.
On keyboards, Pablo was no Jimmy Smith, but his groove was strong. The moods and soundscapes he created made for a different kind of dub album: instrumental music to be listened to, not necessarily just a blank template for deejays to chat their lyrics over-
There is a meditative quality to Augustus Pablo’s sound that draws in people from every nation.
This compilation includes many of his extended cuts, and pieces of his classic riddims matched up with their versions.
“When we were doing these things, it was just a one in the world thing. Everybody used to say our music is unfinished. I see dat and I make a music “Unfinished Melody” just fe dem.” Augustus Pablo ‘92
Dub creates a pleasant mental image, it is psychedelic music to dance to- Dub is reggae stripped down to it’s ingredients-
My world changed forever back in ’79 when I heard “King Tubby Meets The Rockers Uptown”- It’s the first dub I ever heard in my life (although “The Boxer” by Simon & Garfunkel climaxes into what could be New York’s very first ever dub workout)-
Pablo’s East Man Sound was in full effect, a minor key with a deep mood-
Timbales pound brutally as each instrument is featured briefly only to drift off in stereo over a deadly bass and drum-
At the time it seemed like Reggae made in an Afghan cave, a great fusion of Eastern harmonies with Jamaican music- Of course I immediately devoured any other Augustus Pablo or dub I could get my hands on-
This dub LP from Augustus Pablo comes from an acetate (or dubplate)- Major respect to Rice & Peas for these musics- The sound is crunchy but the music is an inspired set of Pablo rhythms- Also included are alternate versions of “Unfinished Melody” originally on dubplate-
Drifting off to the Eastern minor chord strains of Augustus Pablo since first being exposed to him in 1979, I never got to meet him or see him live (both challenging tasks). A lifelong dream was fulfilled in 1997 when I was finally able to visit the actual Rockers International Record Shop on Orange Street in Kingston.
These photos were taken by me and Leon: for some reason our driver “Cheese” aka Howard modeled with his Nissan in a few of them, and the Prince Buster photo is included since it is just a few doors down and taken the same day.
Buster’s was closed, in fact it was kind of dormant looking, but Rockers was busy. We soon realized why- This young black cutie named “Bubbles” (I’m serious), was spinning dancehall records on their set at full volume and dealing with customers (no photo of Bubbles). They had new stuff and mixtapes (“Zim Zimma” was the big tune at the time), plus tons of Rockers 45s and discos (with those red-on-yellow labels). They had every Pablo LP available in a rugged Jamaican pressing with that yard style clear plastic bag for an inner sleeve.
A couple times while we were there, this guy who looked exactly like Pablo except with an afro came up to the counter from inside the shop. It was either Garth or another Swaby brother, he had to be family. We took a good look at everything and made a few purchases, driving off with Cheese to Junior Reid’s shop and Tuff Gong.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
These sisters compilations are assembled to exacting specifications: The voice must be emotional, strong and in-tune, the lyrics must be clever or at least fun, and the rhythm of course must be a heavy rockstone foundation for the song-
As tunes are auditioned and tested, the content trickles down to a very hard kernel of pure soul that may have come from at least twenty different releases. You might notice there is no fluffy filler, and that no cuts are included for reasons of record company politics-
Many of you don’t understand the slang, or can’t understand one word these women are saying- That is okay, the vibe is so strong that it reaches almost everyone.
1 Barbara Jones - why did you leave me
2 Marcia Griffiths – dreamland
3 Marcia Griffiths - try a little smile
4 Jennifer Lara - consider me
5 Cecile Campbell - whisper to me
6 Marcia Griffiths – Survival
7 Nina Soul - sleeping trees
8 Rosalyn Sweet - blackbirds singing
9 Hortense Ellis - people make the world go round
10 Denise Darlington - feel so good
11 Christine - saturday night
12 Barbara Jones - slim boy
13 Sonia Spence - talk love
14 Sharon Black – struggling
15 Sister Carol - black cinderella
16 Marcia Griffiths - tell me now
17 Sonia Spence - come with me
18 Sharon Jones - how long
19 Sister Carol - free food ticket
20 Dawn Penn - no no no
21 Jerry Jones - compared to what
22 Soulettes - my desire
23 Patsy - hanging on
JAMAICAN SISTERS 5