by: Jarret Lovell
If you were listening to National Public Radio this past weekend, you likely heard something you’ve never heard before on the rather staid ”Weekend Edition” program: an 8 minute segment on the (grand)father of dub music Lee “Scratch” Perry. Titled, “Over 75 Years of Dub to Dubstep,” this news story paid homage to one of the most important figures in contemporary music. Not only did Perry co-write and produce some of Bob Marley & the Wailers' top songs (he produced the Soul Rebel album), he also perhaps single-handedly invented the remix, the dub, or what is commonly referred to in reggae music as “the version.” He also incorporated sound effects, reverb and split channels into what was at the time rather straightforward Jamaican music.
OK, so some of Perry’s recent releases have been — shall we say — less than stellar. But listening to the radio piece, one gets the sense that Perry is quite conscious of this and wants to return to top form. Perhaps this is why he recruited legendary composer, producer Bill Laswell (Ramones, Peter Gabriel, Herbie Hancock, Public Image Limited, Matisyahu) for his forthcoming album appropriate titled “Rise Again.” Early snippets played on the NPR piece sound promising, with Laswell’s bass taking command. Come to think of it, it’s surprising that the two legends of dub haven’t collaborated earlier in their careers — as Laswell has worked with everyone from Flabba Holt and Style Scott of the Roots Radics, to being the official archivist for Trojan Records, to getting permission from the Marley estate to create a Bob Marley — ambient-dub — cd (the stunning Dreams of Freedom.)
Fans of Lee “Scratch” Perry will have to wait several weeks for “Rise Again” to hit the record stores. In the meantime, Pressure Sounds (UK) has released part 2 of its Lee “Scratch” Perry collection Sound System Scratch. A compilation of “extreme and overlooked productions” from his Black Ark years in the 1970s, Part 1 (released earlier this year) was rough around the edges —containing many outtakes with enough distorted bass, vocals and reverb to shame the cocksure, contemporary dubstep artist back into the studio. Part 2 is more conventional, at least for Scratch. Highlights include the Perry-produced Junior Murvin cover of Curts Mayfied’s “People Get Ready,” and Candy Mackenzie’s “Long Enough.”
Tune into KUCI’s “The Dread Zone” (Mondays 6-8pm) and “Positive Vibrations” (Wednesdays 10am - noon) to hear Lee “Scratch” Perry and the best that reggae has to offer.