Lee Perry - Divine Madness...Definitely

Woman And Money - D.D. Dennis
10 Cent Shank - The Upsetters
River To Cross - The Viceroys
Sweet Taste of Memory - Milton Henry
Stand Up - Eric Donaldson
Dub Fa Yah Rights - Lee Perry
So Many Ways - Reggie Antonie
So Many Skanks - Lee Perry
Africa We Are Going Home - Time Unlimited
Africa Dub - Lee Perry
Oh Me Oh My - Bree Daniels
Oh Me Oh Dub - The Upsetters
Take Warning - Ralston Haughton & The Ebony Sisters
Warning Of Dub - Lee Perry
Sons of Negus - Jimmy Riley
Kingdom Of Dub - Lee Perry
To Be A Lover In Dub - Lee Perry

Radio Scratch - Interview with Lee Perry

A casual perusal of the ever expanding catalogue of cd's chronicling Jamaica's musical history could lead the unwary observer to idly muse that there can be few corners of reggae's past that still remain hidden. He would however be wrong in this assumption. Despite this unprecedented availability much fine music remains obscure, surely testament to the incredible resourcefulness and creativity of the Jamaican people whose voice carried all the way from that little island in the Caribbean to the four corners of the earth. And if that voice is still being heard today, then must credit must go to the subject of this third collection from that most eulogised of Jamaican producers Lee Perry aka Scratch, The Upsetter. Like it's two predecessors, 'Voodooism' (Pressure Sounds PSCD09) and 'Produced & Directed By The Upsetter' (Pressure Sound PSCD19), 'Divine Madness' draws on material recorded at Perry's Blark Ark studio in Kingston, Jamaica between 1974 and 1978. Here we present a wealth of rare sides, most of them not previously available beyond an initial tiny Jamaican pressing, that offer a further fascinating insight into the fervid activities in and around that celebrated location; The Black Ark. - Divine madness? Sounds like genius to us.

Woman And Money - D.D. Dennis (1974)
10 Cent Skank
'Woman And Money's funky rhythm, similar to Perry's adaptation of the Chi-Lites 'Justice For The People' and lent a sweaty barroom air by virtue of some splendid boogie-woogie style piano, was recorded using the UK-based reggae group Greyhound on one of Perry's frequent visits to the country in 1973. Perry added overdubs in Jamaica at the Ark and carried the rhythm back to London the following year to enlist Jamaican expatriate Denzil Dennis to voice it - leaving an odd, strangulated female scream from an abandoned JA session on the intro. Ken Elliot's frazzled moog was overdubbed at Chalk Farm Studios and the record was released in the UK through Pama. The lyrics, suggested to D.D. by Scratch, evince a somewhat reactionary rumination on the two "most dangerous things in this world, that a man just can't do without, he's got to have them. This may sound funny... but it's women and money". Acquisition of the latter, by all accounts, being crucial in attracting and retaining the former. Right on.

River To Cross - The Viceroys (1975)
The Viceroys cut some excellent records for Coxsone Dodd's Studio One label in the mid-seventies, including 'Slogan On The Wall' and 'The Struggle', and in the early eighties recorded the classic 'Heart Made Of Stone' for Sly & Robbie's Taxi label. They reportedly recorded a batch of songs at the Black Ark in 1975, though only this track, a jaunty spiritual whose rhythm seems to date from an earlier era, appears to have ever been issued.

Sweet Taste Of Memory - Milton Henry (c.1974)
Milton Henry recorded 'No Bread No Butter' for Perry in 1969 and 'This World' - as King Medious - on a cut on Perry's 'Fever' rhythm c.1973. He'd been a member of The Leaders alongside Keith Blake - later, Prince Alla who recorded some early reggae sides for Joe Gibbs in 1968. Henry also cut a popular reggae version of Curtis Mayfield's 'Gypsy Woman' in 1975, and in the eighties cut an album for the New York based Bullwackies outfit. 'Sweet Taste Of Memory' has a sound very reminiscent of Studio One productions of the early seventies, its mystical vibe assisted by Milton's meandering soulful vocal and wistful lyrics. Another deep one from the Upsetter vaults.

Stand Up - Eric Donaldson (1977)
Dub Fa Yah Rights
Eric Donaldson is perhaps best known for his massive 1971 reggae hit 'Cherry Oh Baby', he re-cut the song for Perry in 1977 alongside a handful of others including this thriller, his clear, high vocal intoning his determined message. This is followed by a truly deranged dub which finds the tune saturated in echo and reverb, underpinned by the relentless, pounding, four-to-the-floor steppers drum track that provided the vehicle for so many of Perry's productions around this time, and punctuated by Perry's own distorted voice, exclaiming at random and echoed into oblivion; "I-I-I-I-I!"

So Many Ways -Reggie Antonie (c.1975)
So Many Skanks
In comparison, the sound here is almost conventional, though Perry treats Antonie's voice to a drastic equalisation process that isolates it strangely from its surroundings, as though he were singing into a bucket. The dub plays it straight; drum and bass for the most part, with the treated rhythm guitar in place more or less throughout, but with an added humorous percussion track, doubtless played by Scratch himself, carrying out a playful musical conversation.

Africa We Are Going Home - Time Unlimited (1973)
Africa Dub
A repatriation chant from the legendary Time Unlimited - a roots vocal group that included Glassford Manning, Orville Smith and a youthful Junior Delgado in its ranks that recalls further contemporary rasta-influenced tracks including the Hardy Boy's (aka Winston & Ansel; see Roots Techniques PSLP/CD24) 'Zion I' and The Heaven Singers 'Rasta Dreadlocks', the latter a Rupie Edwards production also featuring Delgado. Indeed, it sounds like Delgado's voice issuing the throat-searing screams that punctuated Glassford Manning's lead vocal compounding the song's dark sense of dread.

Me Oh My - Bree Daniels (1977)
Me Oh My Version
Across one of those classic fluid Black Ark phasers-on-stun mixes Daniels, about whom little seems to be known, sings his admittedly rather slim lyric in somewhat detached manner, slurring his improvisations towards the end like a young Elvis Presley while the rhythm flies along beneath him. Perry is content to let the rhythm run on the dub, subtly bringing in the reverb drenched vocal a minute or two in, drops it out again and starts dropping tracks in and out as he keeps up with the pace towards a fractured climax.

Take Warning - Ralph Haughton & The Ebony Sisters (c.1976)
Warning Dub
Sounding like an escaped track off Max Romeo's 'War In A Babylon' album, the obscure Ralph Haughton preaches good behaviour and unity in stentorian fashion while The Ebony Sisters, who cut the excellent 'Let Me Tell You Boy' for Harry Mudie, intone admonishment behind him; "Take Warning, for the time soon come". The dub's another Black Ark thriller.

Sons Of Negus - Jimmy Riley (1975)
Kingdom Of Dub
Founder member of two great rocksteady vocal groups; The Sensations and later on The Uniques alongside the legendary Slim Smith, Riley, whose career is still going strong in the new millennium - witness his recent 'Rastaman' on his own Love Promotion label - recorded a number of tracks for The Upsetter including a terrific version of Bobby Womack's 'Woman Gotta Have Love', as well as gimmicky skanks like 'Rasta Train', 'Yagga Yagga' and 'Hypocrites'. 'Sons Of Negus' is an altogether dreader tune aimed at the 'wolf in sheep clothing' that take on the outward appearance of Rastafarians but who are really 'rascals', tolerance of whom amongst true brethren should not be encouraged. The rhythm was also used by Perry for his own 'Stay Dread' issued in the UK on the Angen label, where its version side is entitled 'Kingdom Of Dub'. Here, instead of a conventional dub, the listener is privy to a reasoning session relevant to the theme between Jimmy, posing as a reporter from the Daily Tribunal, and Perry as a wise elder, a righteous man, echoing sentiments Lee - ever supportive of the struggling youth - previously expressed in defence of the rude boys on 'Set Them Free' (1967) as The defenders an answer to Prince Buster's reactionary anti-rude boy court-room drama 'Judge Dread'.

To Be A Lover Version- Augustus Pablo & The Upsetters (1977)
Beautifully wistful synth and melodica version of George Faith's 'To Be A Lover' previously only available to those who owned a rare copy of the JA pressed 12", where it is mis-titled 'Rastaman Shuffle'. The hands on the keys belong to Augustus Pablo whose unique musical vibration was held in high regard by Mr Perry. Pablo was a regular session player at the Ark, working on sessions for Scratch, and making use of the studio for his own classic productions of the period. The fabled mid-seventies Upsetter sound is here in all its hypnotic glory; the mid-range sounds are immersed in a bubble-bath of phased and echoed coruscation which, as the track progresses, Perry begins to mangle even further, producing startling aural effects yet at the same time maintaining the beautiful linear flow of the rhythm underneath. Music to make you stagger indeed.

Lol Bell-Brown - London 2001

Radio Scratch
I first met Lee Perry whilst he was on tour with the Mad Professor at the back end of 1984. In the December I'd travelled to the Hacienda to see Scratch's show whilst on the same trip infamously interviewing new sensations the Jesus & Mary Chain in the club's basement. I arranged to meet Scratch the following night at the Leeds University gig, bring him back home to Lancashire to stay over and the following afternoon do three hours of live radio.

In those days Lee 'Scratch' Perry was a phenomenon largely confined to the cruel world of the reggae fan, his notoriety began to spread with the patronage of punk - notably the Clash. Arriving in the UK after the Black Ark had reputedly been cleansed by fire, the legend looked distinctly frayed around the edges. At the time in his late forties his appearance and demeanour gave the impression of a much older man -these days he looks much younger than his sixty odd years!

The plan was for me, a mere reggae fan, and Roger Eagle, a total Perry fanatic and dub disciple, to chat to Lee and play a few tunes. Before the show Roger handed Lee a stack of JA 7" pre releases - all bearing the imprimatur of Scratch whether credited by script or sound. Scratch took hold of the pile of vinyl, balanced a pair of NHS specs on his nose "Jack Duckworth style", and began to tick with a ball point pen the labels of those tunes he recognised, stopping to ponder those which he actually could not remember. So to Roger each 7" in turn became a quasi religious artefact - touched and ticked by the hand of the master.

Scratch visibly grew in confidence throughout the three hours of the show as more and more of his tunes poured out of the studio speakers and phone traffic into the station was overloaded. His responses to questions, at first tentative and prosaic began to assume the more familiar quasi-mystical stream of consciousness raps that were to become his trademark. For me the highlight of the show came as Roger was playing one of the dubs to 'Police & Thieves' when Scratch asked for the mic to be opened and proceed to improvise an inspired toast with perfect timing, intonation and dictation. I still play the tape for the conversion of unbelievers. Scratch's choice for dedications at the end of the show was Stevie Wonder's 'I Just Called To Say I love You'.

Two years later Scratch reappeared On The Wire, this time in the company of Adrian Sherwood, with whom he had recently cut his best post-Black Ark album 'Time Boom X De Devil Dead'. Adrian spent most of the show watching football on TV. Scratch brought in a video camera. The show was already being caught on video by Brian Jackson aka Planet Jackson aka Prince Boppa aka Rasta Foureyes. At one stage Scratch was found to be sticking a feather into an electric socket and pouring water over it. When I got home I found a ten pence piece nailed to my wall and an evergreen tree covered in silver kitchen foil. The newly reborn Scratch was in full stride. Nevertheless lucidity was startlingly apparent at the right time, for example when he chanted on top of his stone killer rhythm 'Noah Sugar Pan' (included on the disc).

I had always wanted Scratch to actually DJ On The Wire solo. On first consideration this was obviously going to be impossible, but it was achieved. One time Lee was in London at the On U Sound studios. Adrian called me as he knew I wanted Scratch to MC some of his tunes. To cut the story short, I called the tunes on the phone, Adrian shouted them over to Lee who was on the mic and Lee improvised the DJ intros. Adrian captured it on DAT, sent it on to me and I edited it into the three hours of 'Scratch On The Wire'. Most of those intros are captured here on disc with Adrian's son Maxwell contributing in the background.

These 'radio tapes' were initially recorded for dispersal into the ether and now they have boomeranged back to haunt me, and hopefully you, forever!

Steve Barker - 'On The Wire' March 2001 - 02

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