Lee Perry - The Sound Doctor

Oppression – Delroy Butler
Army of Love – Junior Byles
Wam-Pam-Pa-Do – Dillinger
Sound Doctor – Bobby Floyd
Doctor Skank – Young Delinger
Horny Train – The Upsetters
Do Good – Al Maytone
Different Experience – Brother Roy
Smiling Faces – Tinga Stewart
Smiling Version – Hux Brown Group
Be Prepared – Keith Poppin
006 – U Roy
Key Card – Lee & Jimmy
Domino Game – The Upsetters
Message To The Nation – Tony Fearon
Dub Message – The Upsetters
Water Your Garden – The Flames
Standing On The Hill – Chenley Duffus
Start Over – The Gatherers
It’s Impossible – The Ethiopians
Grandfather Land – Jah T
King of Kings – Pat Francis
King of Kings Version – The Upsetters
To Hell and Back – Count Stocky & The Upsetters

In 1972 Scratch publicly declared his ambition to build a studio where the 'Sufferers' could record, by late 1973 The Black Ark was open for business. Sound Doctor documents Scratch's recording of the sufferers as he and his Black Ark studio became the heartbeat of Rasta and rebel culture in Kingston: and the sufferers its flowing blood.

'006' captures U-Roy in his first flush of creativity as he rides Perry's 'Auntie Lulu' (Junior Byles) rhythm - featuring Augustus Pablo's melodica. Its UK issue was marred by overdubs from Trojan, whilst the original JA issue surface on the Sun, Moon & Stars 'Black Art Records' imprint, marking the opening of his studio. Our set features this original Jamaican mix.

Mento star Count Sticky, who had recorded for Scratch in 1969, talks over the rhythm that became known as 'Pharaoh Hiding' (Junior Byles again) on 'To Hell & Back' where he gives us the latest street slang 'Live It Up, Give It Up, Shake It Up and Mash It Up' a thorough workout. Interesting for Sticky to get a writing credit on the 'Pharaoh Hiding' label, so perhaps it's originally his rhythm?

Following the departure of Bob, Bunny & Peter aka TheWailers from the Perry production house it was Junior Byles who provided Scratch with his biggest sellers in the early 1970's, so it was no surprise that he turned to Byles again when Chris Blackwell wanted an artist album project for his Island label. Unfortunately by the mid-1970's Byles' mental health was deteriorating and the project fell apart, with 'Army Of love' one of the few fragments of what might have been. It's a paean to an inspiration of 'Peace & Love' that was brutally suppressed in a hail of gun fire as the decade progressed. The song is from the same seed that Bob Marley nurtured on the international stage.

A triptych of rare sides gives us unknown cuts on what became one of the 1980's favourite rhythms 'Pressure And Slide' taking its title from the Tennor's original Studio One track but that actually originated as Buster's 'Shaking Up Orange Street'. The horns lick on 'Pressure And Slide' seems to have been borrowed from 'Ain't That loving you' by Johnny Taylor. It's rumoured that Bobby Floyd who recorded 'Sound Doctor' moved into gospel music - hence the rarity of his reggae material. Dillinger's two toasts include the highly elusive 'Wam Pam Pa Do' - revealed at last! It has previously only surfaced as the misleading label of a record that is actually The Gatherers 'Words' track. 'Doctor Skank' finds Dillinger in fine - 'On top Of Blue Mountan Peak' - form and Perry's take on 'Pressure And Slide is rocking: we could not find a version though - shame! probably recorded at Dynamics, as the Black Ark neared completion.

The backbone of this set is Perry's cuts with all manner of Kingston sufferer's: ranging from Rasta stalwart Pat 'Jah Lion' Francis, to the unknown 'Jah T' via a 'whose who' of Kingston's brethren. much of the life blood of Kingston ghettos flows in a similar vein to Al Maytones 'Do Good'. It sets the tone in delivering a moral message, whilst borrowing from the folk saying 'Once a man, twice a child' (actually one of Shakespeare's). Al's country reggae vocal style is given a more urban feel by Perry. Likewise Keith Poppin's 'Be Prepared' asks a moral question underlined by his plaintive tones: 'How long are you prepared to live this reckless life'. Whilst Shenley's 'Standing On The Hill' takes an observational stance on life: 'from my watchtower I'm sure I see the power of the rich - over the poor'. Mr. Duffus was very popular in Jamaica but was never really successful elsewhere. Tony Fearon's 'Message To The Nation' sees 'my brothers' on the street looking for something to eat. The Sufferers message is clear. Clinton Anthony Fearon was a member of the Gladiators who were Black Ark regulars, where this single was cut in 1975. Pat Francis 'King Of Kings' provides the Rasta answer with a chugging hymn to Jah: 'Jah never hurt I' stands in stark contrast to the harsh life of the people on the street and offers a hope of a merciful Lord watching over them.

Perry was always able to capture every day runnings in his tunes and on 'Domino Card' (& 'Key Card') he and Jimmy Riley tell tales of domino playing, a true Jamaican favourite and a subject that Scratch returned to with Max Romeo's 'Norman The Gambler' and Bob's 'Who Colt The Game'. Great bubbly bass and witty lyrics are served up with lashings of controversial type vocals. Cut in 1975 it's a snap shot of the Black Ark with the vibes at max and creativity on the rise. Strangely for a tune with such a Jamaican flavour it only ever secured a UK issue.

The alternative mix (sans the empty bottle beat) of the Gatherers 'Start Over' talks of new beginnings and the Flames obscure UK only single talks of nurturing for the future. The deeply obscure Jah T talks over a simple rhythm, on 'Grandfather Land', fragmented with strong percussion and the piano playing a line certainly taken from another (non-reggae) song.

Delroy Butler delivers 'Oppression' in his very best Jerry Butler inspired voice and tells more tales of suffering in the ghetto and as Brother Roy, from a few years later.

'Difficult Experience' serves up a powerful and sermon like vocal over an excellent bouncing Black Ark rhythm. Once again these songs are deep and thoughtful with their reflections on the nature of life.

Tinga Stewart delivers more warnings of people's moral duality with this fine cover of the great US soul hit; 'Smiling Faces' (The Temptations). Ting was a JA Festival song winner who had a strong following back-a-yard. The Ethiopians (we think & Scratch wasn't sure) weigh in with a sweet love song that's actually a dig at an 'ex' on a tune with a great bass line and cheesy organ.

There was no more exclusive place where Scratch operated than on dub plates and as the Black Ark reached it's climactic peak Perry was frequently to be found doctoring old tracks and rhythms into new forms. 'Horny Train' - that actually surfaced as a single in the early 1980's - is one such track where he takes 'Roots Train No.1' and re-sculps it on his Sound Craft desk as a driving Horns tune that would have screamed out of the rows of Tops favoured at Sounds in the late 1970's.

Perry has publicly stated that he was driven by the need of the Sufferers to record their music. The Black Ark was to become the spiritual centre for such artists. Scratch took a path that would cost him dearly in terms of his personal health and well being but he created a unique blend of spiritual and experiential lyrics and a new musical beat that pulsated with the voices of the sufferers. the wailing rebel that became roots music was delivered by Lee Perry, the Sound Doctor, who was both literally & spiritually, attending the birth.

Jeremy Collingwood

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