Sometimes you hear something and you’re just not ready for it. Maybe it’s too new to you, maybe you’re really into something else at the time. But you’ll love it eventually.
I had been loving the full band teamwork on the album Marcus Garvey by Burning Spear. Everybody contributes their part and the whole thing comes together sounding so organic and earthy. So I went of to Rhino Records in Westwood (this was about 1990) in search of more perfect reggae. Of course I could get more Burning Spear, but I’m always looking for something else, too.
Here are a couple of songs to listen to before we move on:
1. Marcus Garvey – a strident, political song
2. Live Good – a sweeter song about living right
As I browsed through the reggae section, an employee asked if I needed any help. I explained my quest to the kid (he must’ve been 20 to my 23) and he suggested: Lee “Scratch” Perry – Scratch Attack (2 albums on one cd, Scratch and Company Chapter One and Blackboard Jungle Dub, with some “enhancement” by Brad Osbourne, who put this collection out in 1988). Not really along the lines of what I was looking for, but his latest favorite reggae album.
I could sample it at a listening station. A reggae version of ‘garage’ came to mind. Not only is it much looser in vision than Burning Spear (being based on singles by different artists, that makes sense, but also, Perry is just very open to whatever sounds groovy), but I think Perry’s purposeful, heavy use of the phaser, causing some very groovy aural degradation, also made that term come to mind. There are a lot more rough edges overall (even the title of the first song is misspelled: Stratch the Dub Organizer), and more playfulness. There’s even a dub version of Pop Goes the Weasel (Pop Goes the Dread Dub). To introduce the 2nd part of Blackboard Jungle, Lee Perry says, “Welcome to Blackboard Jungle, Part 2,” then gives 2 growly roars, “Rrrrrrrr, Hhrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.”
At the time, I knew I was going to like it, but I really had my heart set on something more like the Burning Spear. So I passed on it, but came back a couple weeks later to pick it up. Now that misspelled opening track makes me think of a grand entrance through gates to a completely different land. In fact, both albums have been favorites now for over 20 years.
Here are a few of the Lee Perry songs:
Extra points if anyone can tell me what the woman says at the end of the intro to Rubba, Rubba Words, just before the music comes in (10-12 seconds in).