The mixing board is his palette, reverb and echo are his colours, and the band is his canvas. Lee “Scratch” Perry is the man behind more stoned summer days than any other producer in history. His blissed-out productions – for such seminal reggae bands as: Bob Marley and The Wailers, The Heptones and his former studio band The Upsetters – have graced dance floors and car stereos with their glorious echoes since the early seventies.
With the exception of the aforementioned Bob Marley, the finer points of reggae remain something of a cult phenomenon; known and beloved by a select few, but simply glanced over by most. But, to those of us who know his name, Lee “Scratch” Perry is a legend.
I’ve often thought that music is all about the sound, how the disparate elements come together to form a whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts. Perry is the perfect example of such a philosophy. He takes the existing signatures of reggae (off beat syncopation, soulful vocals, sexy bass lines) and puts his own smoky twist on them. The reverb and echo that’s held dear by so many dub enthusiasts is a creation of Perry’s own invention: a wondrous mix of the modern with the classic.
From humble beginnings, Perry’s career began as a record seller for Clement Coxsone Dodd‘s sound system. From there, he rose up the ranks to become a producer extraordinaire, with his own studio, The Black Ark, and his own house band The Upsetters, with whom he crafted the magnificent record Super Ape, which he will perform in its entirety during his gig at Galway’s own Róisín Dubh on March 5th.
The songs on Super Ape sort of meld into one ever-pleasing sound, like a machine, cogs all meshing together. It’s pure joy to hear on the stereo, so live it should have an extra bit of fire and intensity that’ll push it over the edge from merely magnificent, into the truly extraordinary.
Perry is a genius’ genius – a true innovator. He has pushed the boundaries of Jamaican music and continues to push them to this day. Just look at the amount of Grammy Awards he has been nominated for in the past few years.
Perry’s gig at the Róisín is going to be well worth the admission price. This isn’t just a concert, this is an event. Miss it at your peril.
Tickets available from RoisinDubh.net