Agony Shorthand

Thursday, May 29, 2003
TROJAN UPSETTER BOX SET….If you’re anything like me, god help ya, you love early Jamaican ska, rocksteady and dub, but when full-stop reggae rears its ugly head, its all you can do to keep from busting out THE MEATMEN’s “Blow Me Jah”. There’s the rub, and I admit it’s a perplexing one; I totally endorse the pioneers of early Jamaican music, particularly the dancehall groovers (PRINCE BUSTER, PARAGONS, SKATELLITES, JACKIE MITTOO etc.) & later studio wizards (AUGUSTUS PABLO, KING TUBBY, IMPACT ALL-STARS, LEE PERRY of course, etc.) – but I can’t bear to hear the college-campus, smoke a bowl, Haile Selassie, I-and-I bullshit reggae that unfortunately defines the genre for most of us. So if you’re anywhere near the same wavelength, you might be wise to avoid the otherwise compelling “TROJAN UPSETTER BOX SET”, featuring 50 of Lee Perry’s productions and/or creations, at the usual reduced Trojan box set price (these are going for $12.98 now!). No question that this stuff is innovative and special in its way, but it's marked by two discs packed with praise-be-to-jah reggae – the kind that’s being cranked in the UC-Santa Cruz dorms this very second – and even Perry’s double-vocals & radical overdub techniques can’t stifle visions of dreadlocked hippies, passed-out rastas and hacky sacks flying in the summer sun. The first disc, “Early Shots at Randy’s & Dynamic Sounds (1968-1972)" is pretty good, but you can get a bunch of these tracks elsewhere (like the excellent “Upsetter Shop, Volume Two” CD) and can thus take a pass on this one. Instead, why not take a gander at the Trojan Rude Boy or Skinhead Reggae box sets, “seen”?