Agony Shorthand

Monday, May 23, 2005

This one has built a head of critical steam since I first heard about it around it is frequently held up as a quintessential LEE “SCRATCH” PERRY dub production & a place to start building an enveloping dub fortress comprised of the man’s massive discography. It’s a two-fer containing out of print LPs: “Chapter 1” is a series of 1970-76 productions by “Scratch and Company”, attributed of course to “THE UPSETTERS”; “Blackboard Jungle Dub” is a legendary, “brain erasing” dub LP that languished on want lists for years until this release and another CD effort with just this LP. (Don’t be confused by the CD “Original Blackboard Jungle Dub”, which is a pseudo-bootleg of the original recordings on Jet Star and is just as essential). I’m not one to cut-n-paste the reviews of others and leave it at that, but there’s some good information out there on the information superhighway that will help fill in the gaps (and hopefully convince you why this one’s a must-purchase). First, from noted dub authority Jonathan E.:

“Scratch Attack! is a single CD of two vinyl albums, Chapter 1--The Upsetters and Blackboard Jungle Dub, a couple of gems from Lee Perry's golden age in the Black Ark Studio during the early-to-mid-'70s. As such, it's some pretty primeval--and prime--dub of antique Upsetter tracks mixed up with a few scattered vocals featuring artists like Johnny Love and the Towerchanters, Val Bennett, Devon Iron, and, of course, Lee Perry himself. This was all done on four-track, although as the original vinyl sleeve notes said, Scratch makes them "sound like sixteen." The results are warm, organic, sparse, majestic, echoing, horn-driven, and mysterious--the bedrock of dub as rhythm chases melody. Out of the bazillion Perry releases currently available, many of them counterfeit, Scratch Attack! belongs in the top five”.

Then, from the reviews page and “Locks Lion”:

"Five stars on the nose...despite the fact that these recordings were later altered by Brad Osbourne in New York, this release is still essential to any respectable reggae collection. Osbourne added some fairly inobstrusive overdubs to Scratch & Company and, for some reason, lopped a couple of tunes off of Blackboard Jungle and retitled the rest. But the damage is only superficial, and we can still enjoy - thank Jah! - a chugging, stripped down version of Caveman Skank as Setta Iration Dub (should be Apeman Skank), the chilling, creepy-crawly Blackboard Jungle Dub and its superb trombone version (should be Black Panta Dub and Version Panta Rock respectively), and many other classic recordings from the early days of the Black Ark."

Let me put in my own yeah-hup for “Scratch The Dub Organizer”, a track that would make any dub CD-R I’m likely to make to introduce others to the form. Mysterious, distant and ancient-sounding, it’s a morsel that I can listen to anytime, anywhere. I don’t know just how deep Perry’s top-shelf dub work goes, but I’m certain that this & “Original Blackboard Jungle Dub” are my favorites found in my extensive burrowing so far.