Music is human. And here, King of Bongo will show you the best music available on the internet. What you will find: a vibrant source of sounds and vibes, grooves and noise, some you will never have heard before. Are you ready to go on the journey?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Session 11: an Upsetting vibration!

(Dedicated to Dixie, Rastafari from sunny St Lucia)

Lee Scratch Perry Now is not the time to summarise the life and output of Mr Rainford Hugh Lee 'Scratch' Perry - we have neither the time, space nor prodigious amounts of herbal influences in our bloodstreams needed to do justice to the man or his vibe. So, for now, just two instances where King of Bongo tries to shine the light of knowledge and insight onto the sometimes murky episodes of Scratch's ongoing life experiment.

Episode 1: Ark's End

In 1978 Mr Perry, overworked and overstressed, was existing on a diet of rum and ganga. Overwork: an unbelievable, high octane string of crucial quality output from his magical Black Ark studio, including work with the Heptones, Max Romeo and the Congos. Overstress: oppression in Jamaica was ever-increasing, having begun a new, heavier cycle following the notorious Green Bay Massacre in December 1977. 12 well-known rudeboy gangmembers had been lured to the Bay and mown down by what was possibly a renegade faction of the Military Intelligence Unit. Fear was high: word on the street was that the Jamaican government was no longer in control of its military. The event, and the Michael Manley government's subsequent (mis)handling of the perpetrators (who were never brought to trial), were feverishly immortalised in song by Perry, with collaborators Lord Sassafrass and Mikey Dread.

All through that year interested observers could see the cracks beginning to appear. Whilst the exterior of the Black Ark studio began to be daubed with painted handprints, Perry's output from the interior became less pleasing to the suits at Island Records - his major pipeline to the world outside Jamaica. When the label refused to release two new albums (Roast Fish Collie Weed and Cornbread and Return of the Super Ape), Perry snapped, and the relationship was history.

Things all seemed to happen at once. Perry's long-term partner Sister Pauline (Pauline Morrison) had had enough, and left for New York, taking their four children with her. Maybe the fact that Lee was doting on sweet young Debra Keese had something to do with this abrupt departure. Or it might have been Pauline's affair with Danny Clarke of the Meditations. Clarke was a dread, and no doubt this along with the break from the Congos hastened Scratch's decision to break with Rastafari, and clear his studio of anyone associated with the movement. By January '79, devoid of musicians and hangers-on, the Black Ark had virtually shut down.

In late January, Trojan A&R Dave Hendley and some associates arrived at the Ark:
"... there was no one around, we peered through the railings and you could see that he had covered the place, scrawled absolutely everywhere. That's the first thing that hit you, all the little crosses on the walls and all the elemental stuff..."

It took 4 more years for the Ark to reach its end, consumed in a fire, the cause of which has never been discovered. By that time, Lee's career was already elsewhere...

Episode 2: Hackney, London, December 2001

King of Bongo finally gets the chance to see Scratch live, at hip new venue Ocean in the middle of Babylon (Hackney). Though a memorable gig, KoB knew that what he was seeing was a mere shade of what Perry had been. A merge of performance with backing tracks, the soulless inner sanctum of an interior decorator's wet dream was possibly the worst place to hear classics like 'Curly Locks.' Although some say that Perry is the Black Ark, and takes it wherever he goes, but KoB thinks that when the physical Ark burned, a part of Lee 'Scratch' Perry went up in smoke as well...

For our selection today, one of the rare cuts that made it out of the frantic latter days of the Black Ark. Mysterous duo Shuamark and Robinson (KoB can find no good info on these guys) recorded two songs with Perry, one of which made it onto a single. This other track, 'Weak Heart Feel It' languished in obscurity until released on sub-par cash-in anthology 'Lost Treasures of the Ark.' Notwithstanding its new home, the cut is a vibrant disc-mix of stonking bass and luscious vocal harmonies, and needless to say drenched in Lee Perry's thaumaturgical wizadry. Enjoy!
Shuamark & Robinson: Weak Heart Feel It [mp3 | 6:15 mins | 192 kbps | 8.59 MB]
Buy 'Lost Treasures of the Ark' produced by Lee 'Scratch' Perry from Amazon
Lee Perry: Lost Treasures of the Ark
File under: Ganga Smoked Tapes
[Click on the link and you’ll be taken to yousendit where you can download the track. First come first served people, only 7 days and/or 25 downloads allowed!]

More Lee Perry to come! And Dixie, dedicatee of this post, operates a fine jeep tour of beautiful St Lucia, when he's not creating a smoke cloud around the mountains and espousing sharp political commentary with his compadres. Respect to you.


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