Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry

Liquid Room, Edinburgh
3 stars
In terms of inventing modern music, and as dance culture testified to, it’s the producers who matter. Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry is as significant as Phil Spector, Brian Wilson and Martin Hannett. Having just entered his 70s, Perry’s golden days at Jamaica’s Studio One and his own Black Ark studio have given him an iconic status his alleged unhinged status is acutely aware of to the point of calculated self-destruction.

These days, given Perry’s status as a Swiss resident, it’s somehow understandable that his latest incarnation of backing band The Upsetters is a slickly louche combo who’ve fully absorbed their chops in a medium that never quite transcends its studio origins. An elongated wait eventually gives way to a couple of instrumental workouts before the lead mic is removed to allow the maestro himself to make his entrance in full vocal motion.

What follows is a charming set only remarkable for proving just how much Perry, clad in more bargain-basement but oddly understated bling than any self-respecting Hip-Hop freak would think decent, is fully in tune with his personal faculties, if not always his musical ones. Outed as being 71, he points out that, both numbers added together make him actually eight years old. More pertinently, he thanks his few black fans in attendance, as well as his many white ones he greets as his shadow.

Musically speaking, you get the sense that Perry is coasting across a well-drilled backing that blands things out as well as providing discipline. A version of Papa Was A Rolling Stone allows Perry to doff his (shiny) cap to the grand tradition of reggae cover versions. Perry remains an icon. His live mix, however, sometimes remains wanting.

The Herald, March 27th 2007


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