LEE 'SCRATCH' PERRY
Disco Devil: The Jamaican Discomixes
"Disco Devil" Lee Perry & the Full Experience
"Neckodeemus" The Congos
LEE PERRY & THE SUFFERERS
The Sound Doctor: Black Ark Singles and Dub Plates 1972-1978
"Army of Love" Junior Byles
"Sound Doctor" Bobby Floyd
Lee 'Scratch' Perry Presents Candy McKenzie
"Sky at Night"
LEE 'SRATCH' PERRY
The Upsetter DVD
It was a good year for fans of reggae auteur Lee 'Scratch' Perry, as 2012 delivered three stellar collections of Perry-produced material and an enlightening documentary on the enigmatic figure. Leading the charge was the jaw-dropping Disco Devil compilation, which features two CDs of mostly 1977-era discomixes made during his Black Ark peak, produced to utilize and exploit to the fullest the enhanced dynamic range and extended runtime brought via the newly established 12" single format. It includes rare extended cuts by heavyweights like the Congos, Junior Murvin, Max Romeo, Watty Burnett, and Perry himself, in mixes that bring together vocal versions, DJ toasts, and freaky dub mixes all into one long head-trip and is one of the most essential collections of Perry's genius ever compiled.
The Pressure Sounds compilation, Sound Doctor, was no slouch either, collecting an earlier batch of Black Ark-era singles. It all comes off like a Caribbean Motown hit factory, with spirited, soulful vocal numbers and their accompanying dub flipsides showing a side of Black Ark's story that has seldom seen a focused attention like this. This anthology of the studio's infancy is wonderful, filled with deep soul, heavy grooves, and the beginnings of the wild Selassie-in-space mixology he'd come to perfect by the time of the Disco Devil set.
We were also thrilled to hear this unreleased full-length by singer Candy McKenzie, who'd made a name for herself doing backing vocals for the likes of Keith Hudson, Aswad, and Bob Marley, and was also a member of the Full Experience, a vocal trio who'd done work on numerous other Black Ark classics. This album was recorded at the Black Ark by Perry in 1977 for the Trojan label, but was rejected and shelved until recently. Her lone solo offering is a deep platter of reggae soul, and not even Perry's wildest impulses could deter McKenzie's powerful voice, which rings loudly and clearly throughout these ten killer cuts, recorded in the same year that brought forth classics like Heart of the Congos and Police and Thieves. This album easily sits on the same top-shelf as those iconic records, shining yet another shade on Perry's banner year.
As if that weren't enough, we were also treated to the release of The Upsetter, a 90-minute documentary on the life, legend and myth surrounding Lee 'Scratch' Perry. Made over the course of seven years and featuring extensive interview footage with Perry himself, along with an incredible trove of archival footage from various sources, this film charts the course of his life and career, covering just about every important aspect of note, including the Studio One days, his mentoring of Bob Marley & the Wailers, and on to Perry's most lauded time helming his own Black Ark studios. Narrated by actor Benicio Del Toro, the film doesn't shy away from the many myths and legends of Perry's alleged descent into madness and distrust, which in turn led him to burn down his own studio after recording the landmark Heart of the Congos album. Perry himself proves to be a lucid, intelligent and hilarious interview subject; he doesn't miss a trick and it's great to hear him acknowledge and talk about his role in the public eye as reggae's clown prince. File this next to Rockers and The Harder They Come as essential reggae cinema.