Tuesday, 6 February 2018

"The Trojan Albums Collection (1971-1973)" by LEE 'SCRATCH' PERRY & THE UPSETTERS (September 2017 Trojan/BMG Reissue - 4LPs onto 2CDs) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...Rhythm Shower..."

What a cool little reissue this is.

Having worked in Reckless Records for nigh on 20 years (most spent in the busy Berwick Street shop in Soho) - I can confidently say that these four early Seventies albums were not exactly growing on Woolworth’s trees. In the 2018 issue of 'The Record Collector Rare Record Price Guide' – sloppily only "Africa's Blood" from 1971 gets mentioned at a paltry £25 and the other three are ignored. Secondhand Scratch albums not listed in Reggae Mad Britain - what a crock!

Original Lee Perry albums are gold dust and hugely prized by collectors, always shifting for money. And when you think that the "Rhythm Shower" album (the 3rd LP here) was only ever a White Label on Trojan in the UK and Upsetter in Jamaica - at a retail price of fewer than six quid for 4LPs onto 2CDs (53 Tracks) - this fully-loaded Trojan double-disc reissue offers up some seriously amazing value for money. Throw in some better-than-before Andy Pearce mastering and I-and-I is sorted. Ras Skanking indeed. Here are the Easy Snapping details...

UK and USA released Friday, 29 September 2017 - "The Trojan Albums Collection (1971-1973)" by LEE 'SCRATCH' PERRY & THE UPSETTERS on Trojan/BMG TJDCD565 (Barcode 4050538305111) offers 4LPs Remastered onto 2CDs and plays out as follows:

Disc 1 (78:17 minutes):
1. Do Your Thing - DAVE BARKER [Side 1]
2. Dream Land - THE UPSETTERS
3. Long Sentence - THE UPSETTERS
4. Not Guilty - THE UPSETTERS
5. Cool And Easy - THE UPSETTERS
6. Well Dread Version 3 - ADDIS ABABA CHILDREN
8. Saw Dust - THE UPSETTERS [Side 2]
9. Place Called Africa Version 3 - WINSTON PRINCE
10. Isn't It Wrong - THE HURRICANES
12. Bad Luck - THE UPSETTERS
14. Surplus
Tracks 1 to 14 are the album "Africa's Blood" - released December 1971 in the UK on Trojan Records TBL 166

15. Battle Axe - THE UPSETTERS [Side 1]
16. A Place Called Africa - JUNIOR BYLES
17. Cheerio - THE UPSETTERS
18. Picture On The Wall - RAS DARKINS
19. Cool Operator - DELROY WILSON
20. Knock Three Times - THE UPSETTERS
21. Pop A Pop - ANDY CAPP
22. Earthquake - THE UPSETTERS [Side 2]
23. Don't Cross The Nation - MARK & LUKE
24. Dark Moon - THE UPSETTERS
25. Rough And Smooth - THE UPSETTERS
26. Groove Me - THE UPSETTERS
27. Easy Snapping - THE UPSETTERS
28. I'm Yours - DELROY WILSON
Tracks 15 to 28 are the album "Battle Axe" - released January 1972 in the UK on Trojan Records TBL 167

Disc 2 (74:51 minutes):
1. Tighten Up - DILLINGER & THE UPSETTERS [Side 1]
2. Django Shoots First - SIR LORD COMIC& THE UPSETTERS
3. Uncle Charley - THE UPSETTERS
5. Double Power - THE UPSETTERS
6. Lover Version - THE UPSETTERS
7. Rumpelsteelskin - THE UPSETTERS [Side 2]
8. Skanking - DILLINGER
9. Kuchy Skank - THE UPSETTERS
11. Operation - THE UPSETTERS
Tracks 1 to 11 are the album "Rhythm Shower" - issued 1973 as a WHITE LABEL ONLY TEST-PRESSING LP in Jamaica on Upsetter IBL 135 and in the UK as Trojan TBL 195. First officially released in "The Upsetter Box Set" on Trojan PERRY 1 in July 1985 (3LP Box Set)

12. Kentucky Skank - LEE PERRY & THE UPSETTERS [Side 1]
13. Double Six - U ROY & THE UPSETTERS
15. In The Iaah - THE UPSETTERS
16. Jungle Lion - THE UPSETTERS
17. We Are Neighbours - DAVID ISAACS & THE UPSETTERS
18. Soul Man - LEE PERRY & THE UPSETTERS [Side 2]
19. Stick Together - U ROY & THE UPSETTERS
20. High Fashion - I ROY & THE UPSETTERS
21. Long Sentence - THE UPSETTERS
22. Hail Stones - THE UPSETTERS
23. Ironside - THE UPSETTERS
24. Cold Weather - THE UPSETTERS
25. Waap You Waa - THE UPSETTERS
Tracks 12 to 25 are the album "Double Seven" - released January 1974 in the UK on Trojan Records TRLS 70

The 16-page booklet is nicely laid out - the three official album sleeves and the Promo-Only "Rhythm Shower" from 1973 all given a page each to shine. There are photos of the key players – singers David Isaacs, Dave Barker and Junior Byles, singer, producer and DJ Doctor Alimantado, Carl Dawkins, U Roy and I Roy, The Righteous Flames, Dillinger and of course a couple for our hero – Lee Perry. In-between the text you get colour shots of those gorgeous 45 repros - rare Jamaican labels like Justice League and the plain white Upsetter variant – stippled British labels like Jackpot, Upsetter, Bullet and Down Town.

Co-author of the fantastic 2003 Sanctuary/MPG book "Young, Gifted And Black: The Story Of Trojan Records" (see review) - LAURENCE CANE-HONEYSETT provides the entertaining, affectionate and hugely informative liner notes. As anyone will tell you info on Reggae is a rare beast and writers/musicologists like Laurence Cane-Honeysett, Marc Griffiths and Michael de Koningh (Griffiths and De Koningh wrote "Tighten Up: The History Of Reggae In The UK") have brought swaths of that hitherto unknown knowledge into the public domain. Hell people don't even know when or where Rainford Hugh Perry (Lee Scratch to you and I) was born except that he has made claims to have been a champion Domino player growing up in a bustling Forties/Fifties Kingston. Perhaps a little bit of mystery only adds to his legend. Anyway the booklet is a sweet read and for the most part rightly praises the young Producers quartet of albums on Trojan.

ANDY PEARCE is a fave-rave Audio Engineer to me. More well known for his Rock stuff (Rory Gallagher, Free, Spooky Tooth, Wishbone Ash, ELP, Uriah Heep, Status Quo, John Renbourn, Pentangle, Budgie, Black Sabbath and more) - he's a dab hand at this master-tape malarkey. And as anyone who knows their Reggae - much of this was recorded in Aunty Flo's scullery with a broom and a borrowed microphone from Butlins - so Pearce has done well to get more out of these sonically challenging recordings. Let’s get to the rough and smooth...

Although the four albums are credited here to Lee Perry (the Producer) - all are actually Various Artist compilations with Upsetters involvement. Highlights on "Africa's Blood" include Dave Barker's sung opener "Do Your Thing" - a chipper little dancer. Organ instrumentals follow (loving that Bass punch) of which "Long Sentence" is a standout while the brassy "Not Guilty" feels more Rocksteady. Disguised as the Addis Ababa Children - The Upsetters give it some spoken Ras at the beginning of "Well Dread Version" - a Perry composition that unfortunately threatens more than it delivers. It's followed by a lively instrumental go at The Temptations classic "My Girl" - much better however is Perry's own "Saw Dust". Winston Prince explains about the 'great place' in "Place Called Africa Version 3" - but my heart goes instead to the Rocksteady wickedness of a killer trio - "Go Slow", "Bad Luck" and especially "Move Me" – fab bopping instrumentals you want to impress your friends with.

Released within weeks of each other - 1972's "Battle Axe" followed the same 14-track layout of its end-of-year predecessor - a smattering of vocal cuts nestling beside driving Upsetter instrumentals. Trojan had tried the excellent organ groover "Earthquake" as a 45 A-side as far back as May 1971 on Upsetter US 365 in the UK with Junior Byles singing a version of "A Place Called Africa" on the flipside. Delroy Wilson gives it some girly-walking-admiration on the short buy nice "Cool Operator" while Tony Orlando's Dawn sees "Knock Three Times" get a welcome if not cheesy instrumental makeover by a clearly unenthusiastic Upsetters. Better is the-monkey-speaks-his-mind "Pop A Top" with Andy Capp. Another instrumental highlight similar to "Earthquake" was also given a UK 7" single release in August 1971 - Rogers & Hart's "Blue Moon" done up as "Dark Moon" on Upsetter US 370 - another great trombone neck-jerking groover. Sexy guitar flicks accompany an in-the-pocket Upsetters rhythm section on the sneakily cool "Groove Me" while an underrated Delroy Wilson gets to shine vocally on the pretty oh-baby "I'm Yours"

The unreleased album "Rhythm Shower" opens with a weird update on "Tighten Up" followed quickly by a funky organ cut "Django Shoots First" where Sir Lord Comic speaks in his best Dracula vs. Monster Mash voice (actually dates from 1968). The Production values for "Uncle Charley" aren't the greatest but the echoed instruments of the organ-led "Double Power" show Perry moving on. Dillinger gets to shout 'Dread!' on "Skanking" - better is "Kuchy Skank" where at least the Bass and Guitar are more upfront. While "Operation" feels right - the whole album feels disjointed somehow and you hear why it remained unreleased. The final album has cool covers of a lesser-heard Chi-Lites winner "We Are Neighbours" and that old Stax stalwart Sam & Dave's "Soul Man". U Roy gives it some duet echoes on "Stick Together" while I Roy begs for togetherness (I would say) on "High Fashion". The bending notes of synths turn up for a remake of "Long Sentence" pointing to the future.

"The Trojan Albums Collection" by Lee Perry is not all unmitigated genius for certain - but there's enough here to make this an essential purchase. And certainly enough to make your Jah Love for the great man groove and grow...

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