Lee "Scratch" Perry

Lord God Muzick

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Both Lee Perry and Winston Niney Holness had disappeared from the Jamaican scene in the '80s, and while Perry had continued his career in Europe, Holness had for a few years dropped off the musical radar entirely. Holness returned with a vengeance in 1988, and three years later reunited with Perry at Channel One studio in Kingston, resulting in the fabulous Lord God Muzick.

Holness had thrown himself wholeheartedly into the ragga scene, and his undying devotion to rhythm, a love affair shared by Perry, ensured his new work was as inspired as his classic productions from the '70s. Their styles now perfectly dovetailed, with the Observer astutely guiding the Upsetter through Jamaica's new musical landscape.

The success of this partnership is immediately evident on the set's opening track, "Free Us," a simmering version of Gregory Isaacs' "Rumours," over which Perry's multi-tracked vocals chant and toast. It's utterly mesmerizing, while its militant version, "Happy Birthday Marcus," storms across the grooves.

But it was an old song that ignited a real firestorm. Bob Marley recorded "Who Colt the Game" for Perry in 1978; however, it would not see the light of day for another 20 years. And that would bear little resemblance to Perry's own take here, in which he mercilessly attacks producer Bunny Lee, in a vicious assault that resulted in outrage.

Perry saw himself as the eternal avenger, and to drive that point home, he resurrects the original "I Am the Upsetter" riddim to boast over. "Lee in the Heartbeat" is even shorter, under a minute of nyabinghi beats, Vin Gordon's smokey trombone, over which Perry chants. The following year, with the release of Soundz from the Hot Line, it became clear that Perry dipped back into his Black Ark archive for inspiration, and that "Lee" was a new take of the previously unreleased number "Rainbow Throne."

Of course cleverly recycling old riddims was what ragga was all about, and the glorious Studio One gem that spills across "Angel Gabriel and the Space Boots" is a beauty, while Perry sweetly walks over the number in his galactic footwear.

With Holness' ear for the latest sounds, from dubby roots rockers to razor-sharp digital riddims all laid down by a glittering array of musicians, Lord God Muzick is an aural delight. Perry's performances may be just a bit patchy in places, and the thread of his lyrical logic at times tenuous, but following his at-times bizarre reasoning is half the fun.

Indeed, this set is "Hot Shit," another standout where Perry chases the devil across a seething Yami Bolo riddim. The rats may still be over-running his world, but Perry is indeed a "Supersonic Man," Jamaica's own "Reggae Emperor."

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