Lee "Scratch" Perry

All the Hits

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The nefarious granddaddy of them all, All the Hits is the kind of compilation that sends reggae artists up the wall, fans through the roof, and critics crying to their mothers. For starters this collection of Lee "Scratch" Perry productions was licensed from Bunny Lee. Perry and Lee were thick as thieves during much of the time these numbers were recorded, but that certainly shouldn't suggest that Perry gave Lee the license to pilfer the rights to his productions. There again, Lee did precisely that to Ansel Collins' "The Night Doctor," but two wrongs still don't make a right. Nor does three or four, which is approximately the number of times this set was subsequently released by other reissue labels, with the occasional rejigging of the track list, Bashment, Earthman Skanking, and Rude Walking among them. The tracks themselves are trawled from the years 1967-1973, and a quite wonderfully representative bunch they are. There's the rocksteady classic "Set Them Free," a retort to the Draconian "Judge Dread," its flip "Something You Got," and "Run for Cover," whose exquisite harmonies were provided by the Sensations. Perry's vocals could never equal theirs nor Dave Barker's, either, as his impassioned "Set Me Free" proves. That latter number dates from the early reggae era, as do a further clutch of tracks here, including the bouncy instrumentals "Django Shoots First" and "Clint Eastwood Rides Again," two of a series of Western monikered numbers that Perry unleashed in the late '60s. The producer's penchant for westerns was equalled by his persistent grudges, with "People" (aka "People Sokup Boy"), "You Funny" (aka "You Crummy") and "Labrish" (where he's joined by the equally resentful Bunny Lee) well representing that latter peccadillo. "Water Pump," in contrast, illustrates his cruder side, being one of a slew of rude reggae numbers recorded during this era. "Rude Walking" isn't lascivious in the least, it's an instrumental version of "Skylarking" that points the way to the future, almost proto-roots in sound and style. "All the Best" this isn't, but it is a nice round-up, with vocal cuts, DJ versions, and instrumentals all creating a fair overview of Perry's work during this period. Needless to say, it further strained Perry and Lee's on again/off again relationship, but if you're going to screw a friend, at least do with style, and that Bunny certainly did.

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