Lee "Scratch" Perry

On the Wire

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Lee "Scratch" Perry's personal brand of musical insanity has given many reggae artists (notably Bob Marley, Junior Murvin and Max Romeo) just the edge that they needed to set themselves apart from the pack; at his best, Perry seems to draw from powers that, if not divine, are at least extraterrestrial (and actually, he himself has made such claims explicitly). But Perry is more often at his best as a producer than as a performer -- he has no singing voice to speak of, and while his lyrics are sometimes amusing, they are just as frequently tiresome and childish. On the Wire was recorded around 1988 at the behest of Trojan Records, but as is frequently the case with Perry, weirdness and complication set in, and it took ten years for the tapes finally to be delivered. The result will be deemed worth the wait by Perry fans, but those unfamiliar with his work may find it more bewildering than compelling. The instrumental backing is credited to a handful of guitarists and one bass player, but someone also provided programmed rhythms and keyboards; the sound is mostly straightforward modern roots reggae, larded with the weird sound effects and production quirks that Perry fans have come to love. There are versions of Bob Marley's "Exodus" and "Keep On Moving," but the other songs are stream-of-consciousness affairs featuring lines like "The devil dead/I kill him with my lightning head" and "I am the elephant man and Michael Jackson could not buy me." Recommended to those who know what they're getting into. Other should proceed with caution.

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