Rise Again

Bill Laswell / Lee "Scratch" Perry

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Rise Again Review

by Rick Anderson

The most startling thing about this album is the fact that something like this hasn't been done before. How can it be that two of the foremost exponents of extraterrestrial bass-oriented music -- reggae producer and inscrutable solo artist Lee "Scratch" Perry and ubiquitous producer and bassist Bill Laswell -- have failed to collaborate on an album before now? This meeting brings out the best of them by, paradoxically, tempering both of their wildest tendencies. Perry's sing-song declamations are quirky as always, but not as flat-out crazy (not to mention childishly scatological) as they have been in other recent contexts; Laswell's bass is just as bottomless and as richly melodic as it usually is, but his tendency toward discursive improvisational chaos has been reined in for purposes of maximum groove production. On the other hand, Laswell has fully indulged his tendency to bring in lots of high-powered and voluptuously funky collaborators, with the result that he and Perry have help from the likes of Senegalese percussionist Aiyb Dieng, P-Funk founding father Bernie Worrell, Brooklyn dubmaster Dr. Israel, reggae legend Sly Dunbar, and the always alluring Ethiopian singer Ejigayehu "Gigi" Shibabaw (whose vocal performance on "Orthodox" is one of the album's highlights), among others. The results are just wonderful: while Perry discusses such favorite topics as his space-alien status ("E.T.") and his role as a divine messenger to the world ("Scratch Message"), Laswell and crew build earth-shaking grooves with a contrastingly soft, spacious dubwise ambience on such standout tracks as "Wake the Dead" (check out the great horn chart, courtesy of Steven Bernstein and Peter Apfelbaum), the soca-flavored "African Revolution," and the dancehall romp "Dancehall Kung Fu." Those who are missing Perry's more whimsical side should check out the crazily dubwise "Inakaya (Japanese Food)." And the program is rounded out by a digital-only remix of "House of God." Hardcore Perry fans will probably be divided on this one, but nevertheless, it's not difficult to conclude that Rise Again is one of his most satisfying releases of the past ten years.

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