Dub innovator and original mad professor of reggae production Lee "Scratch" Perry was on a creative high during the mid- to late '70s. Along with other remarkable trends in Jamaican music and culture at that time, Perry was working tirelessly at his infamous Black Ark studios, pouring out mind-blowing recordings, mixes, and dub versions at a staggering rate, contributing to one of reggae's brightest eras. The ganja-fueled mania that Perry worked with resulted in a glut of material, and his less than organized studio practices (sometimes including burying master tapes in the studio yard) meant a lot of amazing music from that time went unreleased. Roaring Lion is one in a series of compilations issued by the Pressure Sounds label that collects rare, unreleased, or unheard tracks from this wild and fruitful time in Perry's output, concentrating this time around on the pinnacle years of the Black Ark studio, circa 1975-1976. Scratch's glorious madness was in fine form then and comes through loud and clear on these 16 rugged and unpolished tracks, culled from either original tapes or unissued acetate recordings. The dirty and demolished fidelity of some of these recordings makes Perry's better-known lo-fi masterpieces like Super Ape and Heart of the Congos sound pristine in comparison, and some listeners may be thrown by just how grimy and noise-laden the dubs here can get. To others, however, this level of dub depravity and unhinged fearlessness is the holy grail in a lifetime of bland, safe dub albums. Perry was legitimately insane for a good portion of his time working at Black Ark, and his production choices on these mixes, many of which were kept from the public for decades, make that abundantly clear. Highlights include an incredibly tough reworking of an Althea & Donna tune, dubbed "Loco Negril" here, as well as simmering unreleased tracks from Augustus Pablo, Junior Byles, and even Bob Marley, all touched with the magic wand of Scratch's production in its most unadulterated form.
AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas
feat: Althea & Donna