While no doubt a completely essential artist and a key figure in all things dub and reggae, the amount of compilations, repackagings, and collections in Lee "Scratch" Perry's discography can be absolutely staggering and often spotty quality-wise. Skanking with the Upsetter Rare Dubs, 1971-1974 is a somewhat more focused collection, honing in closely on 14 stylistically diverse tracks from the period right before Perry opened up his own studio, and was still recording in various other Jamaican studios. This incredibly productive time period is also when Perry was experimenting with the early dub techniques that would result in 1973's genre-defining Blackboard Jungle, often credited as the first stereo dub album and certainly one of the most colorful and strange dub sets ever pressed to wax. There are some reflections of the mentality that spawned Blackboard Jungle here, with the deep dub rhythms and roving stereo echoes of "Roots Rock Dub" or "Perry In Dub." Unhinged blurts of noisy sound effects and clattering percussion show up from time to time as well, foreshadowing the step into the deep end Perry would later take with mooing cow sound effects and other studio madness on classic productions like Heart of the Congos or War Ina Babylon. There's also ample air time given on Skanking with the Upsetter to Perry's more jump-up ska or organ-heavy, roots-leaning productions, with tunes like "Good Will Dub" characterized by Perry's wanton studio experimenting, omitting crucial elements of the song at random and boiling down the remaining rhythm and vocal tracks into something unpredictable even by his wild man standards. All told, the compilation is a solid, if sometimes scattered, picture of a particular era in Perry's remarkably prolific work flow. Anyone looking for a deeper exposure to the intimacies of Perry's studio process will find these tracks fascinating, though more casual listeners might miss some of the subtler production weirdness that's lurking in almost every corner.
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AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas