Lee "Scratch" Perry

Soul Fire: An Introduction to Lee "Scratch" Perry

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While the title intimates that this might be a best-of or some kind of career survey, in fact, it's not. You'd need a cross-licensed multi-disc box set at minimum to do that for Perry's extremely eclectic output, and this is just a 13-song single CD that focuses exclusively on his Black Ark productions for Island in the 1970s. Perry's the artist of record on just three of the 13 tracks; the others include Perry productions of reggae stars Augustus Pablo, Junior Murvin, Max Romeo, and the Heptones, as well as more minor singers Keith Rowe, Devon Irons, and George Faith. If you're into Perry for the weirder and bolder aspects of his production, this might not be the best pit stop, since actually much of this is just top-notch reggae vocalists, with Perry adding a tinge of adventure from the producer's chair. Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course: Murvin's "Roots Train" is great high-pitched male reggae singing, the Heptones offer fine harmonizing on "Sufferers Time," and Rowe's "Groovy Situation" is just fine romantic '70s reggae (albeit with ghostly female laughter), period. The odder, more eccentric mixes of sounds and effects are heard in Perry's own tracks, particularly in the ethereal swirl of "Dread Lion" (one presumes that's Pablo's melodica in the mix), and the weird reverb-phase effects of Pablo's "Vibrate On." It's shameful that there are no recording dates or original release information for any of the tracks, but then that's something of a tradition for reggae reissues, even ones on major labels, such as this CD.

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