The Upsetters

The Upsetter Collection

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The years represented by The Upsetter Collection (1969-1973) saw Lee "Scratch" Perry emerging as the Upsetter: one of a handful of talented, "small axe" producers attempting to establish themselves among the high rollers of the Jamaican record business. Bursting with creativity, Perry was willing to indulge in all manner of aural trickery in a perpetual quest for new sounds and rhythms. While the results were not always stunning, Scratch fortunately seemed to have both an inherent sense of quality and a natural musicality guiding him along his singular path. Gathered here are 16 highlights from the period, a handful of which make The Upsetter Collection truly essential. "Return of Django," with its chugging, early reggae beat and sparkling horns, was a sizable early hit. While "Black IPA" warps the Upsetter brass for outstanding results, the song's real star is Boris Gardiner, whose bassline alternately tackles the rugged rhythm and lifts it off its feet. The rhythm behind the Gatherers' "Words of My Mouth" is one of the toughest of Perry's career, but the track is rendered utterly sublime by the vocals of Sangie Davis, his accompanists Barrington Daley and Earl "Bagga" Walker, and the spirit of Augustus Pablo's melodica. Other gems include the otherworldly "Freak Out Skank," Scratch's toasting duet with Charlie Ace on "Cow Thief Skank," and Carlton & His Shoes' "Better Days," and, while the fidelity is less than perfect, only the latter truly suffers. By 1973, Scratch had begun constructing the Black Ark: the famous studio built on the grounds of his Cardiff Crescent home. Hours spent behind its walls would produce some of his most timeless creations. The best material on The Upsetter Collection looks ahead to those great works, with Perry finding his production voice before your very ears.

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