Lee "Scratch" Perry

The Upsetter Shop, Vol. 3: Baffling Smoke Signal

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All but three of these dozen 1976-1978 Lee Perry productions were either previously unreleased in any form, previously unreleased on CD, or are presented here in a previously unreleased extended mix or previously unreleased alternate version. Perry is the artist of record on just one of the songs, with the rest of the disc containing tracks by Junior Murvin, Leroy Sibbles, the Upsetters, the Congos, and others. For some artists, such a collection would be a scraping together of peripheral odds and ends, but this sounds up to scratch, to make a begged-for pun, with Perry's usual work of the era. Although not everything's incendiary, the presence of so many artists guarantees more variety than many reggae anthologies, and Perry's up to his usual tricks with his weird echoes and sound effects. It helps when the material's very good, as on Aura Lewis & Full Experience's "Full Experience," which has wailing harmonized female vocals, burning guitar work, and unclassifiable crisscrosses of gunshot-like electronic noises. Politics are heard on Devin Irons' "Ketch Vampire," which according to the liner notes is "one of the earliest anti-false Rasta tunes," and Perry's "Baffling Smoke Signal," a critique of the Pope that is one of the more musically straightforward items. Actually, a bunch of these tunes are pretty song-oriented, with a Curtis Mayfield & the Impressions-like vocal arrangement for the Congos' "Feast of the Passover," though the Upsetters' instrumental "Lizard Stick" gives him the choice to go to town with odd burbling riffs. The liner notes, by Perry biographer David Katz, are pretty specific about what differentiates the alternate/extended versions from others in circulation, as well as providing a tidy overview of Perry's difficult-to-summarize early career.

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