Album Review

Perry, Lee Scratch – “Chicken Scratch” – [Heartbeat]

ArtCrimes   3/11/2009   CD, Reggae

Heartbeat has reissued their Lee Perry “Chicken Scratch” collection of ska-era tracks originally cut for Jamaican producer Clement “Coxsone” Dodd, replacing some songs with the authentic mono single mixes, and adding seven more tracks to the original LP’s contents. (“Chicken Scratch”, the title track, is the source of Perry’s nickname.) Before doing his own productions under the “Upsetter” name, Perry apprenticed under Dodd, learning the studio skills that would serve him well for many years to come. This is some of Scratch’s earliest recording work, both as a songwriter and an aspiring (mostly unsuccessful) singer during 1964-1966. On the oldest selections here, the ska rhythm is bouncier, with the influence of American R&B, but as time passes, the ska begins to slow down into what would become rocksteady (“Run Rudie Run,” the last listed track, also features a very different vocal approach from Scratch). The instrumentation includes various backing vocal groups plus the Skatalites, and the original Wailers trio sings backup on one track: the politically-minded “Hand to Hand” (the backing vocal groups are listed on back). Numerous tracks have sex as topics (some titles make this pretty obvious) but no language… it’s all innuendo. “Madhead” is a taunt directed towards Prince Buster and his hit, “Madness.” There are also a few religious statements as well. The unlisted bonus track “Welcome Aboard” is Perry toasting over a backing track. (crimes)

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