I wanted to write a quick intro here just to introduce Eddie Ruscha aka Secret Circuit who we have known for some time here at Test Pressing. Eddie is a don. A modular synth head with a love of music that touches the outer reaches. With that in mind I knew he'd be a big Lee "Scratch" Perry head and sure enough he was... I asked Eddie to give me his top ten Scratch records which he kindly has below with the story on why he loves them. Eddie has also recently made a dedication on the ace Dublab radio which you can listen to HERE. Over to Eddie... Cheers, Paul (Apiento).
Lee "Scratch Perry" was never quite one of us mortals. Every word that came from his mouth was a spiritual or linguistic riddle or game and you’d be hard pressed to find any human being on the face of the earth who dressed more outlandishly cool for so long. When I first discovered his music I’d try to turn all my friends onto him by saying something trite like, “he’s the Sun Ra of reggae” or some such stuff.
As for his music, it has been in my life so long now and what I find incredible about it is that, for me, the music conquers rational thought. Any time I try to analyse it, I give up and am consumed by its purest intent. For me, this is one of the inherent pleasures in the music. His music exists in the future but also some alternate biblical past and the sheer volume of creativity that he produced is just never ending. The fact that he sat behind the boards and facilitated and witnessed such greatness in performances is truly awe inspiring from Bob Marley to the outer reaches. Anyways, it’s all been said by many more eloquent than myself a zillion times, or even more so now after his recent passing.
Here is a list of ten of my favourite tracks, and wow… it was very difficult to pick only ten, that’s for sure. So many outstanding tracks to choose from. maybe it would have been easier to do a top 50? Anyways, I so dearly love so much of this music and will hold it near my heart till my final days.
Max Romeo & The Upsetters – Smokey Room
When I was in high school, I made a tape of Chuck Foster’s reggae show off the radio and there was a lot of great reggae on that tape, but nestled among those tracks were some stand outs like “I Am A Madman” and this great underrated tune from Max Romeo. I find this track to have such an interesting floating step groove and the vocal hook keeps it just grounded enough. The bizarre flute solo adds to the truly smokey atmosphere. These tunes were the first Scratch music I’d ever heard and I was immediately drawn to it and they stayed with me till I found them again later. Iron Shirt and War Inna Babylon are by now well over-played but this one, along with Norman The Gambler, are easily of equal brilliance.
Lee Perry – Stay Dread
Heavier than an ounce of lead… One zillion times! Great and manic vocal performance from Perry on this organ driven skank on the dread side. The song practically jumps around the room from the energy and makes you want to do the same.
Susan Cadogan – Feeling Is Right
What a special sound this record has. The sultry and slightly over saturated vocal performance is soulful perfection and the gentle Clavinet hook hits so right. Brilliant singing and playing on this one.
Upsetters – Blackboard Jungle Dub
A vocal intro from I-Roy (?) gives way to a thoroughly creaking haunted house intro and battering drum fill that breaks down the front door of a haunted house. The Upsetter has arrived to smite the vampires. Ancient sounding horns and flutes float above a tuff bottom skank and all the ghostly barn animal sounds you could ever want in a tune make their appearance. A masterwork of eccentric dub reggae.
The Upsetters – Bird In Hand
Everyone talks about Super Ape but I was always partial to The Return Of The Super Ape, a rare sequel that betters the original. It has a truly dank experimental aura and has some of my all time favorite Lee Perry work on it like this one and Dyon Anaswa, and Huzza A Hana. This track is just so mystical and moody. I have no idea what language it is but it stands as pure evidence of Scratch’s ability to channel the otherworldly.
Horace Smart – Ruffer Ruff
One of my favourite Lee Perry compilations is the Trojan box set Open The Gate, a deep collection of deep music and even deeper dubs. This track, a heartbreaking story of growing up with nothing down by a gully bank in Jamaica perfectly captures Lee Perry’s large focus on what would be called “sufferers” style of reggae. His use of relatively unknown singers at this time adds to the authenticity of the struggle and Horace Smart’s quiver in his voice hits so hard.
Lee Perry W/ Seke Molenga & Malo Kawongolo – African Roots
Back in the early 90s before the internet I’d heard tale that there was an elusive Lee Perry African record. He had somehow met two African musicians stranded in Jamaica and who couldn’t catch a break. I finally found a version on CD and it quickly ended up on many a mix tape from that time. For me it further added to the mysterious aura of Lee Perry. African Root is a hidden Congoman-like drum machine jam and it manages to transcend any genre and exists purely on its own. Another track on the record, Moto Ya Motema is a perfect blend of Lee Perry with the African style. A great hidden Lee Perry work.
Debrah Keese – Traveling
A pulsing organically mechanized hypno-dub rhythm flows as a voice chants about traveling to the east and praying for us to see the true Rasta Far I. Crashing drum fills command and force the listener to believe. It’s a serious, magical and mystical ride.
Zappow – River
Just when you thought all the amazing Lee Perry tracks were found, Adrian Sherwood’s Pressure Sounds finds this one. A serpentine phasor journey of slow-mo dub that only Mr. Lee Perry was capable of. The smearing choral vocals about a flowing river echo off into the murky textures. A shining moment.
The Twin Roots – Know Love / Dub
A powerful Black Ark phasor trip that sets the controls for the heart of the sun. All the things that make Lee Perry great are here. Soulful vocals submerged in a trip swamp of steppers funk. When the track extends into the dub, Lee Perry lays so heavy on the space-echo it's almost mind altering. It becomes an all consuming force of nature. All of Babylon crumbles down by the sheer weight of this dub storm. TURN IT UP!
Test Pressing would like to pass thanks to Eddie aka Secret Circuit for taking the time to share the music that matters. Check Eddie's recent radio show dedicated to Lee "Scratch" Perry HERE. x.