Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Lee "Scratch" Perry

  • From the Secret Laboratory [Mango, 1990] ***
  • Lord God Muzick [Heartbeat, 1991] A-
  • Who Put the Voodoo 'pon Reggae? [Ariwa, 1996] ***
  • Jamaican E.T. [Trojan, 2002] **
  • Panic in Babylon [Narnack, 2006]
  • Rise Again [MOD Technologies, 2011] ***

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

From the Secret Laboratory [Mango, 1990]
sane weirdo exploits mad genius ("Secret Laboratory [Scientific Dancehall]," "Inspector Gadget," "African Hitchiker) ***

Lord God Muzick [Heartbeat, 1991]
Prophesying, imprecating, free-associating, name-dropping, rhyming, gibbering, making animal noises, the big chief of the space police inquires into the demise of King Tubby, shoots the IMF, and conquers Chris Blackwell--among other things, all of which occur in his capacious head over Niney the Observer's equally capacious dub. Never as striking as the record he did for Blackwell, it's considerably more grooveful and sustaining. Open your ears and close your eyes, and he will give you a big surprise. A-

Who Put the Voodoo 'pon Reggae? [Ariwa, 1996]
dub for laughs--Newcleus's munchkins, Selassie's brother, Scratch's cock ("Small Morsel," "Messy Appartment") ***

Jamaican E.T. [Trojan, 2002]
crazy like a glue ("10 Commandments," "Mr. Dino Koosh Rock") **

Panic in Babylon [Narnack, 2006]
You say you didn't know Lee Perry won a Grammy for Jamaican E.T. in 2002? You say the nutty old dubmaster is hard to keep track of, living in Zurich and all? True, he's released some 20 albums in the four years since--twice that including compilations--and probably hasn't heard them all himself. So start here. It's song-oriented (OK, chant-oriented), with a 16-minute disc of remixes for the seriously spaced. Over typically well-deployed guitar-bass-drums-keybs, it starts strong, with an early peak at "Pussy Man": "Eminent, I'm the firmament/Emmy meant I'm permanent." Later, after doing Jah's work on the title cut, Perry turns to what's really on his mind, which is his mind. "I Am a Psychiatrist" is the masterpiece in question, and it sounds drawn from life: "Heal your pain/Bless your brain/Curse your name/From whence you came." Many songs express insanity. Not many encompass it. [Rolling Stone: 3.5]

Rise Again [MOD Technologies, 2011]
Surrounded by such coequals as Tunde Adebimpe, Sly Dunbar, and Hamid Drake, he--uh-oh--behaves himself ("Orthodox," "House of God") ***

See Also