Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Panic in Babylon

If you buy one of the reggae legend's many recent CDs, make it this one You say you didn't know Lee Perry won a Grammy for Jamaican E.T. in 2003? You say the nutty old dubmaster is hard to keep track of, living in Zurich and all? True, he's released some twenty albums in the past four years, twice that including compilations--and probably hasn't heard them all himself. So start here. It's song-oriented (OK, chant-oriented), with a sixteen-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, Nov. 16, 2006