Lee “Scratch” Perry
In the tumultuous era of the 1970s, Lee “Scratch” Perry, a truly unconventional individual, revolutionized the concept of musical “innovation” through ceaseless exploration, surpassing conventional musical boundaries, and his relentless quest for a truly distinctive sound. Within the confines of his Black Ark studio, he tirelessly collaborated with talented Jamaican musicians, notably The Upsetters, who served as his supporting band. This studio became a fertile breeding ground for numerous Jamaican artists. Perry’s immersive productions are characterized by their intricate layers of sound, breathing life into his captivating compositions. His music possesses a deep and timeless allure, and it has profoundly influenced the genre of dub and sound effects in distinctive ways.
Towards the end of the 1970s, he intentionally ignited a fire at the Black Ark studio. This incident, accompanied by a series of peculiar and unpredictable behavior, marked the conclusion of an era characterized by remarkable creativity and production achievements. Throughout the 1980s, he maintained a low-key presence while the world rediscovered the sheer brilliance and originality of his artistic contributions. The 1990s proved to be a fruitful decade as he engaged in creative collaborations with a diverse range of musicians and producers. Despite being in his 80s, he continued to record and embark on global tours. On August 29, 2021, he set out on his final journey to Zion, commencing his last tour.
Burning Sounds unveiled Perry’s final album in late October 2023. The album, titled Heaven, was recorded in Switzerland in collaboration with the French band ERM, which stands for Easy Riddim Maker. The LP version of the album features eight vocal tracks, while the CD and DR versions include two additional dub workouts. These two dub tracks were also released separately as a 12-inch vinyl single by Burning Sounds. This review specifically focuses on the LP version of Heaven. ERM is the musical collective that Perry has actively worked with in recent years. The production credits for the album go to Lee Perry, Mireille Perry, and Olivier Gangloff, who is ERM’s drummer and programmer.
Sound FX & Dubby Atmospheres
The eight tracks on the album may not revive the glory days of Black Ark, as ERM’s backing sets the tone and atmosphere of the album. They primarily offer modern interpretations of traditional, relaxed one-drop riddims, enhanced by a diverse range of sound effects in dubby atmospheres. The memorable horn sections shine in a favorable manner, well done! It is worth mentioning that Lee Perry’s vocal performance may lack strength, which is understandable considering Perry’s age. Thankfully, he receives proper support from backing vocalist Anne Foesser.
The closing track Repented stands out as a remarkable piece, serving as a nostalgic reminder of Perry’s groundbreaking productions from the past. This composition skillfully balances on the fine line between ambient and dub, creating a delightful blend of chaotic yet harmonious elements. Baby Elephant exemplifies Perry’s unique style, bordering on madness yet showcasing his genius. Incorporating a child’s voice sample and lyrics that touch upon the history of Africa’s injustices, this track is enveloped in a captivating, slowed-down backing enriched with mesmerizing sound effects. The uptempo track Peace begins with a promising and catchy intro, captivating listeners with its tempo changes throughout. In Shining, Perry pays homage to Bob Marley’s Sun Is Shining, infusing the tune with heavy dub effects and Anne’s backing vocals, which add alluring and impactful accents.
It is always intriguing to see that numerous reviewers tend to adopt an almost analytical and scientific perspective when reviewing Lee Perry’s albums, whereas Perry’s creative process is fueled by genuine emotions, the prevailing mood, and an effervescent spontaneity. We listened to this album in that mindset, keeping in mind that Heaven is more historically relevant than musically.