Music » CD Reviews

Lee "Scratch" Perry

Chicken Scratch (Heartbeat/Rounder)

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Lee "Scratch" Perry is both a legendary and notorious figure in Jamaican music. A ska trailblazer in the '60s who became one of the world's most inventive dub producers a decade later, Perry is best known for working with the original Wailers lineup and yielding some of the earliest versions of Bob Marley's classics. He built a rep for his radical, groundbreaking production techniques . . . and for burning down his studio one drug-crazed night. Chicken Scratch highlights Perry's ska years, drawing mostly from singles he cut in the mid-'60s with the Wailers, the Soulettes (which featured a young Rita Marley), and other soon-to-be reggae giants. Perry's ties to American R&B here are undeniable: Add a pumping, double-time piano to "Feel Like Jumping," and it's easy to imagine it on an old Fats Domino album. There are also budding signs of reggae's social consciousness in "Help the Weak" and "Run Rudie Run," both of which bubble over with striking sounds from the splintered mind of one of the genre's great innovators.

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