Lee “Scratch” Perry has been a prime mover in reggae music since the birth of the genre. First as a talent scout who put together the original Wailers, then as a producer, and finally as a recording artist in his own right, “Scratch” has been there through it all. What he may best be known for are his dub excursions, which positively reek of sacrament yet sound great to even the uninitiated.
His latest release is titled Rise Again, and is a collaboration with Bill Laswell. Laswell’s studio adventures with his group Material have a lot in common with what Perry has come to be known for, and the two work well together. There are also a load of guest appearances on the album, including those by Sly Dunbar, Bernie Worrell, and Tunde Adebimpe of TV On The Radio.
The disc opens up with “Higher Level,” which is vintage Lee “Scratch” Perry reggae/dub. Laswell’s influence is first felt on the following track, “Scratch Message.” His Material-esque manipulations blend well with what Perry is up to, and the song is one of the highlights of the record. There are limits to the effectiveness of the pairing, however, which is probably to be expected.
There are times when Laswell’s atmospherics overwhelm the more organic sounds of Perry, though, and this is where I had some difficulty. “Rise Again” and “Dancehall Kung Fu” are the two biggest examples of this, although Laswell fans may find these tracks to be the strongest of all. The lyrics of “Dancehall Kung Fu” are hilarious, by the way.
“House Of God” brings the funk in no uncertain terms, which sets things right back on track. By the time we reach the finale, “Inakaya (Japanese Food),” Lee “Scratch” Perry has taken full control of the proceedings again. His ode to what used to be called “the munchies” is another ditty that only could have come from the mind of the master.
Rise Again is a little uneven, but nobody’s perfect. As a collaboration between these two studio rats, it actually works quite well. Recommended.