August 21, 2010, at 12:59 am

Scratch Sells

Lee Perry has long been one of the few Jamaican artists that will sell to a cross over audience with no great difficulty. This month has seen the release of a book, Lee Scratch Perry – Kiss Me Neck, and a double CD, Lee Perry – The Black Ark Years, that celebrate his works.

Kiss Me Neck - Jeremy CollingwoodJeremy Collingwood’s book tells the story of Lee Perry from the earliest days of his involvement in the Kingston music scene through to his life in Switzerland. It then presents an exhaustive looking discography of records with a Perry involvement, either as artist, producer or something more tenuous. Illustrations throughout set the tone with old adverts and press cuttings, pictures of the artists and then doezens of label illustrations.

The first part is clearly written and gives an excellent overview of Perrys life. Whereas David Katz’s People Funny Boy gave the comprehensive and definitive account of Lee Perry’s life Collingwood gives us an abbreviated version clearly structured chronologically. Don’t expect amazing insights and revelations but as a moderate sized potted history this works fine.

The discography takes up the larger part of this publications near 300 page with listings and notes on literally thousands of works with a Lee Perry involvement, divided into sections for UK releases, Jamaican releases, 7″, 12″ and so on this is an obsessives dream and is likely to be the part that many buyers return to again and again.

The only significant let down of this publication is that the pictures, including the hundreds of label illustrations, are all in black and white. Though this is understandable as full colour would have been prohibitively expensive, black and white really fails to do them justice and leaves you with a feeling that it could have been so much better.

Kiss Me Neck is released by Cherry Red books and is selling for £14.99.

Lee Perry - The Black Ark YearsA perfectly timed musical accompaniment to the above is Lee Scratch Perry – The Black Ark Years: The Jamaican 7″s. A two CD compilation of 70’s classics and the odd obscurity out of Perry’s Washington Gardens HQ courtesy of Trojan/Universal.

There was a time when I’d have said that the very last thing the world needs is another compilation of Lee Perry’s 74-78 productions complete with the likes of Max Romeo – War In A Babylon (Sipple Out Deh), Junior Murvin – Police And Thieves and Junior Byles – Curley Locks, but times have changed and it’s been a while since a serious compilation of this material was released. Many people won’t have the older compilations that gathered this material before anyway, and if so then they will need this.

This set is well compiled and gives an excellent overview of the period in question with big hits, version excersions and the odd obscurity for good measure. It’s not definitive like the legendary Arkology set was and may not excite seasoned collectors like the recent Pressure Sounds Dubplate CD but it does what it sets out to do and does it very very well. At only £7 it’s hard to go wrong.


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