Monday, March 08, 2010

Music Library: Lee "Scratch" Perry, Lee Dorsey, Lee Hazlewood

Lee "Scratch" Perry - Super Ape (1976), Roast Fish Collie Weed & Corn Bread (1978), The Upsetter Shop Vol. 1: Upsetter In Dub, I Am The Upsetter box, and Arkology box.  This is many, many hours of brainshaking k-hole-inspiring awesomeness from the superest of superproducers of Jamaican music.  Perry is so brilliant and so completely insane that it's a little surprising that more movies haven't been made of his life.  Anyway, the first two of these are later albums, steeped in dub and sonic experimentation, with a heaviness in the sound that is well matched by the silliness of the vocals.  The latter three are all compilations with a little overlap.  The Upsetter In Dub is maybe the best one-disc compilation of Perry's dub compositions, bringing in some of his strongest work from many, many artists.  I don't know the dates of most of these tracks, nor the tracks on the two box sets.  I Am The Upsetter is somewhat weaker than Arkology.  Both also focus on Perry the producer, rather than Perry the performer, which is okay.  There's some killer reggae and dub tracks on the former, but there's quite a few that don't really stand out, either.  The latter is smart enough to include the original reggae track alongside several dub tracks that build on the original, allowing the listener to hear exactly how radical were Perry's ideas about using the studio as an instrument. But the academic aspects - for me, at least - are often lost in the sweep of the great music.  If you can only spring for one Perry compilation, spend the $$ on Arkology.  Here's one of the dub remixes of Junior Murvin's "Police and Thieves":

Lee Dorsey - Wheelin' and Dealin': The Definitive Collection (1961-1970). Funky singles collection from the New Orleans-based R&B singer.  Backed by the Meters for extra wallop.  Like Lee "Scratch" Perry, Dorsey was a recipient of the Clash's cultural noblesse oblige, and toured with the band in the late 70s.  Also notable for singing the original "Working In A Coal Mine."

Lee Hazlewood - The Very Special World of Lee Hazlewood (1966), These Boots Are Made For Walkin': The Complete MGM Recordings (1966-1967), Nancy & Lee (with Nancy Sinatra, 1968), The Cowboy and The Lady (with Ann-Margret, 1969), Cowboy In Sweden (1970), Requiem For An Almost Lady (1971), Nancy & Lee Again (with Nancy Sinatra, 1972), and 13 (1972).  The cosmic cowboy, that legendary figure who combines Western machismo with Boomer-era hedonism and self-expression, is a major force in Austin's conception of itself.  Although people like Willie Nelson and Kinky Friedman are often considered the archetypical cosmic cowboys, they've got nothing on Hazlewood, who brought his laconic baritone to bear on music that is undeniably Western but also garishly psychedelic and bathed in swooping chamber pop.  Hazlewood was an Okie, which may be one of the reasons that Texas failed to embrace him, but he was also an unearthly weirdo, which is most likely the majority of the problem.  Nevertheless, these albums (the MGM collection actually includes every song on The Very Special World Of, although in different order) provide conclusive proof of Hazlewood's take-it-or-fuck-off genius.  Well, I actually don't care much for Ann-Margret's voice, so The Cowboy and The Lady is my least favorite of these.  And I love the R&B-flavored horns on 13.  And "Some Velvet Morning," of course, with its woozy leaps in feel and tempo from Hazlewood's grizzly cowboy to Sinatra's dizzy flower child.


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