British dub pioneer Adrian Sherwood says in the press release for “The Mighty Upsetter” that it is Lee “Scratch” Perry’s best album in decades — and it’s hard to disagree with him. They key factor in its success is that notorious nutcase Perry (playing at Fuji Rock Festival this year, as is Adrian Sherwood) seems to have kept his head together to a certain degree. Of course, the record is still a bit loopy, especially when Perry rambles on about his warped ideas of God, but he holds off taking too many turns down eccentric avenues that might lead to dead ends.
Opening track “Exercising” sneaks up like a thief in the night, with Perry’s muted vocal mutterings hanging off a slow-building, groovy backtrack — a bit like if Portishead had recorded their latest album in Kingston in an atmosphere heavy with ganja smoke. And the wailing of Middle Eastern dervishes on it is muted, adding to the exotic ambience rather than turning it into a dreary lump of world music.
Second track “International Broadcaster,” featuring South London rapper Roots Manuva and some wicked scratching, is the album’s shining star. It offers a whiff of the album’s twin leitmotifs — a black hole of a bassline and the low-key horns that seem to have been plucked out of Studio One circa 1968. The album doesn’t have a dull moment, so lie back in the sun or the darkness of your room, open a bottle of rum, close your eyes, and take an inexpensive trip to Jamaica. And “trip” is the key word.
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