Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Upsetters - Super Ape (1976)

I haven't been able to listen to "regular" reggae (or "roots" reggae if you're a technical nerd like me) at length for some years now, it's become somewhat rote and boring a bit- there isn't a whole lot of deviation from the norm and there haven't been any huge new strides there since... let's just say there haven't been any leaps taken during my lifetime- I can only listen to so much Bob Marley, Toots and Jimmy Cliff before I want to stab my ears out.

Jamaican artists knew this anyway; hence the birth of DJ toasting, dancehall (and later ragga), and my favorite bastard son of reggae- "dub" to liven up things. Enter one Lee "Scratch" Perry to the mix, maybe not the originator (there's been some debate to who actually got things started- I'm going to go with the story that in 1968 sound system operator Ruddy Redwood went to cut a dub plate
at Duke Reid's Treasure Isle studios for a party that night, and engineer Byron Smith left out the vocals on the record, resulting in the first or accidental dub record being made. The people went crazy for it, and the next day he and King Tubby had to create a "version" of a song by Slim Smith, tweaking the track just enough to create "dub" as we know it).

Anyway, back to Lee- he did more for the cause than anyone else, did more to change reggae in general; by having his own studio he was able to exert more influence and control over the recordings, and by adding more presence to the bass guitar in the mix he ushered in (simultaneously) the golden age of roots reggae and dub- just listen to the leap in styles from Marley's Natty Dread record and Rastaman Vibration, or perhaps the best way to trace this arc is by listening to either his Songs of Freedom box set (the jump from disc 2 to disc 3) or the all-encompassing 4-disc compilation Tougher Than Tough: The Story of Jamaican Music, which starts with a proto-rocksteady track from The Folkes Brothers (Oh Carolina, 1958) and runs up to dancehall (another version of Oh Carolina from Shaggy, 1993).

Enough of the history essay, here's Perry and his Upsetters 1976 dub landmark record Super Ape, probably the definitive statement of the genre (unless you'd like me to post the three-disc Trojan Dub box set...)


Unknown said...

great upload and i enjoy your essay thing as well

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