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Chicken Scratch Deluxe Edition by Lee Scratch Perry

Chicken Scratch Deluxe Edition by Lee Scratch Perry

Chicken Scratch Deluxe Edition by Lee Scratch Perry

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Deluxe madness of King Lee in his early singing days.

Sampler

Chicken Scratch Deluxe Edition by Lee “Scratch” Perry

Long before he became famous worldwide as reggae’s resident insane genius producer, Lee Perry was trying his hand as a singer in the studios of Kingston. Duke Reid brushed him off following some initial receptiveness, but it was Studio One’s Clement Dodd who truly gave Perry his shot after first employing him as everything from a gofer to a songwriter to a sound system spy. As the entire reggae establishment is well aware of by now, Perry was never much of a singer. But his charisma, oddball charm and ability to make a song convincing through sheer eccentricity could not be denied. With Perry’s greatness as a producer firmly embedded in reggae history, Massachusetts-based Heartbeat Records has thrown the spotlight back on his often-overlooked early period by releasing a Deluxe Edition of Chicken Scratch, a collection of songs Perry recorded at Studio One with the finest singers and players Dodd had on hand, including the original Wailers.

Bonus tracks and original single mixes have been added for a total of 18 songs, which harness the scorching rhythms of the ska era as an odd but somehow suitable fit for Perry’s sung/spoken/shouted vocal delivery, which ranged from cheekily deadpan to almost frighteningly animated. Double entendres abound along with wry social commentary, pure fun and an occasional serious theme, and you can’t help but marvel at how much of the nutty creativity Perry shows here carried over into his sonic uniqueness in the producer’s chair. Highlights include the ever-great title track (from which Perry gleaned his most popular nickname) the off-the-handle ranting of “Roast Duck” and “Mother In Law” and the surprising lucidity of such conscious offerings as “Help the Weak” and “Cannot Wrong.”

Consider this dandy disc a must for fans of Lee Perry, classic ska and music that skirts the lunatic fringe just the right amount.

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