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Lee Perry - Kiss Me Neck

Lee Perry - Kiss Me Neck

Lee Perry - Kiss Me Neck

By on - Comment

An extensive, detailed and heavily illustrated, guide to the records produced by Perry.

Reggae historian Steve Barrow once described his role as the A&R man for his venerable reissue label Blood & Fire as "rescuing music from vinyl oblivion". Certainly any serious fan of Jamaican music will be familiar with "vinyl oblivion" as they spend years building up a decent collection of records. Even a humble collector like myself (who only discovered reggae well into the CD era) will soon learn about the often bewildering world of collecting Jamaican music: hundreds of labels, limited edition pressings, songs mistakenly credited to another artist, mysterious blank label records and other fascinating enigmas.

Beyond collecting, creating any discography of Jamaican music can be difficult, given the often haphazard nature of record production in Jamaica. When it comes to tackling a discography that accounts for the hundreds of releases that producer Lee Perry has been involved with over a 40-year career, spanning decades and continents, you are left with a Herculean task, or at least a task best performed by the very dedicated and the very patient.

Lee Perry - Kiss Me NeckJeremy Collingwood spent more than 10 years creating Kiss Me Neck, drawing upon an earlier discography he co-authored with David KatzGive Me Power, in 2003. With so much new information on Perry's music being discovered over the past decade and shared in an unprecedented way through the internet, in Collingwood's own words, he had to start from scratch with Scratch. Kiss Me Neck comes packed with hundreds of rare photos, label scans and newspaper clippings from Collingwood's personal collection. It presents Lee Perry's music as more than just a dry list of labels and matrix numbers; these records - and their related emphera - are pieces of history.

The book contains a two part biography that gives a breezy overview of Perry's career from his Studio One days until the present, nicely illustrated with many rare photos. The heart of the book, the discography, is broken down into six sections: Jamaican Singles, Albums, UK Singles, UK and European Discos, US and Canadian Singles, and US Discos. Most fascinating are the sections that deal with the aforementioned "vinyl oblivion": 50 pages of appendices that include a listing of obscure records with a Perry connection, dub plates, a listing of the samples Perry used, a comprehensive listing of blank label singles, a list of reissued singles and more.

In short, Kiss Me Neck is a remarkable accomplishment. It's a book for serious Lee Perry fans written by a serious Lee Perry fan. It goes without saying - given the obsessive nature of record collectors - that reggae nerds and trainspotters will marvel at the detail it goes into, even if they will no doubt find omissions, errors and finer points to quibble about. (For example, I noticed that Perry's 2003 Jamaican single "Heavy Respect" on Yam Euphony, listed in my discography, isn't included in Kiss Me Neck). But can there ever be a book that gets everything right?

Lee Perry - Kiss Me Neck

While it pains me to be too critical about such an impressive endeavour, Kiss Me Neck is unfortunately marred by several flaws that distract from the wealth of information in the book. These have less to do with the content itself, but the way that it is presented on the page. The main critique is that the text throughout is in drastic need of an edit. While Collingwood's informal style of writing is quite likeable, it could certainly do with some edits to tighten it up for readers. Also, the entire book is filled with distracting typos and spelling mistakes (for example, Vivian Jackson's name being misspelled as "Vivain") as well as odd capitalizations and punctuation throughout. Given that every word processing program has a spell checker and every publishing house has a proof reader, these errors are really unforgivable. The layout of the book also needs a critical eye cast over it. Since we are dealing with hundreds of pages of listings, it's important that they should be laid out in a logical and clear way. While the section on Jamaican singles has an easy to follow layout, the UK singles section has a different, more obtuse layout - why?

Ironically, the "What About?" appendix - where Collingwood makes an attempt to sort out the confusion surrounding the many obscure records that may or may not have a definite Lee Perry connection - ends up being confusing to navigate due to the choice of letters and numbers to define the various sections and listings. Once again, the information is fascinating, but the way it's presented leaves something to be desired. The "What About?" section also includes a four page Aston "Familyman" Barrett discography, listing records that have nothing to do with Lee Perry, so it's unclear as to why it was included.

Lee Perry - Kiss Me Neck

Despite these oversights and unortunate distractions, Kiss Me Neck is a monumental survey of Lee Perry's music. Whether you've been a dedicated Scratchologist from the 1970s and have most of these records on your shelf, or - like me - are a serious fan who wants a comprehensive listing of almost everything in the Lee Perry catalogue, Kiss Me Neck is essential.

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