Many would have you believe that Lee “Scratch” Perry should have stopped making music some time ago. His prescient proclamations and peculiar musical visions some say have overshadowed the music that the dub-reggae legend had cultivated throughout the 1970’s. But I beg to differ. It’s that very peculiar nature of his music, his free association lyricism and his resilient persistence to make music that has exactly installed him as a musical icon today, and especially to new audiences discovering his music for the first time. Those eccentricities, which lets face it has always been there – who else would burn down an entire studio and its back catalogue to get rid of “unclean spirits” – might have played a part in the 83-year old’s charm today, but should in no way undermine the important legacy that the artist has imprinted on music.
Alongside the likes of King Tubby, Lee “Scratch” Perry revolutionised the idea of the studio as a musical instrument in the 1970’s, a philosophy which has become common place in all recorded music today. Every producer making contemporary electronic music applies these principles, and even though they might not be aware of Perry’s role in their methods, his presence will be permanently imprinted on the lexicon of electronic music, for his role in those early years of Dub and Reggae. He’s never stopped making records this entire time, and even though his lyrics might have wandered somewhere over to the surreal or just plain weird, his prowess in the studio has never left him and you just have listen to 2014’s “Back on the Controls” if you need proof.
He’s never really stopped making and recording music and although he’s popularity might go through various phases, waining with dub music, but then gaining popularity again when a new, young artist references his work or sings his praises. Although his own music might not always win over audiences or fans, Lee “Scratch” Perry will always remain relevant regardless of how the scene moves or progresses and every now and then he releases some music that re-affirms his position in music history, which he does again with his latest record, “Rainford.”
This latest LP sees him sharing the controls with protege and long-time collaborator, Adrian Sherwood, who restrains the elder dub statesman’s eccentricities for on of the most palatable creations in recent years. It’s also one of Perry’s more lucid moments on the mic as his prescient proclamations turn a little closer to the present and the real world with lyrics that can denounce the greed that underpins the current political landscape on a track like “Kill them dreams money worshippers” or turn autobiographical at times like on the very literal closer, “Autobiography of the Upsetter.” Together Sherwood and Perry always make a formidable partnership in the studio and in the ten years it took to make this LP apparently, that relationship has only matured. The pair have delivered an LP that dig up those dub roots to bring them a little closer to the surface of the contemporary music landscape.
Perry retains some of that enigmatic playfulness on a track like “Cricket in the Moon,” but on a whole, “Rainford” seems a lot more coherent and restrained than anything else he’s done in recent years. It’s not like Lee “Scratch” Perry would really need to re-affirm his position in the modern music landscape, but records like “Rainford” shows an artist that can still make a formidable contribution to a legacy that already spans over fifty years and is still going strong.