LEE "SCRATCH" PERRY
IF YOU KNOW pop music, you've probably heard about the exploits of Phil Spector or Brian Wilson. But unless you know reggae--and have delved deeper into it than the standard pothead or Club Med vacationer--you may not know about Lee "Scratch" Perry. As both a producer and all-around demented genius, the Jamaican-born Perry is without peer. With Black Ark long reduced to ashes, what remains is a large body of recordings, featuring Perry at both his most successful and most unwound, now anthologized on the three-disc set Arkology. Though Arkology captures only a fragment of a career that spans five decades, it includes some of Perry's best work (Junior Murvin's "Police & Thieves," Max Romeo's "One Step Forward" and "War In Babylon"), and provides glimpses of Perry in all his guises: deft producer, eloquent songwriter, playful singer, visionary remixer. For collectors, the set also throws in unreleased tracks, extended mixes, and alternate takes from his Island work. What emerges is a picture of Perry the creator, beyond his madman exploits. Perry's musical influence is apparent; now if only his thoughts and actions were as clear, we might begin to understand this crucial, though often missing, link in modern popular music. Through its music and 52-page booklet of photos and liner notes, Arkology is a good start
The Slide Project
SOUNDING LIKE AN inspired cross between Matthew Sweet and Roky Erikson, Neilson Hubbard (most often the singer of Oxford, Mississippi's band, This Living Hand) lays down hook-laden pop with effortless grace. With the falsetto of the ages and slinky guitar, Hubbard makes a visit to the land of upbeat pop--even for the jaded, an excursion into sunny promise. With a wink to teen dilemmas that are the simple and perennial themes where boy meets girl, boy longs for girl, boy can't have girl, Hubbard simply says from the outside with conviction (and without irony) that "everybody's doin' it." And this may be his well-played card: everybody writes songs about themselves, but few deliver the interest, the wit, and the verve Hubbard so often does, with grace, on these 11 songs.
Folk 'N' Hell: Fiery New Music From Scotland
IF YOU THINK that all those albums filed away in the international section are filled with boring Balinese bongo shit, this one'll change your mind. These contemporary Scottish groups will also make you reconsider whether or not bands like U2 are really as representative of their Emerald Isle roots as we've been led to think. The group Burach is an up-tempo kick in the ass that hints of Dylan's Blood On The Tracks days; Shooglenifty pulls traditional Scottish dance music into the '90s; Paul Mounsey's "Passing Away" is an Enigma-like eulogy regarding the death of Gaelic as a language, built on spoken-word samples à la Robert Fripp and Gavin Bryars. Even the most subdued cuts suggest a punk mentality, as though all the contributors have the rebellious, nasty temper we've heard comes with being Scottish. Whatever. "Fuck you" and rock-and-roll have always been spelled the same as far as I remember--these guys just show it can be machine-gunned with acoustic guitars and synths as well as with a Telecaster's feedback.
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