RIP to the Legend: Remembering Lee “Scratch” Perry through five of his essential albums

Man, Scratch.

There really isn’t much I can say that isn’t already being said the world over, whether from fans, his peers, or the countless musicians Lee “Scratch” Perry influenced, ranging all the way from The Prodigy to the Beastie Boys to Flying Lotus to The Mountain Goats.

Forget being an icon of dub reggae, the man was an icon of sound, essentially changing the way musicians approach the studio forevermore.

Below we’ve collected five of the legend’s most essential studio recordings (of his ‘own’, let’s never discount his absolutely essential production work, from Heart of the Congoes to Soul Rebels to everything else). It’s by no means a complete list, nor by any means a declaration as to being unarguably his best. If you’re a long time fan, hopefully you’ll enjoy recalling long held favorites, but this is particularly a list for those potentially new to his world. Revel. Enjoy.

King Tubby Meets The Upsetter – At the Grass Roots of Dub

[Studio 16; 1974]

There’s a reason Brian Eno considered this album influential at the peak of his powers. It may not be the strongest in Perry’s discography looking back now, but it’s undeniably a special moment in time, captured. It also boasts a low key sort of primitivism that’s undeniably charming and essential.

The Mighty Upsetter – Kung Fu Meets the Dragon

[DIP; 1975]

Arguably the most understated effort included here, there’s still no denying its worth: this is Scratch at his most laid back, simply nerding out over his love of Kung Fu cinema. Clearly inspired by Bruce Lee, particularly Enter the Dragon (from which soundtrack snippets are sampled here), you can’t help but hear just how much fun the man was having. It’s infectious.

The Upsetters – Super Ape

[Upsetter; 1976]

What more can really be said about this one? As influential as it is compulsively listenable, just kick back (light one up if you’re able) and soak it up.

Lee “Scratch” Perry – Roast Fish Collie Weed & Corn Bread

[Upsetter; 1978]

If there’s one album of Perry’s you’ve heard, this may well be it. With good reason, it’s among his most focused and immediate albums, balancing his jam instincts with a ‘song’-based approach. He loves the low end here, and navigates through a murkier, more abstract world than he’d engage in for The Congos and others. It’s eclectic. It’s more than a bit mad. It’s Perry at the peak of his powers.

Lee “Scratch” Perry & The Upsetters – The Return of the Super Ape

[Lion of Judah; 1978]

The rare sequel that may not only match its predecessor, but arguably surpass it. Hell, there’s no real choosing between the two, but the mere fact that it’s even an argument shows just how great this damn thing is. Again, there’s nothing I can say that will outdo your own experience. Soak it up.