At 78 years of age, it seems like nothing will slow Lee “Scratch” Perry down. His latest EP and, as far as I can see from Discogs, his fifth release of 2014, comes in the form of the Vibes EP, in collaboration with his new protégé Iguana on the newly minted Iguana Vibez imprint. It is a wide-ranging EP in scope, as it sees Perry tackle all of the basic forms of reggae music, incorporating the dub elements that first gave him his worldwide fame and acclaim but allowing his sound to be updated somewhat, with liberal doses of electronic instrumentation added into the emotionally tinged songs.
Perry’s vocals are fragile and tender and at times somewhat reflective, with lyrics celebrating his Rastafarian religion, reggae music itself, life and existence. Although he didn’t make his name as a vocalist, when Lee “Scratch” Perry hits the mic, he truly shines.Opening number “Get Down” takes a ska-like approach to reggae music utilizing sun-soaked, beach-ready instrumentation that takes you to the sun soaked isle where the music he so loves was birthed, whilst “Root Rock Reggae” sees the Perry subverting the classic ‘This is Reggae Music’ sample into his own name, at the same time reflecting on his contribution to a scene that has seen Jamaica comparatively constantly punch above its weight since reggae first traveled the world from its sunny shores.
“Midnight Train” sees Perry’s vocals take center stage over and nostalgic, tight, summer tinged dancehall riddim, complimented by twinkling piano melodies and well-constructed harmonies as “Run Rebels Run” sees Scratch touching on classic Rastafarian vocal themes set over a modern, uplifting take on digi-dub production. Closing number “Flash” is as close to the original dub sound as you are going to get on Vibes, with ambient and natural soundscapes combining with a classic marching 4×4 riddim replete with a splashy dubstep snares, a rolling, slappy bass line, classic dub fx, dubstep womps and peppering’s of Perry’s classic vocal one shots.
All things said, even at 78 years of age, Perry ably demonstrates that he is still at the very top of his game, showing us all that there is definitely no need to try and teach this old dog new tricks when he still has so many left up his inventive, never ending sleeve.