Lee Scratch Perry - My Name Is Pipecock Jackxon
From Sid Vicious to Otis Redding, many musicians only found the limelight after their death. Though this is not the case with Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, the suggestion that ‘death is very commercial’ has some merit. It is apparent from the posthumous album sales – that exceeded those attained whilst living – of Bob Marley, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Tupac, Ray Charles and many more. Whether this will prove to be the case with Lee Perry – as his fellow traveller Marley’s song says – only ‘time will tell’. Should this come to pass, you can be sure that this Rankin Alpha collaboration will feature strongly.
As the title suggests, this album is a nod and occasional reprise of Perry’s final Black Ark studio product The Return of Pipecock Jackxon. Italian Alpha’s relationship with Perry dates back to 1996. So, it is timely that this 10-track classic – which was 5 years in the making - should now surface.
It opens with Untitled Roots – a lovely lazy loping rhythm, interspersed with some ‘Black Ark Voodoo’ and a selection of characteristically obscure rhyming lyrics that focus on the power of fire which – with 2 burned down studios to his credit – Perry knows all about! Indeed, it’s worth recalling that Perry spoke frequently of enemies ‘working obeah to achieve vanity. The Upsetter name is big and they want to take it, so them send duppy obeah fire’. Black magic enthusiasts will appreciate his take on things – enough said!
This track is followed by the fast-paced Babylon Cookie Jar A Crumble (Revisited), with its all too rare but delightful backing vocals. These vocals cleverly counter Perry’s deadbeat delivery, that occasionally strays into the scatological arena! Though this take may be no match for the wonderful one-drop easy style of the original version, it’s certainly a most welcome variation thereon. Given tobacco’s relationship with cancer, the next up No Cigarette Reggae track sees Perry focusing on the dangers of tobacco, on a delightful mellow-moving track that blames the substance for Marley’s passing, whilst (characteristically) skirting danger with suspicions of misogyny in evidence.
Perry then returns to his spiritual homeland with Give Thanks To Jah (Revisited), which is almost unrecognisable from the classic easy-going original version. It’s another quick-step vocal and instrumental delivery, surpassing the original version in duration, echo effects and the all-important harmonies.
Thereafter, Riddim Mash Down Ism And Skism merges a slow mystic-style sound with Perry’s pacey delivery of characteristically risqué lyrics. This track is unlikely to ignite the dance floor, but – undoubtedly to Perry’s delight – it will puzzle the interpreters! Next up comes a delightful Black Moses Ina Red Trousers track, with its slow instrumental and vocal delivery, as the tasteful flat percussion serves as the backdrop to Perry’s rhyming of ‘Moses’, ‘roses’ and ‘trousers’, before he splits the scene to celestial sounds. The album then returns to the past with (an almost unrecognisable) Who Killed The Chicken (Revisited) track, as Perry’s vocal delivery is complemented by an array of instrumental, vocal and chicken(!) echo effects, with ‘Christ’ and ‘Perry’ enjoying regular namechecks.
The release concludes with dub versions of Babylon Cookie Jar A Crumble (Revisited), Give Thanks To Jah (Revisited) and Who Killed The Chicken (Revisited) – all of which feature Perry’s vocals. Indeed, many will find these tracks to be the highlight of the release. For example, the Cookie Jar track expertly deploys Perry’s pronouncements to some silken sounds, including well positioned vocal harmonies. And the Give Thanks track holds that (hopefully unlike Perry himself) ‘Lucifer is dead forever’ and ‘can’t come over’, before the Chicken track brings proceedings to a close with a mesmerising musical melange.
All round, this release makes for a welcome addition to the Perry stock, with maximum respect and compliments to Rankin Alpha (aka Raffaele Ferro/ Dubital – the arranger, producer, recorder and mixer) and his many ‘Clumsy Ghost’ accomplices.
Given the tendency to award Grammy’s posthumously – though Perry ticked the Grammy box with 5 nominations and 1 win (in 2002 with Jamaican E.T.) – it would be no surprise if he secured a second win this year. If so, My Name Is Pipecock Jackxon is sure to be a contender in what’s shaping up to be a field crowded with Perry-collaboration releases.
Lee Scratch Perry - My Name Is Pipecock Jackxon
DIGITAL RELEASE [Jam Ra Records]
Release date: 09/27/2021
01. Untitled Roots
02. Babylon Cookie Jar a Crumble (Revisited)
03. No Cigarette Reggae
04. Give Thanks to Jah (Revisited)
05. Riddim Mash Down Ism and Skism
06. Black Moses ina Red Trousers
07. Who Killed the Chicken (Revisited)
08. Babylon Cookie Jar a Crumble (Revisited) [DUB]
09. Give Thanks to Jah (Revisited) [DUB]
10. Who Killed the Chicken (Revisited) [DUB]