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World Music CD Reviews Reggae & Caribbean

Lee Scratch Perry

By Tom Orr
Published April 24, 2007

Panic In Babylon
Narnack

Though Lee "Scratch" Perry's standing as one of reggae's greatest producers is unassailable, his track record as a performer is considerably spottier. Let's face it—the guy isn't much of a singer, and too often comes across as just plain wacky. But leave it to Scratch to work his unique obeah magic just when fans might have given up. Panic In Babylon, originally released in Perry’s adopted Switzerland a while back and now getting a better shot at the market, is wickedly good stuff. Perry’s familiar deadpan rants and rhymes are set to modern roots reggae riddims (not self-produced, interestingly and regrettably) and razor-sharp in their ominous/humorous duality. Meditations on society, spirituality, sexuality and pop culture abound along with continuous name-dropping and, of course, heaps of lyrical self-promotion. After 70 productive years on the planet, the legendary Upsetter is still upsetting, with his crazy-like-a-fox perspective and musical instincts undiminished.