Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry/Candy Mckenzie/Aura - The Full Experience [Doctor Bird/ Cherry Red - 2020]
The Full Experience brings together two late 70’s sessions from legendary & often quirkily creative reggae producer Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry- here for the first time are these rare recordings brought together for a CD reissue on Cherry Red Sub-label Doctor Bird. It’s fairly to say these aren’t the wackiest or crazed production-wise as some of Mr. Perry classic recordings- been more of a selection of largely laid back, mellow, at times rather mediocre & pop bound female-fronted reggae tunes.
Doctor Bird has been doing a great service to reggae fans- with their classy & often extra track laden reissues of releases from the golden & at times highly creative period in the genre. As with all the labels releases the CD comes with a full-color inlay booklet- this runs at sixteen pages,features a new ten-page write-up about the two sessions by Mr. Perry Biographer David Katz, as well as of course a good selection of rare pictures, and vinyl single labels.
Both sessions here were recorded between 1977 and 1978 in Perry's legendary Black Ark Studio- in all the CD runs for a generous seventy-three minutes, with sixteen tracks in all. The first ten are with Candy Mckenzie- who had Guyanese parenting, but spent most of her life in West London- she notable appeared on the first Asward album. Ms. McKenzie has a pleasant & powerful enough voice, that has some nicely rich & soulful touches- some of the tracks are passable enough if you like more pop/ light reggae, and a few even feature more pronounced & trademark Perry production- like the opening track “Disco Fits” with it’s tapping & hiccupping percussion, or "Someone To Love Me" with its detailed rhythmic pallet of clip-clopping & pining tones. But much of this session just seems to breezy by in a pleasant enough sunny-day-in-the-park type vibe, with not much of it staying with you.
The next four tracks are with south African singer Aura Lewis- who had worked as backing singer for both Bob Marley & Jimmy Cliff. Her voice has less power & range, been slightly more whiny- it fits well enough with the tighter & tenser production of these tracks- which are all about the tight weaves of horn, percussion, strutting bass & beats. Again not many of these track stick with you either- the wonky ‘n’ wailing horn meets skittering high hat work of "At Midnite" is ok, though the echo chamber is a little overloaded. The track "Full Experience" is passable with it’s snapping & reverberating percussion, cheeky horn honks, and jaunting organ work- but it’s nothing remarkable. The Cd is topped off with a 12” mix of the Candy McKenzie track "Disco Fits".
So in conclusion- it’s great to have these recordings all in one place, and at times it’s a pleasant enough if not ever daring collection of lighter & often pop bound reggae fare- so not something I can see myself returning too much, but I’m glad it existents- and if you enjoy more mellow female-fronted reggae- then it may do more for you than it did for me.Roger Batty