Day Three of being an unemployed bum was pretty eventful actually. I had a challenging 40 minute swim in some pretty choppy water at Lake Erie’s Waterfront Park here in Crystal Beach, took Lucille in for her pre-race tune-up and then surfed some “tasty waves” at the public beach.
Basically, HRH and I are turning into this:
Okay, maybe not quite like that…but close.
Anyway, now we’re chillin’ to some old school reggae while I get dinner going, the ‘Super Ape‘ album album by The Upsetters.
This is something HRH wanted to treat herself to for having successfully completed another school year and thank to the generous gift from grandma and grandpa, this is what she decided to treat herself with.
And who can blame her?
Look at that cover!
It’s got a huge marauding ape on it grasping a tree in one hand, a huge joint in the other and, apparently, a full belly of “roasted fish, roots, cornbread and makka”.
By 1976, Lee “Scratch” Perry was well established at his Black Ark studio, a fact proven by the quality of the creations emerging from its walls. The success of Max Romeo’s ‘War in a Babylon‘ brought a deal with Island Records and the possibility of greater financial rewards. The single was followed by a full-length album of the same name as well as deejay Jah Lion’s Columbia Colly LP. Riding this crest of productivity, Scratch then turned to a creation of his own.
‘Super Ape‘ offered a series of the producer’s finest 1976 rhythms, from Devon Irons’ ‘When Jah Come’ and the Blue Bells’ ‘Come Along‘ to Romeo’s ‘War in a Babylon‘ and ‘Chase the Devil‘. All are bathed in the distinct, murky atmosphere that was becoming a Black Ark trademark, then served up in the form of dub-like de-constructions. Island’s U.K./U.S. sequencing of ‘Super Ape‘ places ‘Dread Lion‘ at the album’s heart. If any track fulfills the cover’s promise to “Dub it up, blacker than dread”, this is it.
Vocals from numerous cuts seem to compete for their spot on the rhythm, while a dizzying mix of horns, flute and melodica swirl around them. Punctuating the song’s rock-solid underbelly, Perry conjures startling thunderclaps from his mixing board. Other heavyweights on this album include ‘Croaking Lizard‘ and ‘Zion’s Blood‘: thick muscular constructs from the Upsetter session team. The former features an excellent Prince Jazzbo toast over the ‘Chase the Devil‘ rhythm, while the latter, a cut of ‘When Jah Come‘, draws its elusive meaning from vocal phrases courtesy of Heptones Earl Morgan and Barry Llewellyn
‘Super Ape‘ is a dubwise, alternate universe to Perry’s Black Ark vocal hits. It awaits anyone willing to heed it’s closing call: “This is the ape-man, trodding through creation, are you ready to step with I man?”.
And that’s a total no-brainer for HRH.
She be jammin‘ fo sure, mon.