Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry: Panic in Babylon


He is a legend, he is Scratch and he is The Upsetter.  But he’s also self-indulgent to a fault on his latest offering, Panic In Babylon. The 70 year old Perry sprinkles his reggae/dub sound all over the sonic map providing complex offerings that unfortunately get distracted by his nonsensical toasting. Clocking in at over 70 minutes, the album is rich with music as the Swiss reggae band White Belly Rats weave playfully dense backgrounds. The tweaking horns and fading keys create a backdrop for future late night sessions.

Perry’s vocal delivery, however, may put the hazy listener into something more than a trance, perhaps a full fledge sleep. Incredibly pointless and boring (reciting the alphabet on “Voodoo”?!) Perry’s vocals take away from what is a gorgeous soundscape, had he produced this music for someone else a reggae classic may have taken shape. Alas the coolness of “Rastafari” and trumpeting “Fight to the Finish” seem wasted by Perry’s rambles. Hardcore reggae fans can be happy that Perry is still around and offering an album of this crisp quality.  But most casual fans will have a hard time getting into the beats with the toasting roadblock in the way and may be better suited to check out some of The Upsetter’s earlier work before they Panic in Babylon.

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