Lee "Scratch" Perry
The End of an American Dream
First Appeared in The Music Box, January 2008, Volume 15, #1
Written by Douglas Heselgrave
Wed January 2, 2008, 11:45 AM CST
Lee "Scratch" Perry seems to have a problem controlling his impulses. Not only is he incapable of sitting still, but anytime there is a microphone within shouting distance, he obviously feels compelled to sound off. Over the years, this predilection for spontaneous poetry has resulted in the creation of some of the best material recorded anywhere. The downside, though, is that it has also resulted in huge amounts of half-baked dross, which inevitably is foisted upon an unsuspecting market. Due to Perry’s extremely prolific nature, it always has been a challenge for listeners to know which of his many offerings to purchase. Sadly, his latest effort The End of an American Dream should not be placed at the top of his fans’ "must-have" lists.
Over the last year, Perry has recorded a reunion album with British dub pioneer Adrian Sherwood that has yet to be released, and he currently is in the process of finishing his follow-up to Panic in Babylon, a wonderful collection of new songs that he recently issued on the Narnack label. Both of these efforts sound a lot more interesting than The End of an American Dream — a quickie endeavor for Megawave, a new reggae label from Michigan. The outing is essentially a collaboration between Perry and British producer John Saxon, and it immediately is obvious that multi-instrumentalist Steve Marshall completed the backing tracks before Perry made an appearance to voice his stream-of-consciousness lyrics on top of them.
Unquestionably brilliant at times, Perry uses The End of an American Dream to touch upon all of his favorite topics, which range from sex to excrement and from Hindu Gods to the state of American politics. Perry is an amazing phenomena, and the sheer volume of his output shows that he lives and breathes his art. Alas, given that more than 100 of his discs are readily available, a person has to learn to be choosy about which of his demented opuses to allow into his life and home. What’s lacking on The End of an American Dream is a musical soundscape that elevates — and keeps pace with — Perry’s lyrical creativity. The backings are competent, and they are in no way distracting. Nevertheless, they also never reach higher or achieve more than a kind of benign rhythmic texture upon which Perry’s poetry can ride.
It’s understandable that a new label like Megawave would jump at the opportunity to release an album by a legend like Perry, and the presence in the world of The End of an American Dream certainly isn’t going to do harm to anyone. At best, however, it is a pleasant diversion, and given the nature of Perry’s best work — which is truly incendiary and groundbreaking — making such a statement is to damn the outing with faint praise. Perry’s fans would do better to save their money and watch for the release of his collaboration with Sherwood as well as his next album of all new material for Narnack. ½
The End of an American Dream is available from
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2008 The Music Box