Rockstone ~ Native's Adventures with Lee Perry at the Black Ark September 1977
October 6, 2007
from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)|
|Vocals : 5||Backing : 5||Production : 5||Sound quality : 5||Sleeve : 5|
It has been an interesting few months for Upsetter fanatics, intent on picking up minor and lost classics from the Black Ark period -- First Makasound dug up the commendable Slickers record (John Martyn also cut versions to some of the songs interestingly enough ), and now Pressure Sounds have re released the intriguing Native "Rockstone" album.
If you want something unusual, fresh, a serious departure from "roots by numbers", this eerie album will fascinate -- it is spacious, psychotropic and hallucinatory, with deep lyrical metaphor, all musical conventions set free by the classic Gnostic Black Ark treatment.
Native had the following to say about the period with Scratch -- "One night in August 1977 Boris Gardiner took me on a trip to see Lee 'Scratch' Perry at his Black Ark Studio....The Black Ark was like a medieval space station with Scratch at the controls voicing the U.K. artist Robert Palmer. I watched in amazement as Scratch drove the mixing board and extracted his mystical sound. All Lee Perry had was a little four track machine -- so you can be sure that it was the MAN and not the machine that was creating the magic here!"
The opener, "Rockstone" has a deep garage psyche vocal melody. A cyclical cymbal sound reminiscent of "A Love Supreme" gives the tune space to breathe, lifting the composition higher than the claustrophobic lyrics' preoccupations, centring as they do around tales of prisons, cloisters, loneliness, seclusion, sun beaten arid places and persecution.
"Black Tracks Version" sounds very similar to dark and wintry mid 70's inner city UK dub -- Think echoes of Macka B's UK production, "Nation Fiddler" on the Congo's label.
"In A Strange Land" opens with an Elvin Jones style cymbal shimmer, before plunging into a narrative of bleak alienation and isolation in a composition that has echoes of a Byrds melody -- perhaps the free spirited, anarchistic "Wasn't Born to Follow."
"Late September In May" is full on psychotropic mournful and rainy psychedelia, with edges of PIL's "Metal Box" period.
"King Solomon's Mines" is Fela Kuti in collision with Krautrockers Magma and Holger Czukay, with a dash of Cymande's "The Message" and "Bra."
"In The Land Of Make Believe" is Black Ark's take on serious Prog Rock freakiness, with a cosmic lyric, bringing to mind an overcast day in Ladbroke Grove circa mid 70's .
The whole album just gets weirder and weirder -- "Meet Mr Nobody", with its loneliness and sense of urban separation reminds the listener of a nightmarish take on Turgenev's "Diary of a Superfluous Man" -- take in the lyrics, which are pure Kafka and Gogol's "diary of a Madman"
"Well, Mr nobody -- do you think you've been convicted in this trial with faceless names in every file. Look at all the people, with their names and their careers -- saved from all the poverty -- yet hounded by its fears. "
The version to the tune closes the album with pure psyche roots garage rock oblivion, Black Ark style.
Native's music is indispensable, deeply weird, heady music.
If you are a roots purist, with a conventional, strictly orthodox mind -- it may not interest.
But if you are willing to check out uncharted, even Gnostic territories, it's a deep experience.