Lee "Scratch" Perry
King Perry

(False Idols)


Lee “Scratch” Perry finished recording King Perry only days before his death in 2021, leaving the remaining production duties to engineer Daniel Boyle, with whom Perry had worked for the past decade. Knowing this, it’s tempting to try and spot which tracks here are Perry productions and which are Boyle’s, partly out of nerdy curiosity but also because King Perry is a record of two rather distinct personas – one a sort of bouncy pop reggae full of pep and summery warmth, hi-fi presence and sparkle, the other something far darker and more cavernous encompassed by a sort of treacly foreboding.

Both styles have their moments: in the former camp, opener ‘100 lbs of Summer’ finds Greentea Peng’s smoky vocal perfectly complementing Perry’s more gravelly delivery while fat, rubbery horns offer charming buoyancy, and ‘The Person I Am’ is a sweet, rhythmically calm ballad that feels like an unusually mournful moment in the Perry canon. By contrast, ‘No Illusion’ has a hard-edged electro-ragga vibe that gives the whole record a welcome kick up the arse after a sagging middle third, and ‘Green Banana’, featuring a haggard Shaun Ryder and Perry exchanging entertainingly surreal lyrics, could almost be a great lost Leftfield tune, all slithering robofunk and heavy-heavy bass.


As Perry grew better known outside reggae circles from the ’90s onwards, he became increasingly viewed, and perhaps unwillingly so, as a comedy figure, a sort of perma-stoned dyed-beard Jamaican hippie–kook whose looks and behaviour drew more attention than his music (indeed, that has continued after his death: even his own PR team here seemingly gratuitously mention the producer’s “hallmark chaotic dress sense” and “notoriously eccentric” personality in the album’s accompanying blurb). While that persona might have granted Perry increased exposure, it also unfortunately often somewhat obscured what a sonic master craftsman he was. Thankfully, though, King Perry largely sets the record straight in that regard: the album consistently sounds incredible, equally joyous and brooding, gossamer and all-enveloping, all often simultaneously, a quality that more than excuses the occasional songwriting misstep. There’s little clowning, and much beauty – if this is to be Perry’s last work, it’s a fitting way to end.