The Upsetters – Super Ape
A couple of days ago I posted an Alice Coltrane CD that I got turned on to through a list of Top 10 Albums To Get High To which was created by Youth (getting high isn’t my thing but when this guy speaks I listen). Youth is the bassist of Killing Joke, producer of albums by Peter Murphy and Echo And The Bunnymen, remixer of songs by Depeche Mode and U2 and co-founder of the WAU! Mr. Modo record label (just to name a few of his accomplishments, can you tell I admire the hell out of this man?). I was struck by the fact that I only owned half of the albums on the list, so in true In The Mail Today style, I fixed part of that problem by ordering Super Ape by The Upsetters.
The Upsetters were the in-house studio band for legendary musical pioneer, performer and producer Lee “Scratch” Perry. Over almost a decade this revolving door lineup group released around a dozen albums under the guidance and production of Perry. The Upsetters as a band, along with Perry as a producer are reggae giants and dub music founders. Many of the Upsetters band members came from Gladdy’s All Star Band and some departed to join Bob Marley And The Wailers. This is an impressive list of genre developers and style creators. I am very familiar with much of Lee Scratch Perry’s later dub work and love his collaborations with The Orb (as The Orbserver), Bill Laswell, The Mad Professor and Adrian Sherwood. I already had a number of those CDs but owned nothing by The Upsetters and boy was I in for a treat.
Super Ape was released in the summer of 1976, towards the end of the first wave of dub’s popularity, which had begun in the early ’70s. Looking back on the album from today’s perspective some of the tracks feel less heavily dub and more straight reggae with extended echo on the vocal. But others have a fantastic classic long wash of reverb with tons of focus on sweet heavy walking bass lines. The opening track Zion’s Blood and the female fronted song Underground have astounding slow dub melodies filled with spaced-out delay creating perfect head-bobbing rhythms. The current release of Super Ape is an expanded edition that includes 3 extra songs that are not even printed on the track listing or mentioned anywhere in the packaging. The horns on these additional gems are much brighter and more pronounced in the mix than on the other tracks and provide a nice variation. Thanks again to Martin Glover for wising me up to da riddim of The Upsetters!