There are two kinds of people in the world: those who feel that listening to an 80-year-old ramble over a ham-fisted collection of beats is a waste of time, and those who feel that Lee 'Scratch' Perry is a mad genius and has earned the right to do whatever he pleases. If you’re in the former this is not the record for you; 'Scratch' delivers his usual brand on nonsensical mysticism over ‘Must Be Free’, this time accompanied by a more laptop-filtered approach with none of the organic warmth of old.
By essentially inventing how dub should sound and pushing it to its boundaries Lee 'Scratch' Perry and his Black Ark studio quite rightly earned legendary status and his continuing creatively and touring is a something to be admired - unlike this album unfortunately. No matter how much goodwill you may have toward the old sonic wizard ‘Must Be Free’ is quite simply a mess of influences and genres. While his live performances may be filled with the same loose improvisation they’re tethered by performing over dub and reggae standards with the man still owning a mischievous charm that can captivate. No luck here.
Despite (or maybe due to) featuring Subatomic Sound System, The Groovematist, and IAmPhloboi the album has more tonal shifts than a HP 2135 printer and is filled to the brim with Garageband’s pre-made beats. Second track ‘Rat Race’ buries Perry under raw dubstep before waves of blissed out noise appear to confuse, while later ‘Jungle Tongue’s lounge jazz approach is simply, utterly, bonkers. The titular number and closer has the best stab and some kind of musical cohesion, and - while nothing to write home about - it does provide sweet relief after the previous numbers. A passable bonus dub remix of track three ‘House Of Sin’ only confirms that this whole album was a folly. One for the fanatical only.
Words: Sam Walker-Smart
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