LEE PERRY Roast Fish Collie Weed & Corn Bread (VP)

This 1978 album is a weird, discordant effort, made more so because my copy appears to have been mastered with varying degrees of undulating wow built into it, making it difficult to determine whether Perry’s off-key vocals on “Soul Fire” are intentional or accidental. The basic tracks sound murky in the extreme, but the steampunk dub effects, all fizz and hiss, piled on top of them have a surprising relative clarity.  

What surprises me most are the comparatively rooted socially conscious lyrics, especially given the tomfoolery that reputation suggests surrounds the man and his music. (The first Perry album to be sung entirely by the man himself, his label Island rejected the album.) “Throw Some Water In” counsels on the importance of car, body and horticultural maintenance, and “Evil Tongues” confronts intrusive gossips and backstabbers. “Ghetto Sidewalks” implores that taxes are spent on street lighting in the ghetto, and “Favorite Dish” considers the benefits of a good square meal (albeit one finished off with collie weed, natch), somewhat disturbingly set to what sounds like a baby crying and a cow lowing.

The current vinyl issue of “Roast Fish Collie Weed & Corn Bread” is as slapdash in packaging and pressing as much other non-domestic reggae releases I’ve encountered, but on the plus side it’s extraordinarily cheap.