Personnel: Lee "Scratch" Perry (percussion); Hughie Izachaar (guitar, harmonica, background vocals); Maija Vidovska (flute); Nemanja Kojic (horns); Daniel Boyle (keyboards, drums, percussion, background vocals); Horseman, Style Scott (drums); Claire Boyle, Christine Miller (background vocals).
Audio Mixers: Daniel Boyle; Lee "Scratch" Perry.
Recording information: Rolling Lion Studio, London, UK.
Photographer: Nick Caro.
The mythology surrounding eccentric dub producer Lee "Scratch" Perry grew in no small part out of his relatively short-lived and tragically fated Black Ark Studio. Active between 1973-1979, the studio was home to the creation of some of Perry's most legendary productions and the place where his experiments in audio alchemy took shape. An incredible amount of essential reggae tracks and untold amounts of dub mixes were set to tape at Black Ark before Perry allegedly burned the entire place down himself in the culmination of a long stretch of erratic, rum-fueled mania. Nearly 40 years after the strange and magical days of the Black Ark, Perry aimed to recapture some of that innovative spirit with Back on the Controls. Recording in a modernized London studio between 2011-2013, the producer sought to re-create the original chain of vintage effects, analog tape machines, and bizarre vibes of the Black Ark setup, working with session players on a set of decidedly '70s roots reggae tunes and their corresponding dubs. While the album doesn't quite come off as an exact replica of Perry's ganja smoke-saturated, echo-damaged '70s recordings, the sounds are surprisingly true to form, with the same bright sheen of lo-fi production and bottom-heavy bass and the same alien broadcasting quality to Scratch's on-the-fly dub mixes. In particular, "Blackboard Re-Vision," "Sound of Jamaica," and "Repent" call back to some of his best work from the Black Ark days, some moments bearing an uncannily similar feel to classic Perry-produced albums such as Max Romeo's War Ina Babylon and the Congos' masterpiece Heart of the Congos. ~ Fred Thomas