With a thunderous crash and indecipherable ramblings, Lee "Scratch" Perry, the mad scientist, returns. The iconic producer, who was responsible for many of reggae's most important releases, as well as a few Clash cuts, releases Alive, More Than Ever, the live companion to his 2005 album, Panic in Babylon. As Perry traverses and mutates through the hour-long set, he melds the old and the new, re-writes history, and proclaims statements that are either profound, unfounded, or both.
Of the 14 songs featured from the concert, Perry fills 10 slots with tunes from the critically popular Babylon in order to experiment with these songs on stage. The septuagenarian injects the studio cuts with pulsating energy, elevating them from detached decrees to jumping indictments. When the band breaks into stride on "Rastafari" after building steam for four songs, Perry reaches through the speakers and slams your ear to the amplifier, channeling his essence through your veins. While it is easy to drift away during the longer, slower tempo songs, this makes the following songs snap you back into the concert with that much more force.
While he strides into the future of reggae, Perry is sure to pack some old staples with him, and thereby re-forges them in the twenty-first century. Longtime fan favorite "Roastfish and Cornbread" is given a new chorus that is so distorted and bent that it almost drives one insane with its harmonics. Perry covers the song he co-penned with Max Romeo, "Chase the Devil," but unlike Romeo, not only chases the devil, but declares himself "a holy rebel of the highest level." The real treat of the old classics comes when Perry mixes "Voodoo" off his new album with the crossover gem "Punky Reggae Party" which, along with "Police and Thieves," was responsible for recognizing and showing the similarities between punk and reggae culture. In the intro to the blend, Perry boasts that "I wrote 'Punky Reggae Party,' NOT Bob Marley," and after the song is over and his mastery of reggae is bore witness, one is inclined to believe him.
On the disc, Perry is backed by the WhiteBellyRats, a Swiss reggae group. Composed of four members, the group does an excellent job of interpreting Perry's songs live and showing that a person doesn't have to be Jamaican to play great reggae. However, since the Swiss band has a limited number of members, the horns of which Perry is so fond of must be synthesized through a keyboard. Were these instruments played live, Perry would have had even more fuel to power aura.
Despite the disc's excellent musical selection, the packing suggests that the album is a member of the large ranks of semi-legitimate Perry recordings. Without any information of the concert or liner notes, the booklet simply states the track list and has a few pictures of varying quality. Bonus points, however, to the label that produced the album for achieving a superb sound quality that surpasses that of most major label live releases.
Midway through the concert, Perry re-asserts his Rastafarian faith by stating that Emperor Haile Selassie never died, but ascended to a higher plane of existence. After issuing killer live versions of his new material and re-interpreting his concert staples, it becomes apparent that Lee "Scratch" Perry has been doing the same thing for the last fifty years.
[For those of you interested in more live Lee "Scratch" Perry recordings after giving this album a spin, try out Live in Maritime Hall which is almost as good as Alive, More Than Ever and features the most violent version of "I Shot the Sheriff" you'll ever hear.]