The Heptones “Road Of Life”

This tune is from The Heptones’ album ‘Party Time,” which was produced by Lee “Scratch” Perry and recorded at the Black Ark in 1977.  This is Lee Perry’s best album from this period which saw just about every Jamaican artist with a voice pass through his studio door at the Ark, which was located behind his family’s home in the Washington Gardens neighborhood of Kingston, Jamaica.  Perry is the greatest living music producer, period.  He may be the best ever.  What he did with the very little he had in that bunker studio baffled his contemporaries and continues to be a source of amazement to music producers and musicians today.

Party Time was recorded during Black Ark’s peak period. Party Time also included remakes of Studio One tunes, including Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released”, along with newer compositions such as “Sufferers’ Time”. In the same era, they released a number of 12″ singles with Lee Perry, such as “Mystery Babylon”, “Mr. President” (featuring DJ Jah Lloyd) and “Babylon’s Falling”.

This album is full of hope and optimism, more so than anything else Perry produced during the period.  You cannot listen to this album without feeling it in your gut, in your heart, and in your soul.  Reggae music, especially the music of the Black Ark, was at a creative high that would continue until Perry has a mental break with reality in 1979.  Perry, armed with a magic marker, covered every available surface of the Black Ark with impenetrable writings before allegedly burning it to the ground. This event, with the loss of the studio’s unique sound and a hiatus in Perry’s extraordinary creative skills, effectively ended the “golden age of reggae.”

So, for me, this tune, and the album as a whole is bittersweet.  However, the power of the music ultimately overcomes and you’re just thankful to be living in the same time as Lee “Scratch” Perry.

This tune embodies the vibe of the album, hope and optimism.

“We can make it if we try,
We can make it if we try
with a little more love…my brother”

leeperry

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Lee Perry w/ the Heptones, Black Ark, 1977 (photo: David Burnett)

One thought on “The Heptones “Road Of Life”

  1. I concur that Party Time is Perry’s & The Heptones apogee. Other works may gain more attention but through & through this is a Black Ark lp at its very best. Good call Raver!

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