Lee Scratch Perry's Vision Of Paradise Review

Jimmy Coultas sits back and absorbs the wonder of dub magician Lee Scratch Perry at a special screening in Fact, Liverpool.

Jimmy Coultas

Last updated: 8th Mar 2016.
Originally published: 4th Mar 2016

Image: Lee Scratch Perry

Music films have definitely got better over the years, both documentaries and biopics. One consistent theme in them has been the increasing enjoyability of them - particularly how the Hollywood infused NWA romp Straight Outta Compton didn't let historical inaccuracies get in the way of emphasising the yarn.

Whilst not being misleading about the truth, Lee Scratch Perry's Vision Of Paradise is similar in how much in thrall it is to the subject that powers it. It's a film that doesn't quite expand in too much detail on the depth of one of twentieth century music's most revolutionary voices, going more for a polemic which expands more on the myth and personality behind it all.

Which, if you're looking for an ultimately decisive analysis will leave you a little under-nourished. That aside, this is a thoroughly enjoyable expansion of a man who is, in no uncertain terms, completely batshit crazy. Perry is a considerably enigmatic presence and this film does more than enough justice to his otherworldly persona and the huge impact he has had on popular music in shaping reggae and dub - helping birth modern dance music in the process.

We're recounted key components of his history - his fabled Black Ark studio and it's subsequent burning down feature alongside his feud with Bob Marley - interspersed with his own insights alongside an esteemed conglomerate of talking heads that include Ashley Beedle, Can and Dub Syndicate.

Babylon and the Queen all get short shrift, whilst the connection of Jamaica to the motherland as part of the African Diaspora are all explored as we get a good introduction to what makes him tick. It's pretty well shot, and whilst the consistent appearance of a number of madcap animated characters seems a little bit weird at first, by the end of the film you're fully buying into them.

There's one exemplary scene however, the way Perry makes a killer intervention when collaborating with The Orb to add a hip hop bassline to the track; moments later the trio are performing some kind of off kilter spiritual exercise outside on logs. It sums up a brilliantly erratic hero, and a lovingly crafted film that encapsulates all that madness.

See upcoming Lee Scratch Perry shows.