On their third long-player, Float Like a Butterfly, London-based group Pama International take a vastly different approach to their genre than the endless pop-punky regenerations of ska found in the U.S., infusing their classicist-leaning ska, reggae, and roots-dub with deep soul intonations and a whole lot of Britpop swagger. The group contains a bunch of well-heeled vets, including songwriter/keyboardist Sean Flowerdew, who started out with U.K. ska band the Loafers in the late '80s before moving on to 2 Tone revivalists Special Beat. Pama International also consist of former Loafers singer Finny, as well as onetime Specials guitarist Lynval Golding, former Paul Weller bassist Ernie McKone, and drummer Fuzz Townshend (Bentley Rhythm Ace and Pop Will Eat Itself). Madness sax player Lee Thompson also shows up on this LP. Prior to this effort the group found some success with the single "Truly Madly Deeply," which made it into the stylishly hallmark Brit film Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels. But this is their most cohesive overall album to date. The title track echoes classic '60s ska (with the Britpop lyrical twist "The kids, the kids are not alright"), while "I Found Sunshine" is a beautiful Northern soul/ska collision. The group also displays its soulfulness on a pretty ska adaptation of the Righteous Brothers' "Soul and Inspiration." Golden-throated warbler Finny (who comes off like a white, English Jimmy Cliff) is the not-so-secret weapon here, adding richly striking emotional shades to Flowerdew's tunes. This album, which is rounded out by four live tunes (including the Pama calling card "Truly Madly Deeply"), is for fans of soulful, classic ska -- not the teen-punky strain that wound its way into pop music culture in the '90s.
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AllMusic Review by Erik Hage