Various Artists

Scandal Ska

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Not the soundtrack to the film Scandal, but including some of its numbers, Scandal Ska picks up where the movie left off, and bundles up an entire set's worth of songs from the Scandal era. The scandal itself was one of Europe's most infamous, bringing down the U.K. government when it was revealed that high-class hooker Christine Keeler was simultaneously servicing both the British Minister of War and a Soviet naval attaché. Trombonist Don Drummond's breezy "Scandal" in no way captures the high dudgeon of the times, but in a newly independent Jamaica, islanders could now airily dismiss such goings-on from their former overlords. Saxophonist Roland Alphonso's "Christine Keeler," in contrast, at least hints at the danger implicit in the situation, while King Edwards' vivacious "Russian Roulette" seems as clueless to the maelstrom about to erupt as was Minister Profumo himself. Skitter (aka Noel "Skully" Sims) couldn't care less about this scandal; he's got bigger worries on his mind, and addresses them directly to "Mr. Kruschev" on bended knees, begging the Soviet president not to drop the bomb. Today Sims' reputation rests on his phenomenal percussive skills, but his rip-rousing performance here proves his vocal talents were a match to his later talent. Skitter is just one of a clutch of singers showcased on this set who never garnered much international attention. The silky singer Lloyd Clarke unleashed hits right across the '60s, but is little more than a footnote abroad, while the fabulously debonair Basil Gabbidon had charm to spare and a slew of superb ska singles to his name, yet remains equally neglected. And that's what makes this collection such a treasure, allowing some of Jamaica's extremely talented but lesser-known lights to rub shoulders with their more renowned compatriots. Those include a very young and solo Bob Marley, teen star Jimmy Cliff, rude boy hero-to-be Desmond Dekker, young up-and-comer Cornel Campbell, and veteran star and Cuban expatriate Laurel Aitken. Most of these tracks have long been available on other compilations, but bundling up all these superb numbers onto one disc makes this set a standout.

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