Desmond Dekker

Black and Dekker/Compass Point: The Complete Stiff Recordings 1980-1983

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Desmond Dekker was one of the first reggae stars to enjoy international success when his song "Israelites" became a Top Ten hit in America and Great Britain in 1969, and like many pioneering figures in ska, rocksteady, and reggae, he experienced a significant career boost in the early '80s when the Specials and the 2-Tone scene revived interest in the first era of Jamaican ska. The pioneering British indie label Stiff Records signed Dekker to a new deal, and he cut two albums for the company, which are included in full on this two-fer release. 1980's Black and Dekker features Dekker accompanied by Graham Parker's backing combo the Rumour and young ska upstarts the Akrylykz (featuring a pre-Fine Young Cannibals Roland Gift), and the album finds him re-cutting several of his old hits (including "Israelites") as well as a few other ska and reggae perennials; most of the tracks don't hold a candle to the originals, but Dekker is in fine voice and the taut ska grooves make this a fun set suitable for dancing, if not an essential Dekker title. For 1983's Compass Point, Dekker went into the studio with famous fan Robert Palmer as producer, and the results had a lot more to do with contemporary pop and reggae sounds than the ska and rocksteady rhythms that were his trademark. Dekker's singing is just fine, but the songs are mostly lackluster (with the exception of "Book of Rules"), and the backing tracks, dominated by synthesizers and drum machines, make this album sound dated in a way Dekker's '60s recordings are not. Since Black and Dekker is out of print on its own, Dekker fans might want to pick up The Complete Stiff Recordings to have it in their collection, but don't be surprised if you don't play the Compass Point portion of the program especially often.

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