The Skatalites

Greetings from Skamania

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So you like vintage ska, with its galloping, proto-reggae backbeats, its massive horn sections, and its whanging, hip-shaking drum sound? You like the jazzy solos, the catch phrases shouted out at the end of each chorus, the ever-so-slightly out-of-tune guitar? Then you'll like the Skatalites, the Jamaican studio collective that perfected the big-band ska sound while backing some of the finest ska and rocksteady artists of the '60s. Every ten years or so a new, young generation catches on to the primordial hepness of ska, and the Skatalites get another 15 minutes or so of renewed cachet. When that happens, smart labels like Shanachie get them into the studio before they can start fighting amongst themselves and break up again. There aren't actually that many original members left -- trombonist Don Drummond is sorely missed, for example -- but legendary saxophonists Tommy McCook and Roland Alphonso are still going strong, as is drummer Lloyd Knibbs. This time out, they've brought along a few youngsters who, to their credit, have clearly done their homework and play solidly in the old-school tradition while bringing a fresh, energetic sound to the mix. Most of the tracks on this album are instrumentals, but some feature the fine (though not earth-shattering) vocals of Doreen Shaffer. Overall, this album is highly recommended -- next time you have friends over, put it on and watch them party like it's 1969.

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