Prince Buster

I Feel the Spirit

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Although Prince Buster's first U.K. single was released in 1961 by the Stateside label, it was the following year before his British career truly took flight, after the newly launched Bluebeat label (a subsidiary of the esoteric Melodisc combine) signed him to the first exclusive licensing arrangement ever launched between a Jamaican artist and a British label. They were rewarded with a solid stream of 45s that stretched through to the end of the decade, every one of them a major hit around the West Indian clubs that were springing up around the country. Still, it was an unusual step when they chose to combine a dozen Buster sides onto a single LP -- indeed, 1963's I Feel the Spirit is renowned today as the first ska album ever released outside of Jamaica, as well as standing as an excellent introduction into the fiery soul of Buster's earliest work. As much as any of his better-feted contemporaries (most notably Clement "Coxsone" Dodd and Duke Reid), Buster was crucial to the development of ska, his self-productions instigating both musical and cultural notions that remain current today, while also feeding countless generations of young admirers with the ammunition that would fire their own careers. Both the rollicking "Madness" and the self-laudatory "Shaking Up Orange Street" were staples in the early-'80s Two Tone movement, while the album's closer, "Soul of Africa," stands as one of the music's earliest declarations of cultural unity. "Time Longer Than Rope," meanwhile, is fondly recalled as one of Buster's earliest British successes, a harp-driven lope that catches the Prince in delightfully caustic mood.

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