Various Artists

Latin Ska, Vol. 2

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Be aware that Moon Ska defines "Latin" very broadly on Latin Ska, Vol. 2. Latin here doesn't exclusively mean 2 Tone or Skatalitic ska sung in Spanish, ska with Latin flavors, or ska from one particular region, because the label casts the proverbial wide net geographically. Bands from Argentina, Venezuela, Texas, N.Y.C., Italy, Puerto Rico, Spain, and Spaniards in London are included on a disc that runs pretty much the full gamut of styles, recorded sound quality, and competence level. Some groups are just starting out and tentative, others mature and powerful, some promising enough to make you kinda wonder what happened to them...and some make you kinda wonder why they bothered in the first place. For the record, the nothing-you-haven't-heard-before contingent draws heavily on Madness (Persiana Jones from Italy, Los Pies Negros) and godfathers the Skatalites (Dr. Calypso, Skalariak). The roster of new approaches that may or may not have been worth coming up with is arty, Talking Heads-in-Texas do ska (Los Skarnales), English-language Cumbia with extra percussion (Maroon Town), and guitar-oriented Springsteen rock triumphalism with sax (Delicuencia Sonora). Thrash and roar guitar mixed with classic ska also pops up (Palmeras Kanibales, the Venezuelans-in-Maryland Fauna Crespucular), but Negu Gorriak is the best of them, with trombones and Fermin Muguruza's pit-bull snarl over racehorse guitars and a good, fluid solo that hits it slick and gets out quick. It's probably the single most convincing and original track, although the Malarians' chunky organ and horns and vocal interplay work well and the lilting, more rocksteady/reggae groove of Arpioni makes you want to learn Italian to find out what the male and female vocalists are singing. The label contact info is the only extra information, a serious oversight that severely limits the overall value of the disc, because Latin Ska, Vol. 2 isn't essential. None of these groups really became major artists, so it's best-suited to total ska fanatics or serious students of the global impact of Jamaican music styles over the years.

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