Various Artists

Original Ska: 20 Accelerating Skinhead Classics

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While the vintage of this music is undeniable (it is indeed a selection of authentic early reggae from the island of Jamaica), whether these sides are of the classic status the title proclaims is another story. Original Ska: 20 Accelerated Skinhead Classics is rather a grab bag assortment of love songs, instrumental numbers, odes to the dance, obscure cuts from genuine reggae stars, and unearthed sides from unknown figures. There are some prominent names in attendance, including Derrick Morgan, Bob Marley & the Wailers, DJ Dennis Alcapone, and producer Joe Gibbs, though you'll have to look elsewhere for their canonized hits. The set does get off on the right foot with "DJ's Choice," a vibrant toast from Alcapone that name-checks U-Roy, I-Roy, Big Youth, and others of his trade. It's followed by a fierce vocal from Morgan on "Night at the Hop." Only a handful of cuts directly reference the skinhead craze that captured the imagination of many a youth during the ska and rocksteady phases. The most direct of these are the Pioneers' "Reggae Fever," which attempts to brand the new sensation with a stamp of positivity and mystique and the Wailers' disapproving "Hooligan." These cuts, a pair of excellent instrumentals by the Joe Gibbs and Ansel Collins All Stars ("Hijacked" and "Bigger Boss," respectively) and "Lead Them," a fine cut from little known Desmond Riley, comprise the highlights of the set. Unfortunately the Gaylettes take on Dusty Springfield's "Son of a Preacher Man," E.K. Bunch's ode to the "Banana," and the bizarre cheerleading of the Bovyer Boys' "A.G.G.R.O." aren't quite as notable and a portion of the material is marred by distortion. Original Ska then, is a mixed blessing for fans of the music and a poor introduction for the uninitiated.

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