The Skatalites

Phoenix City: A History of the World's Greatest Ska

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So just how productive were the Skatalites? Well, this collection features 54 cuts, nearly all of which the group (in various combinations) recorded between 1963 and 1965, and by the admission of Mike Atherton's liner notes, it isn't even close to being complete. Ridiculously prolific, the Skatalites were also remarkably consistent -- a spin through Phoenix City: A History of the World's Greatest Ska Band (which focuses on music the Skatalites cut for producer Duke Reid, though a few stray Leslie Kong and Coxson Dodd cuts are thrown in for good measure) confirms that these musicians held the good grove in the palm of their mighty hands, and apparently never thought of letting go. While the "chugga-chugga" ska beat propels everything here (and drummer Lloyd Knibb and bassist Lloyd Brevett are one indefatigable rhythm section), it's the relaxed but confident horn work from trombonist Don Drummond, Tommy McCook and Roland Alphonso on tenor sax, and Lester Sterling on trumpet that really makes this stuff such a joy to hear. Like the jazz cats they were at heart, the horn players locked down the melody but also showed a witty and clever sense of aural invention, often quoting classic pop tunes and weaving their way in and around the tunes in their solos with the uptown grace of a rude boy on roller skates. Disc one of Phoenix City is primarily devoted to earlier material and cuts which allowed the musicians a greater chance to blow, while disc two picks up the tempo and offers more potent dancefloor burners (especially the gloriously eccentric cuts they released under the billing of Oswald "Baba" Brooks, such as "Nuclear Weapon," "Vitamin A," and "Teenage Ska"). With a group who cranked out so much material so consistently strong, it's difficult to declare anything a "definitive" Skatalites collection, but along with the excellent Foundation Ska, Phoenix City: A History of the World's Greatest Ska Band captures the group doing what they do best at the height of their powers, and if you have a taste for original Jamaican ska, you'll find this set to be pure pleasure from beginning to end.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 3:43
2 3:14
3 2:32 Amazon
4 2:24
5 3:13
6
feat: Tommy McCook
2:59
7 2:52
8 3:02
9
3:01
10 2:31
11
2:57
12
feat: Don Drummond
3:16
13 3:25
14
feat: Baba Brooks
3:06
15
feat: Don Drummond
3:13
16 2:54
17 2:21
18
feat: Don Drummond
4:01
19
feat: Tommy McCook
3:07
20
feat: Don Drummond
3:02
21 2:47
22 2:30
23
feat: Don Drummond
3:05
24 2:55
25 2:55
26 3:01
27 3:11

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1
feat: Don Drummond
3:01
2
feat: Tommy McCook
3:12
3 2:48
4
feat: Don Drummond
2:55
5 3:03
6
feat: Don Drummond
2:07
7 3:03
8
feat: Don Drummond
2:51
9 2:29
10 2:34
11
feat: Don Drummond
2:54
12
feat: Don Drummond
3:01
13 2:56
14
feat: Don Drummond
3:13
15
feat: Baba Brooks
2:31
16
2:35
17
feat: Baba Brooks
2:52
18
feat: Baba Brooks
2:50
19 2:54
20
feat: Don Drummond
2:45
21
feat: Baba Brooks
2:53
22
feat: Baba Brooks
2:40
23
2:51
24
2:59
25
feat: Tommy McCook
2:44
26
feat: Tommy McCook
2:41
27 3:02
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