Desmond Dekker

Rude Boy Ska

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Now this is what Desmond Dekker fans want: a straightforward hits collection, spread across two CDs, and presented in the order they were released. The set kicks off where it should, at the very beginning, with Dekker's debut single, 1963's "Honour Your Father and Mother" -- in hindsight, a surprising offering from an artist who in a few years would become the doyen of the rude boys. But having lost his own parents in his teens, Dekker's counsel to children to obey their own resonated with Jamaicans, as did its steaming ska backing, and it swiftly topped the chart. "Parents" turned the tables, and coached adults to love their children. But it was 1964's boastful "King of Ska" that reverberated with his peers, setting the stage for a deluge of timely tunes that defined much of the '60s. The ska king promptly found his retinue, the Four Aces, whose vibrant harmonies remained integral to his success through the remainder of the decade. With "007 (Shanty Town)," the quintet rode rocksteady right up the U.K. charts to number 15, and a slew of classics cut in this genre followed. "Rude Boy Train," "It Pays," "Unity" -- each single was more glorious than the last and all were massive hits in Jamaica, and although none charted in the U.K., the band's standing among the mods and Britain's West Indian community was unbeatable. Dekker was penning all the group's hits, and in 1968 he was rewarded when his "Intensified Festival" (aka "Music Like Dirt") won the prestigious Independence Song Festival Competition. It was the first of a flood of reggae hits, but it was the following year's "Israelites" that finally brought the quintet the international success it deserved. Throughout these years, Dekker remained loyally by the side of producer Leslie Kong. When Kong, not yet 40, was felled by a fatal heart attack in 1971, Dekker was left bereft, and never really found his early spark again, although he would eventually continue to score sporadic hits at home and abroad later in the decade. However, Rude Boy Ska ends before that, drawing exclusively from the Kong era. With an informative booklet and a budget price, this is one of the best compilations around.

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