Various Artists

Scratchy Sounds: Ska, Dub Roots & Reggae Nuggets

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Barry "DJ Scratchy" Myers is a name better known to punk club crawlers in the U.K. than to your average music fan. In the late '70s he was one of the premier punk DJs, supporting the Ramones and the Cramps and eventually serving two years as the tour DJ for the Clash. He was still at it 20 years later, serving the same part for Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros' U.S. tour. How he was able to get such choice gigs boils down to his eclectic ear as a selector, cherry-picking the best tunes, be it rock, soul, or reggae, and revealing them all to be of the same burning (and danceable) spirit. Jamaican music, specifically ska, reggae, and dub, make up a large part of his sets and Scratchy Sounds is a double-CD selection (43 tracks!) with some of Myers favorites. With so many collections sticking strictly to one style or producer, it's a fantastic thing to wander through Scratchy Sounds as it roams from ska innovations like C. Hyman's "Ska Rhythm" and Derrick Morgan's "Moon Hop" to a rarely heard extended version of Niney the Observer's reggae classic "Blood and Fire." The mysterious C. Hyman is just one of a large number of obscure artists who recorded fantastic tracks appearing on Scratchy Sounds. There's the Yabby U-flavored nyahbinghi cut "Seventy Two Nations" from Dadawah (an early incarnation of Ras Michael & the Sons of Negus), righteous toasting from Mr. Bojangles on "Ten Dread Commandments," and a less serious microphone attack from the DJ double team of Dennis Alcapone and Lizzy, who bring a bit of carefree R&B to "Ba Ba Ri Ba." Peppering the spirited ska and solemn roots cuts are some little-heard dubs like crooner Jackie Edwards' "Invasion Version" and Tapper Zukie, in a dubbing guise as the Musical Intimidator, taking on Errol Dunkley for "Stop Your Gun Shooting." Scratchy Sounds has the feel of a long-labored mixtape made for an old friend, and hopefully will lead to other collections helmed by Myers. Recommended.

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