Various Artists

Ska Island

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Island Records celebrated its 40th anniversary in style with a number of label compilations, but this CD was of special interest, as it features all new recordings from veteran Jamaican heroes and Third Wave movers and shakers. The most surprising entry comes from the biggest star of them all, Prince Buster, who offers up not of his own multitude of hits, but one of Jimmy Cliff's: "King of Kings." The song was written about the battles between Coxsonne Dodd and Duke Reid, but there's no doubt who the real king is. The prince is accompanied by the Skatalites, who also back the wonderful Doreen Shaffer and offer up one of their own instrumentals. The Skatalites were a major influence on the U.S. scene, particularly among such hybrid groups as Fishbone and Jump With Joey. Both are showcased here, with the latter joined by Jamaica's guitar legend Ernest Ranglin. In the U.K., the arrival of Rico Rodriguez helped kickstart the British ska scene back in the early '60s and he has remained an integral player ever since. Here he's joined by Freetown, a British Third Wave band. The group also backs the great Laurel Aitken, another early emigrant to England and a vocalist second to none. Of course ska's influence didn't end at Britain's shores, but spread around the world, and the album features fine cuts from both modern German and Japanese bands. A pair of American trad bands who were heavily influenced by rocksteady also take a walk on ska's wild side with much success. Intriguingly, the Trojans see the set out with a cover of the Spenser Davis Group's "Keep on Running." Ironically enough, it was that single's success that heralded Island's shift out of Jamaican music and into homegrown rock. It was splendid while it lasted, though.

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