Various Artists

Ska-lternative

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Ska-lternative was part of WestSide Records' raid on the vaults of Top Deck Records, whose library of 1960s sessions yielded a good dozen CDs worth of rarities -- indeed, officially this disc is also designated "Top Sounds From Top Deck, Vol. 6." It includes alternate takes of tracks from Roland Alphonso ("Because of You"), the Deacons ("Man Alone"), Johnny Moore ("Yogi Man"), Lyn Taitt ("Ska-Ta-Shot"), and the Angelic Brothers ("My Sunshine"). There are points of key interest from the kick-off, a Roland Alphonso instrumental romp through Ray Bryant's 1963 Sue Records side "Shake a Lady," titled "VC10" -- the latter was also among the relative handful ofTop Deck 45s to see release in England (where it appeared on the Doctor Bird label). The most interesting piece here is "Tough Talk" by the Skatalites in its first take, a ska-style effort that was supplanted by a funkier rendition that was actually used (and which was closer to the Crusaders' own approach to the original). But most of the outtakes are different in degree and nuance, rather than style -- that makes this collection perfect for reggae collectors out there who know these sides and their more familiar renditions, or appreciate the sheer rarity of many of them. But it's nowhere near any kind of choice for beginners, unless they're planning a deep immersion in the field down the road. The sound can also be slightly rough, the digitized audio bringing out elements of the recording that were never relevant to playback in the '60s, but there's nothing too jarring in that regard.

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