Various Artists

Ska Mania [Universal]

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Although Ska Mania isn't billed as the only ska album you'll ever need, it might as well be (as long as you steer clear of the Third Wave material, that is). There's an excellent balance between the original Jamaican sound and its later Two Tone offspring, with virtually every major artist represented, and even a stop along the way for a diversion into the Skinhead reggae of the late ‘60s with Symarip. Although Madness, the Beat, Selecter, and the Specials are here to show what Britain put forth in the late '70s (and that holds up surprisingly well, which is a testament to the enduring power of ska as a form as much as to the artists themselves), the choice material comes from the Caribbean. Anyone with an interest in the genre will have the majority of the tracks by names like Desmond Dekker, Toots & the Maytals, and Derrick Morgan already, but it's a pleasure to have a collection like this, all 54 tracks of it, in one place. The icing on the cake comes with some songs that aren't heard all that often, such as Ling Stitt's "Fire Corner" or the Valentines "Blam Blam Fever," which are well-worth resurrecting. While it's perhaps not an epic collection (music like this deserves a box set) it's a worthwhile one, especially at a budget price.

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