Various Artists

Ska: The Album

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Here's another scintillating batch of ska, picking up precisely where Cult Records' earlier collection, License to Ska, left off. Of the 14 bands within, a number are repeat offenders, but not necessarily brought back by popular demand. Thus, listeners get another wretched live recording of the Special Beat, and really, is there anyone on the scene who prefers the jungle-ish "Rad Mix" of the Selecter's "On My Radio" to the original? Not really. Buster Bloodvessel returns as well, this time fronting not Bad Manners but the equally entertaining Buster All Stars. And best of all, there's Judge Dread, with another song off his German-only Reggae and Ska album. "One Eyed Lodger" was written for Madness, and the magistrate gives it the perfect Nutty Boy treatment. Much goofier than that is King Hammond, who do the shuffle but still can't out-cheese the true Hammond king, Ansel Collins. Mark Foggo's Skasters are celebrating the skank, while Off the Shelf are just looking to have some fun. The Pork Hunts are off prowling for a "Woman," and this breezy number led by their exuberant trumpeter should bring her running. The Riffs have already found their's, courtesy of a "Blind Date," and wish they hadn't. A feeling shared by Skandal, whose woman is driving them to drink, while woman trouble may explain why Mr. Review are off to "Another Town." In contrast, the Loafers are in love, and to prove it offer up the exquisitely atmospheric "It's So Easy." But to gain real insight into relationships, the Hot Knives introduce listeners to "Dave & Mary," a very Jam-esque slice-of-life vignette that's beautifully written and incandescently delivered. Which just leaves Maroon Town, always a band apart. "Pound to the Dollar" is a nigh-on perfect blend of reggae-fied beats, rocksteady melody, and cultural rap. An inspired sound, delivered with aplomb and coupled with an economic message, this is a song that doesn't just cross genres but generations. Overall, a great set that proves the sheer diversity of sound and inspirations of the Two-Tone and third wave.