Ernest Ranglin

Ska Wey Dat

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Jamaican guitar legend Ernest Ranglin, one of the architects of both the ska and reggae sounds, and one of the island's most frequently-recorded session musicians, has actually been playing and recording for about 50 years now, and shows no signs of age whatsoever -- if anything, his playing has only gotten stronger as he has gotten older. This two-disc set of jazzy ska and reggae guitar showcases consists of the relatively slick and commercial-sounding E.B. @ Noon, which was originally issued in an extremely limited release in 1999, and is here reissued under the title Ska Wey Dat; the second disc is a previously unreleased live set from the 1998 Reggae on the River festival in California, on which Ranglin fronts Floyd Lloyd's Ska Band. The two discs could hardly be more different: the first is, if anything, a bit overproduced, threatening to turn Ranglin's muscular jazz-inflected ska sound into something dangerously close to smooth jazz on tracks like "Heaven Bound," and the aptly-titled but slightly saccharine "Beautiful." The live disc, on the other hand, is a rough-and-ready romp through old-school ska and reggae tunes like "Satta Massagana" (which is given an insightful and lovely instrumental treatment), and "The Whip." The vocal tracks featuring Floyd Lloyd are less compelling than those that make Ranglin's guitar a central feature, but all of them are lots of fun. Highly recommended overall.

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