The Skatalites

Stretching Out

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Sometime after the terrific U.K. ska revival exploded in Britain, led by the revered Specials, English Beat, Selecter, Bodysnatchers, Bad Manners, and (early) Madness, these 1963-1965 Jamaican founding fathers came back for a well-deserved bow. Reuniting eight out of their nine members (the other was deceased), with several flying in from the U.S. and England, the one and only good-time instrumental band, the Skatalites, returned in 1983 to the Kingston streets where they'd helped found the genre. Caught live at the Blue Monk Jazz Gallery during this brief reunion, ROIR's cassette-only release in 1986 was a happy pleasure. Now here 'tis on CD, with five songs from the same July 17, 1983, show added for good measure, necessitating two discs. This is how fans and historians like it: complete and lively. Pre-reggae Jamaican ska was much faster, peppier, and danceable, and the standard-issue, thrilling, clipped R&B horns ensured an upbeat flavor at all times. Additionally, with their lead-part jazz-styled horn solos anchored on the rocksteady groove and long, hypnotic, and festive jams, the Skatalites were and are guaranteed to spice up any blue mood, and "Freedom Sounds" and "Guns of Navarone" retain the original bounce and a smile that music can't often manage without pretense. A few more Skatalites have also sadly died, and another has retired after triple-bypass heart surgery, meaning 1983 was everyone's last chance for the original (making Stretching Out doubly documentary). However, music this positive, played this well, will never die.

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