Various Artists

This Are Moon Ska, Vol. 2

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Like many artist labels, Moon Ska Records had been launched in desperation, a last ditch effort for the Toasters to insure that their music would reach the masses. From its precarious beginnings in 1983, Moon Ska would slowly wax from being a band outlet to becoming the largest ska-dedicated label in the States. When label head and Toasters' frontman Rob Hingley first decided to expand Moon Ska beyond his own group, he initially looked to his own Big Apple backyard for bands. A Toasters' West Coast outing expanded the label's horizons, further broadened by world tours. By the second half of the '90s, the world was quite literally Moon Ska's oyster, as the label struck distribution deals with a clutch of foreign bands and the German ska label Pork Pie, then introduced American fans to ska scenes from across the globe via a series of comps dedicated to Japanese bands, Australian groups, and Latin practitioners. Meanwhile, so prolific had the U.S. scene become, that Moon Ska, unable to sign every deserving band, began unleashing a series of two-CD compilations of worthy contenders for their attention. Growing by leaps and bounds, in 1997 Moon Ska celebrated their success with a second volume of the This Are Moon Ska! series, showcasing 22 of their artists, including the Toasters, of course, who kick off the set. Although the label had mostly steered clear of ska-core, Moon Ska still featured a wide ska spectrum, ranging from the traditional, across jazzy fusions, into rocksteady, and out into Two Tone territory, finishing with a flourish at the poppier end of the scale, while a number of their bands brought a distinctly Latin flavor to the proceedings. Fans may argue about the specific song chosen to represent their fave band, but regardless, there isn't a less-than-excellent track to be found here, with each group lime-lit to their best. A label sampler flies or flops on the caliber of its stable, and Moon Ska had the best one in the States, a truth this compilation drives home. The label would eventually be undone by its own success, but this album is a testimony to all they had to offer, and a reflection of just how spectacular the American ska scene was at its height. A true monument to the mighty Moon Ska and its stellar artists.