Various Artists

Trojan Box Set: Ska Revival

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Entries in the Trojan Box Set series have bounced between "essential" and "purists only." Now Ska Revival comes along to screw it all up, greatly lowering the series' credibility. Despite the fact that none of the bands here were on Trojan proper, the label's influence on them was no doubt very heavy. The Specials and the Selecter were carrying on Trojan's spirit when the label wasn't, so maybe this collection isn't such a stretch after all. Bad news is that good old Receiver Records -- whose motto must be "Great Artists, Lesser Recordings" -- have gone back to their old ways and taken their latest acquisition, Trojan, down with them. The Specials, the Selecter, Bad Manners, and even the Special Beat tracks are live and often by later lineups of the bands. Worst of all, the limp Desmond Dekker tracks are from a poor 1995 team-up with what was left of the Specials. This could have been interesting and valid collection had all these tracks appeared in their original versions, not this hodgepodge of recordings that Receiver had already released on less prestigious compilations. The only thing the set has going for it is that it's the easiest -- and probably only -- way to hear the shambolic and rightfully forgotten Coventry Automatics.

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