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World Music CD Reviews Reggae & Caribbean

Various Artists

By Bruce Miller
Published March 20, 2007

Ska Bonanza: The Studio One Ska Years
Heartbeat

There have been more than a few recent reissues of vintage ska. Between the Soul Jazz and Heartbeat imprints, one would think the bases had all been covered. Though this two-CD set does repeat tracks such as The Wailers’ “Simmer Down” or Don Drummond’s “Man in the Street” for the umpteenth time, Ska Bonanza is two solid hours of tracks that made Studio One the foundation for every popular Jamaican music trend to emerge over the last forty odd years. To hear early sides by Jackie Opel and Ken Boothe is to witness the head of ska’s innovations popping out of the pupae of American R&B, jazz and even gospel. Also here are early tracks by future stars Rita Marley, Lee “Scratch” Perry, The Maytals and Alton Ellis. Nearly half a century later, ska’s stuttered pulse, jazz-laced horns and determined harmonies are still the hippest thing on the block.