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World Music CD Reviews Reggae & Caribbean

SKATALITES

By Tom Pryor
Published September 8, 2005

Foundation Ska
Heartbeat

While the Skatalites’ original incarnation was incredibly brief, officially lasting as a group from only June 1964 until August 1965, their impact on the direction of Jamaican music is incredible. This excellent two-disc set of sides the group cut for Studio One attests to the Skatalites’ musical legacy with 32 tracks of hard-hitting, sweetly swinging classics and rarities. While major instrumental hits like “Eastern Standard Time” and “Scandal Ska” (both Don Drummond compositions) are well represented, and the generous assortment of tracks allows all the legendary soloists to shine, the real treats here are the almost-forgotten vocal tracks that showcase the various singers the Skatalites once backed. While Bob Marley makes an obligatory appearance with the Wailing Wailers on the well-known “Simmer Down,” more regular Skatalites collaborators Stranger Cole and Ken Boothe lend vocal sweetness to the lost gem “World’s Fair,” and the dynamic Jackie Opel voices “Old Rocking Chair” and “The Vow.” Though this comprehensive collection is far from the last word on the Skatalites, the excellent liner notes and thoughtful track selection make it a perfect place to start.