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World Music CD Reviews Reggae & Caribbean

INTENSIFIED! ORIGINAL SKA: 1962-1966

By Tom Pryor
Published September 8, 2005

Mango

If the Skatalites were the leading lights and driving force of the ska explosion, they were also just the tip of the iceberg; the best-known face of a genuine musical groundswell that enveloped the entire Jamaican music industry throughout the early ’60s. This hard-driving, irresistibly danceable collection, ably compiled by reggae historian Steve Barrow, showcases the impact of the Skatalites and their various spinoffs with a high-octane mix of original instrumentals and vocal tracks. “Official” Skatalites classics are well-represented here by scorchers such as “Lucky Seven,” “Dr. Kildare” and “Dick Tracy,” and saxman Roland Alphonso and trombonist Don Drummond each contribute “solo” cuts. But it’s the vocal tracks that really stand out here, from Rasta-inspired tracks such as the Vikings’ (a.k.a. the Maytals) “Six And Seven Books Of Moses” and Desmond Dekker’s absolutely rocking “Mount Zion,” to topical commentaries (Lord Brynner and the Sheiks’ “Congo War”) and nutty rave-ups (Sir Lord Comic’s “Great Wuga Wuga”). There’s a great continuity to this record, since most of the tracks were performed by the Skatalites and their different (re)incarnations, but the inclusion of the Ethiopians’ rocksteady classic “Train To Skaville” is a sly and inspired touch.