Take it or Leave it – Top 5′s of 2007

In case you haven’t noticed, we are now living in a New Year. It’s a time to reflect on the year before, a time to ask, “what were the best Ska and Reggae albums of the past 12 months?” More importantly, it’s a time where I answer that very question, in the form of various Top 5 lists.

Top Ska Albums

  1. The Pietasters – All Day I hesitate to call this a Ska album since it is largely Reggae with a fair share of Rock n’ Roll and Garage mixed into the track list. But the Pietasters will always be a Ska band at heart, and this album is their best yet.
  2. The Pepperpots – Shake It! I’d really like to hear the Pepperpots get a bit rawer. Shake It! is fantastic all over, although sterile at times. These girls are onto something.
  3. The Skatalites – On the Right Track I’ve reviewed this album previously, so to make a long story short: It’s far from the original line-up, but this album delivers new songs in the quintessential, straight forward Ska that you would expect.
  4. Kingston Kitchen – Today’s Special Not a full album, but Dr. Ring Ding fronts this Jazzy outfit through 6 tracks that push the stylistic boundaries of Ska-Jazz.
  5. Deals Gone Bad – The Ramblers These guys seem poised to be major players in the Ska scene. This album, once started, has a tendency to play all the way through. The soulful vocals and jazzy solos keep my fingers off of the skip button. But don’t rest on your laurels yet DGB, with power comes responsibility.

Top Dub Albums

  1. The Drastics – Waiting Easily my most played album of last year, and I haven’t had it for very long. Their brand of Dub is heavy and multifaceted, but never a nuisance. It’s mellow enough to be background music, but experimental enough to pay attention too. It is perfect Dub.
  2. Crazy Baldhead – Has a Posse Agent Jay has a very home made approach to Dub, and his recording aesthetic directly effects the end product. Warm and analog- very Version City.
  3. Ticklah – Ticklah vs Axelrod Brilliant Ska and Jazz Dubs in the style of Victor Rice. Rice is, in fact, on about half of the tracks. However, unlike In America, TvA has vocal tracks by a handful of musicians, while Rice tends to play straight instrumentals. I predict big things for Ticklah in the coming years.
  4. The Eternals – Heavy International This is not the mellow Dub Reggae that you used to see in the genre, this is noisy- circus style syncopation with mind warping effects, urban poetry and unsteady beats. The Eternals aggression has not fallen on deaf ears.
  5. Unnamed – The Good, The Bad and The Queen Damon Albarn now has side projects to his side projects. Blur and The Gorillaz front man, teamed up with the Clash’s Paul Simonon and Danger Mouse. Not a Dub album, and certainly not a Reggae album, GBQ is slow tempo Rock with moody Dub elements that make it worth mentioning here.

Top Early/Skinhead Reggae

  1. The Aggrolites – Reggae Hit LA My downstairs neighbor must hate it when I play this disc, because nothing gets my feet going like The Aggrolites.
  2. Tim Armstrong – Life of a Poet This record, backed by The Aggrolites is like a night out with the band and Armstrong, themselves. The tempo is steady and the drop is Skinhead, but there’s a Punky- sometimes Clubby sound to Life of a Poet.
  3. Green Room Rockers – Hoosier Homegrown These guys seemed to pop up out of nowhere, and now they’re winning over audiences on the East Coast. There is room for them to grow still, but a very impressive first album.
  • I have to give Honorable Mention to a few other bands who had Early-Style Reggae offerings from 2006, but didn’t become easily available (to me) until this last year. The Upsessions and The Caroloregians both released records that would have rivaled The Aggrolites for the top spot. I hope that in ’08 I will hear more from both bands.

Favorite Tracks

  1. Dr. Ring-Ding and Vic Ruggiero – What it Takes
  2. Tim Armstrong – Inner City Violence
  3. The Slackers – Mind Your Own Business
  4. The Pietasters – G to F
  5. Bedoin Soundclash – Nico on the Night Train

Albums Worth Mentioning

Some of these listed here are being noted for being torch carriers in other revivalist genres; and some for adeptly mixing various traditional sounds. It’s this that I look for in music, Jamaican influenced or not.

  1. Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings – 100 Days 100 Nights
  2. Antibalas – Security EP
  3. Beastie Boys – The Mix Up
  4. Manu Chao – La Radiolina
  5. Ozomatli – Don’t Mess with the Dragon

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