A Look Back at The Skatalites Middle Period

Officially speaking, The Skatalites were only together from 1963 thru 1965. Since 1989, the surviving members have stayed together (to varying degrees) in response to their then growing worldwide audience. But the years between ’65 and ’89 weren’t completely Skatalites free. Here’s the scoop on The Skatalites’ middle period recordings.

In 1973, The Skatalites put aside their differences for at least on recording session at Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry’s Black Ark Studio. This session has been the basis for several records, all of which share duplicate tracks in various stages of remix. In a rare move by the founders, this session is not a ska set. Instead, they opted to prove that their proficiency in Roots Reggae is as unparalleled as the style they are famous for. Mittoo’s switch from piano to organ and harpsichord are a stand-out change of vibe for these releases.

Lloyd Brevett and The SkatalitesAfrican Roots – This record features the straight-ahead, unadulterated tracks from the Black Ark sessions.
The Skatalites meet King TubbyHeros of Reggae in Dub – The Black Ark tapes were quickly sent off to King Tubby for a Dub Version-ization.
The Skatalites meet King TubbyLegandary Skatalites in Dub – Same idea as above, and even has some of the same cuts, but this disc is packed with even more dub reworkings at the hands of King Tubby.

Ten years later (1983) found each living member of the original band being convinced that a full scale reunion would be worth the trip back to Jamaica. Reggae Sunsplash was the main impetus behind the reformation, but several great recordings were produced in the few days leading up to the big show. Not young men, anymore, but not quite the senior citizens they are today, these middle-aged Ska legends displayed huge amounts of mastery and energy.

Stretching Out – To prepare for the Sunsplash set, The Skatalites played a small club gig to shake off any rust that might have built up in the 18 year interim. Released from their previously strict recording session limitations, and allowed to “stretch out”, this live set proves that there was no little rust to shake off in the first place. (note: The Skatalites were never paid for this recording, feel free to bootleg it)
Rolling Steady – Recorded in ’83 but released just last year, this record features the band in Music Mountain Studios, playing mostly new and lesser known compositions. Even Lord Tanamo shows up to sing Big Trombone. Absolutely great stuff.
Return of the Big Guns – The official ’84 album represents this iteration of The Skatalites sound. Like Rolling Steady, many of the compositions are original to the record, not retreads of their 60′s classics.
Live at Reggae Sunsplash – This is the main event- the reason for the early 80′s reunion. The full time reunion would still be six years away, but this is the show that proved how vital and necessary The Skatalites were. This was when they took their place as the founders of Ska, Rocksteady and Reggae.

If anyone knows of any more recordings from their middle period, please alert me to them.

Update: on 05/07/08 castBot 8.6 created this podcast, using only AI and an ipod.

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1 Comment

  1. length Says:

    return of the big guns and that African roots are both stellar works from the Skatalites. African roots has got some great dub versions. Skatalites in dub is a personal fav dub album and is a good introduction not only to good dub but also to the skatlites delightful melodies.

    One other suggestion is Tommy McCook – Cookin’ Shuffle – which is also some great king tubby dub versions of tommy heavy material.



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