A Look Back at The Skatalites Middle Period

Posted on May 3rd, 2008 by JJ Loy

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.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Comments (1) May 03 2008

Ska Online: Desirable DVDs Abound

Posted on March 27th, 2008 by JJ Loy

My last post pointed you to an upcoming Rocksteady documentary, but that is far from the only interesting documentary coming down the pike.  Here’s three other projects with accompanying trailers:

Legends of Ska: The Movie

This one looks to be a similar idea as the Rocksteady doc-  get all the heavy hitters from around the world, film a concert, record some music, and shoot some interviews.

(Either JavaScript is not active or you are using an old version of Adobe Flash Player. Please install the newest Flash Player.)

The Birth of Ska in Britain

Here we have a doc that will cover the migration of Jamaican music to the UK, featuring Duke Vin, Count Suckle, and Daddy Vego, to name a few.

(Either JavaScript is not active or you are using an old version of Adobe Flash Player. Please install the newest Flash Player.)

The Skatalites – Live in Sao Paulo

Here’s one I mentioned a few months ago.  Victor Rice and the folks at Radiola Records have put together a live presentation of this not-so-original line-up.  Release date is as soon as April 7.

(Either JavaScript is not active or you are using an old version of Adobe Flash Player. Please install the newest Flash Player.)

Comments (0) Mar 27 2008

Skatalites Article in MOJO Mag

Posted on February 24th, 2008 by JJ Loy

It’s well over a year old, but it’s news to me. This MOJO Magazine article covers the Skatalites from the Alpha Boys School up to their current legacy in JA. There’s even a special insert covering Don Drummond’s sad story, specifically.

It’s in PDF format and hosted by skatalites.comLink to PDF

Comments (0) Feb 24 2008

Take it or Leave it – Top 5′s of 2007

Posted on January 2nd, 2008 by JJ Loy

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

Comments (0) Jan 02 2008

Ska News To Me

Posted on December 13th, 2007 by JJ Loy

Here’s a quick rundown of a very busy week in the world of Ska:

After months without any new Slackers bootlegs, a new set hit the internet hit the internet like a cannonball. Recorded in Syracuse, NY on 11.15.07, the set has been dubbed Funk n’ Waffles, after the venue of the same name. I can attest to the live set’s quality, so feel safe clicking here for the .zip file, or here for the original post at Stubborn Records Forum.

Speaking of The Slackers, Dave Hillyard recently posted a very optomistic, State of the Scene-type blog post. What does he say? Ska is making a comeback. But you knew that. Link

This isn’t breaking news, but in light of Hillyard’s positive post, it serves proof of the scene’s recent strength. The popular series of Ska compilations, United Colors of Ska has just released their fourth installment, or 4.0. Much like my recent selections, the UCS folks have been using MySpace as the catalyst for finding new Ska music from around the world. Link

The Holidays are upon us (is Hanukkah really over, already?) and DC Ska is making it easy for you to find the perfect gifts for all the Ska Geeks on your list, with their handy Gift Guide. Link

Go Jimmy Go has gotten into the X-Mas mode, as well, giving us all the gift of a Holiday themed album, Holiday Hell Yeah. Link

Victor Rice is still bustin ass and maintaining his rep as the go to guy for all things Ska. Look for new recordings by Stingers ATX, Buford O’Sullivan, Chris Murray Combo, and Crazy Balhead (feat. Alex Desert, King Django, Steve Jackson, Bucket, and Vic Ruggiero) with Mr. Rice at the mixing board, next year. He’s also involved (to some degree) with a new Skatalites Live DVD.

It would seem that the rumors are sadly true, Lynette Knackstedt, founder and guitarist for Skankin’ Pickle died at the young age of 37. Here is the post where I found out. Here is Mike Parks personal blog post on the subject. And here is an odd turn of events effecting Lynette’s estate.

The other night, my roommate and all around cool guy, Jameson played about 6 Skankin Pickle songs for me and Dira at the 521A. We remarked at how long it had been since we played them. Jameson translated a few Korean lyrics for us. I commented at what a bad-ass guitarist the Pickle’s had. I would later learn that Lynette died sometime that evening. It was an eerie coincidence that my friends and I were missing Skankin Pickle while Knackstedt’s family was missing her.

Sources: DC Ska, Dancin Mood, Stubborn Forums, Asian Man Records, and Do the Dog Skazine

Comments (2) Dec 13 2007