The Skatalites, a ten-piece Jamaican ska outfit formed in the 1950's, are well known for popularising the ska genre in 1960's Jamaica and in the UK. (Try their 1964 release, Ska Authentic Vol 1
.) They worked alongside many other big-names in the ska scene such as Prince Buster, Desmond Dekker and The Wailers.
The Skatalites dis-banded in the late 60's and reformed during the 1980's when this album was recorded. It includes the majority of the original line-up and is entirely instrumental apart from the third track, Big Trombone (a dedication to Don Drummond, influential trombonist with the group who died in 1969).
Each track is set-up with an initial riff/melody. Different members of the outfit then take it in turns to improvise, using the riff/melody as their basis, before the group returns to the original theme.
The album is more sophisticated and mature than their early works which can be noted in the groups standard of instrumental playing, production and developed musical influences. Their ever-present ability to create catchy melody lines and a solid feel for rhythm, combined with their more sophisticated approach makes this album a winner for me. Every track is worthy of being on here and the music works on many levels.
If this is the first time you have dipped into ska music, if you want to explore what has happened to contemporary ska beyond 2-Tone/ 3rd wave or if you just want to try something new that is harmonically accessible, feel-good and slightly tongue-in cheek then this album is definitely worth having in your collection. A good follow-up listen is the bands 1998 release, Ball of Fire
, which is even more upbeat and provides some more advanced improvisational playing.