Arthur Kay & The Originals – Ska Wars: 1979-1999 (Skavalon UK)
To me, Arthur Kay represents all the untold story of British ska, more specifically the 2Tone era. Ska Wars is exactly what it says, the twenty years retrospective of Kitchener’s career through several cult hits, name and membership changes, not to mention his own battle with drink. (Each lineup denoted by roman numerals) Kay grew up as an original “absolute beginner” or late '50s mod, and sang about said streetcred in his song Play My Record in 1980. A fairly thorough culling of their compilation tracks (ie: stuff on Link Records’ V/A Ska Wars 4 disc box), some cuts off mid-90s albums (Count of Clerkenwell + Live in Berlin both newly repackaged as a 2CD) and more recent singles. You might know The Originals as the band backing the late great Judge Dread when he died onstage in Canterbury 3-13-98, so included is the Judge doing Skinhead Moonstomp which is kinda eerie. Night Train to Lhasa benefitted the Free Tibet campaign in 1999. All in all, a one-stop disc of the favorites and not too much past. My main complaint is that Sooty is a Rudie, New Leader and South London Boy are all missing off it! Kay pays tribute to his childhood idol Dion in ‘Last of the one named Singers’ – a song which appeared on T-Leaf’s Full English Breakfast (1998, before they went bankrupt) yet its rare version, football anthem ‘Best of the Non-League heroes’ off the Down To Margate F.C. sampler remains missing in action. I’ve been waiting years for AK to do this together on his own Skavalon label; now if it was easier to obtain in the USA thru Cargo distribution. Thanks to MJC in Charlotte, NC for her trouble. Duration 69:18 SKAVALON RECORDS PO BOX 161, HERNE BAY, KENT, UK CT6 8ZT
*Previously appeared on Sweden’s

Rude Boys – Ska Fever: Original Skinhead Reggae 1988-89 (DSS)
Rude boy shuffle! I dug their “Ska Fever” enough on the final Skankin' Round the World (#5) sampler from Unicorn/ Dojo. Take title with a grain of salt, as its not exactly original skinhead reggae in the late sixties Pama Trojan sense of the term. However, the complete discography 9 song CD from late eighties scene, the band led by SHARP skin UK founder Roddy Moreno (first of oi heroes Oppressed fame). Likewise, in this outfit his brothers Dom and Adrian help out on bass and drum duties as well. Reissued in 2000, but nothing too groundbreaking or super cutting edge; it’s dank pub-styled ska with saxophone out of Wales. Think Loafers. Obviously to some this half hour could be called boring, but includes a welcome rendition the Aitken standard Hey Bartender (as Germany’s Busters did that very same year). Mainly of note, the opener Rockin’ at Gingers and a demo version of Drugwar – reminding us of then-current event Manuel Noriega eluding capture. Others like Bluebeat Baby or Rudegirl can get quite repetitive. Duration 33:23 Available in USA thru Cargo distribution. For a slab of Cardiff’s self-proclaimed finest, write send $10 US concealed to Michael at DSS RECORDS, PO Box 739 4021 Linz, Austria.
*Previously appeared on Sweden’s

Various Artists – Knockout Ska (Treasure Isle / Heartbeat 2001)
Dem call it ska, but to paraphrase L.L. Cool J, mama said knock you out. From the vaults of Duke Reid studio comes twenty more golden oldie 1960-66 era cuts still standing. Reid’s Treasure Isle label is largely best known for its rocksteady era recordings, yet this collection is all rarer early ska material. A sweet young girlie spars on the cover, because you know boxing is popular sport down there among the Jamaican kids. I find irony in a reissue package of the gun-toting-soundman-turned-producer (notorious for creating a culture of dancehall violence with gangs of criminals) to be named this. The title track being a tune called Knockout Punch by militant rasta t-bone virtuoso Don Drummond. Lots of supposedly “never before put on CD” type Skatalite members stuff unearthed from Tommy McCook, Rolando, Don, Baba; totally huge if you’re big on that musical root. Soulful vocals provided by Ken ‘Stranger’ Cole, Alton Ellis, Justin Hinds and Monty Morris make this a veritable who’s who of the early /mid sixties era. Owen and Leon Silvera croon a cover of the Elvis’ hitsong Love Me Tender. The sound quality isn’t even too bad. As always, a top shelf booklet provides full background notes by reggae roots archivist Chris Wilson. One of the only [big company or otherwise] U.S. ska releases of 2001 so ska all mighty! Duration 56:28 Heartbeat Records, 1 Camp Steet, Cambridge MA 02140 USA
*Previously appeared on Sweden’s

Various Artists – Ska All Mighty (Heartbeat 2002)
A nice counterpart to Knockout Ska, (and to paraphrase E. Costello) “this year’s model” of Treasure Isle oldies reissue. Well almost. This time its 19 classics resurrected from the catalog of Duke Reid. Compilation leans more toward early hits / standard fare and not as heavy on reconfigured Skatalite member instrumentals as its 2001 predecessor was. According to Lloyd Bradley’s reggae bible Bass Culture, when the young ska era began, Reid was initially apprehensive of Jamaica’s first homegrown style – still too preoccupied with getting rare U.S. rhythm & blues stuff for play on his flatbed sound truck. Eventually though, he became less afraid, started to record mentos by local talent and have hits, especially in the vocal duos department, progressing neatly into ska. Highlights which stuck with me: Mama let her out (Upsetters) What have I done (Miracles), Why should I worry (Justin Hinds), Koo Koo Do (Stranger Cole with Silvera Bros). I enjoy this probably more often than the Knockout collection, but who cares? Obviously if you’re a roots aficionado, look into it. Reissue project again coordinated by archivist Chris Wilson and digitally remastered so you know they did decent and the sound is good. When I’m in just the right mood this does wonders on the dansette, on par with Studio One/Heartbeat’s essential Ska Bonanza double from 1991; a Coxone set perhaps by which all oldies comps might be judged: Lord almighty! Duration 50:42 Heartbeat, 1 Camp Street, Cambridge MA 02140 USA.
*Previously appeared on Sweden’s

King Hammond – Blow Your Mind (Receiver)
Welcome to the House of Hammond, one for the rudies and all dem boys pon de corner. I’m a big fan of organs and instrumentals, but this is at best not bad kinky, kinky reggae. Blow Your Mind is Nick Welsh’s solo 4-track homage to his roots sixties childhood music, circa 1989-1992 so say publication notes. Tim Wells, (writer for the earlier Scottish Zoot ska zine) claims they tried to pass this off in UK shops as a rare 1970s dub record – Revolution '70 for a laugh. Just not his Mittoo-like organ solo or retro psychedelia typography, but vocals about wet dreams, exorcism and skinheads, all in good fun. The horror sound effects in Satanic Rites of King Hammond and Dracula AD ‘72 make it spooky. When the words come out it’s more often than not vile slackness innuendo a la Judge Dread (the moaning female on here may be the same as his). Modish sixties lingo like hotpants is thrown around; cutting blade will clean up your backyard. The tune Skinhead Revolution sounds as if not John Stepney but Freddie Mercury did its shouting vocals. When all is said and done, the Link compilation songs (King Hammond Shuffle, Right on King Hammond) which most know Hammond for, still hold strong. Since Welsh released this project, he’s contributed some songs to the 2Tone supergroup Big 5 and currently plays with the Selecters of the last decade. “Bring her virgin body to my lair!” Duration 72:48 Receiver Records Ltd, Twyman House 31-39 Camden Road London NW1 9LF UK

Laurel Aitken w/ Pressure Tenants – Rudi Got Married (Grover)
Have you heard the latest news? I’ve long shied away from Grover’s frenzied Aitken masters reissue catalog largely for reasons of audio quality; but it was a good day when Volume 5 arrived. His single “Rudi Got Married” was recorded with the Unitone in 1980 at the pinnacle of England’s message-to-you 2Tone dance craze. Eighteen selections through a teaming with Potato 5 for Gaz Mayall (1987) up until Ringo The Gringo in ‘89. Habitual readers of this page will know I’m big on the late eighties UK mod label Unicorn, who played a fair part specifically in revitalization of Aitken’s career and in general so much post-2Tone of that period. In fact, no other artist had more material released on Unicorn than The Godfather, and until this disc most here was by and large unavailable so far as I know. Recorded during the eighties and kept well, so you get no skips or pops from ancient marred vinyl as with the earlier lifework retrospectives. On the majority of cuts he’s backed by the Pressure Tenants, who he’ll tour Europe with again 2003, and it sounds more authentic; not as syn[drum]thesizer cheesy as expected (as was so much of that True Fact / Rocksteady Party LP, 1988). My personal highlights here include Laurel’s own Hitchhike (not Marvin Gaye’s), Big Fat Man, and the undeniable classic Rude Boy Dream. Liner notes again by street publishing mogul George Marshall - Zoot, Skinhead Times, One Eyed Jack, Pulped. 1989 is about when Aitken toured the U.S. and last visited our own city. Duration 69:01 GROVER RECORDS, PO Box 3072 48016 Münster, Germany