Legendary band, Ska-talites, returns to shelves May 25th Image

by Contributed

This remarkable live album marks the last known recording of the founding members of legendary band, Ska-talites. Bursting with contagiously danceable tunes, the album is also a precious historical document, a musical charter that outlines with no mistake the inexorable journey of Jamaican popular music from local street style to a worldwide phenomenon.

The album is a time travelling snapshot of a Ska-talites gig at Tempest Festival in Finland. It was recorded live in 1994 just four years before the passing of key players, Tommy and Roland, who died in the same year.

Ska-talites horns blast opens this album with their commanding ‘Freedom Sounds’ riff. Throughout the brass section swing sideways, effortlessly stepping on and off the beat in tightly delivered yet perfectly unbound unison. Tommy McCook and Roland Alphonso blow tenor sax with Nathan Breedlove on trumpet and Will Clark on trombone. The rhythm section shimmer below: Lloyd Knibbs’ in-the-pocket groove lilting against Devon James’ light touch on guitar, Lloyd Brevett’s bass and Bill Smith’s Latin inflected keys. Doreen Shaffer’s honeyed vocals sweeten the sounds.

Many of the original Ska-talites were musical sparring partners since their youth and their sizzling sound is intrinsically bound to the invaluable education given by Sister Mary Ignatius Davis and the right on nuns at Alpha Boys School, Kingston, Jamaica. Proceeds from the sale of this album are being donated to support Alpha Boys School, an inspirational institution still working hard to instil confidence and creativity in young men today.

Ska-talites first formed in 1964 and for a golden fourteen months recorded with the best Ska producers of the day; Lee Perry, Duke Reid, King Edwards and Prince Buster included. In 1964 the demise of founding member Don Drummond’s mental health exerted a deep strain on the band. His conviction for murdering his wife, Anita Mahfood pushed the band to their limits, no doubt contributing to their subsequent disbandment. Without Ska-talites’ shining star, the Ska scene soon faded to a quiet hum.

In the 1970s the Two Tone revival scene in the UK resuscitated Ska anew. Bands like The Specials and The Selector exhaled a fresh punky attitude back into the sound, and inspired Tommy and Roland to take up the Ska mantle once more. The band reformed in 1974 and their popularity soared. Just a few years later at SOB’s bar in the chic SoHo district of New York City, Vinod Gadher of premier Ska booking agency, worldBeat, first met the band.

Demand for Ska-talites was high with European festivals and large venues constantly inviting them to play and asking worldBeat whether they could arrange it. In 1992 worldBeat organised Skatalites first and hugely successful European tour and subsequently asked Vinod to become their manager - a life-changing vocation which has shaped his professional and musical world ever since. The band released four albums during their time with worldBeat, two of which were Grammy nominated.

Between 1993 and 1998 the band toured Africa, Japan and South America for the first time and continued to regularly tour Europe and the USA. It was during this era that this album, a never before released gem, was captured live. ‘Greetings and salutations’ indeed to The Skatalites - the legend lives on.

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