If you haven't already checked it out, on this week's podcast we talked at length about one of my favorite musical genres, Ska. Give the podcast a listen if that interests you, and let's start a discussion like we did with Hardcore Punk about your favorite Ska bands and albums!
Here's three from me:
The Specials - The Specials
Produced by Elvis Costello, this 2nd wave band's debut album is a scorcher from start to finish. I guarantee you 100% if you put this record on at a party, people will dance. The Specials defined what was known as the 2-Tone era of Ska, and this album stands as THE DOCUMENT that music archaeologists will look to for explanations of what was happening in late 70's England. The influence of the burgeoning punk scene is hugely prevalent, but the songs retain a dancey musicality that the Specials' punk contemporaries rarely could pull off. And, man, did these dudes have style!?! These songs are ON POINT politically and socially, espousing the youth's desire for racial unity in Thatcher's England. Key tracks: A Message To You Rudy, Doesn't Make It Alright, and Concrete Jungle.
Desmond Dekker - Rudy Got Soul 1963-1968
Desmond Dekker is pretty widely accepted as the originator of Ska music. Toots and the Maytals (another early pioneer) even wrote a song admitting that Desmond came first and that Toots was second! Dekker is absolutely essential listening if you want to hear the music in its original form. His voice is one of the best in music history, right up there with the greats of Motown and Stax. Dekker's influence gained fans all over the world, with the Beatles' "Obladi Oblada" being their homage to him, even naming that song's main character after him. Almost every ska band you will see play will cover a Desmond Dekker tune. My favorite thing about Dekker is how his songs started off entreating the youth to follow their mother and father's rules, but then transitioned into a Rude Boy singing about being rough and tough. Key tracks: 007 (Shanty Town), A It Mek, Intensified.
The English Beat - I Just Can't Stop It
Coming up at the same time as The Specials, The Beat (known in the states as The English Beat to differentiate from another US band called The Beat) knocked it out of the park with their debut album. The dueling voices of singer Dave Wakeling and "Toaster" Ranking Roger makes the band's sound a unique one. Toasting was sort of an early form of rap started in Jamaica, with DJ's spinning dub reggae/ska tracks and freestyling over them. This album is also solid from start to finish, with some straight up traditional ska/reggae covers, to more straightforward pop/rock songs. Key Tracks: Two Swords, Whine & Grine/Stand Down Margaret, Mirror in the Bathroom.