Title: The Ska from Jamaica
Label: Doctor Bird; Dist. Cherry Red
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: December 18, 2020
While working in the vast Trojan Records archive in London, Jamaican music specialist Laurence Cane-Honeycutt discovered the production master for an unissued 1966 compilation, The Ska from Jamaica. The 12 tracks, recorded in Jamaica from 1964-1966, were produced by Lindon Pottinger and featured many of era’s leading musicians, including the Maytals. Released in August 2020 by Trojan Records as a Record Store Day special vinyl limited edition, the album is now available as an expanded two-CD set produced by Cane-Honeycutt, with 47 additional tracks. Most of these were culled from 7” singles released on Rita and Benny King’s UK-based Ska Beat label, which was sold to Trojan in 1971, but other tracks were never released in the UK and are quite rare.
Cane-Honeycutt tells the backstory of these labels and producers in his liner notes that accompany the set. Though the original master was shelved in 1966 due to the declining interest in Ska music at the time, today there is worldwide interest in the genre. Contemporary fans will certainly have an appreciation for the featured musicians, many of whom had a profound role in the development of Jamaican music. Included are esteemed session players such as “noted trumpeter and arranger, Oswald ‘Baba’ Brooks, as well as the Carib-Beats, a leading instrumental combo led by Cuban-born guitarist Bobby Aitken, brother of the self-proclaimed Godfather of Ska, Laurel [Aitken].” Other featured vocalists include Jackie Estick (who sings the title track), Toots Hibbert, Ken Boothe, Lloyd Robinson, and hitmaker Winston Samuels, as well as performers such as Clancy Eccles, Derrick Harriott and Glen Brown who later became noteworthy producers.
The Ska from Jamaica is essential listening for any Ska music enthusiast. Highly recommended.
Editor’s Note: Interviews with some of these pioneering artists such as Ken Boothe, Toots Hibbert and Laurel Aitken are included in the Heather Augustyn Collection at the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture.
Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss