Friday, March 20, 2020

Island Records Ska Picks Part One

Whilst here on self imposed quarantine due to the Coronavirus I have been going through my various singles and decided to come up with ten ska sides on the Island label for your pleasure!

1. DERRICK MORGAN-"Forward March" WI 011 1962
Released in honor of Jamaica's independence In August of 1962 "Forward March" is a spirited track that begins with a rallying trumpet and a military march cum mid tempo  ska rhythm. It was Morgan's third release on Island after a staggering 22 singles for Emil Shallit's Blue Beat label.

2. JIMMY CLIFF-"Dearest Beverely" WI 012 1962
Jimmy's second UK release after a single on Blue Beat and his debut on Island was this neo doo wop ballad that was a far cry from ska but worth a listen for the historical importance. Fortunately Jimmy went on to cut several far more "ska" sides for the label that were far more interesting.

3. CLANCY ECCLES-"Judgement" WI 044 1963
Clancy Eccles holds the distinction of being on practically ever major U.K. 60's ska label: Blue Beat, Ska Beat, Pama, Doctor Bird and of course Island where he cut two singles, "Judgement" being the first. Delivered at mid tempo with a chugging ska-boggie rhythm it's backed the unusual accompaniment of harmonica and horns.

4. DESMOND DECKER (sic) and BEVERELEY'S ALL STARS-"Honour Your Mother And Father" WI 054 1963
The late great Desmond Dekker's (misspelled here) made his debut on Island (and everywhere else) with this track in 1963. Licensed from Bevereley records in Jamaica it's a curious P.S.A overlaid on a slow boogie woogie rhythm with a ska back beat.

5. TOP GRANT-"Riverbank Coberley" WI 072 1963
The curiously named Top Grant's fourth release for the label was this mid tempo groover backed by some tasty sax and a totally infectious groove that is a welcome breath of air for the periods usual "ska boogie shuffle" sounds.

6. THE VIKINGS-"Six And Seven Books Of Moses" WI 075 1963
The Vikings were an moniker used by The Maytals on their early Island releases. Some of their records have been dubbed "gospel ska" because of their penchant for biblical influenced tracks like this one. Despite my lack of religious interest this one works because of their stellar vocal harmonizing, but only just.

7. BABA BROOKS-"Bank To Bank" WI 096 1963
One time Skatalite and ska trumpet player extraordinaire, Baba Brooks cut a host of sides for Island in between other releases for Black Swan and Ska Beat. "Bank To Bank" is a fairly pedestrian instrumental that's offset by some jazzy solos and a drum beat that threatens to derail the whole number at times!

8. LORD BRISCOE-"Praise For I" WI 131 1964
Licensed through Beverley's records in Jamaica this was Lord Briscoe's debut on the label and like many of his subsequent releases it has a biblical slant. This one carries an unusual mix of horns and harmonica which gives it an interesting feel

9. THE CHARMS-"Carry Go Bring Come" WI 154 1964
The Charms were Justin Hinds and The Dominoes delivering one the most skank-tastic Island ska sides. With amazing double tracked vocals and a solid brass section it doesn't get much better than this to my ears. Even with my two left feet this tune always makes me want to dance!

10. THE SKATALITES-"Guns Of Navarone" WI 168 1965
Possibly one of the most famous ska instrumentals of all time is this number from the short lived but legendary instrumental combo The Skatalites who contained a virtual who's who of 60's Jamaican music. Kicking off with the brilliant vocal percussion "chicka chicka chick" rhythm and the immediately identifiable powerful horns this reading of the film theme tune is eternal.

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