Friday, May 1, 2020

Island Records Ska Part Two

1. JUSTIN HINDS AND THE DOMINOES-"Bother Ration" WI 171 1965
Justin Hind's second release for Island was this single, released after one on the famous Ska Beat label. "Bother Ration" aka "Botheration" (which Webster's defines as "the state of being irritated or annoyed") is a tune with call and response vocals that moves along with a nice uptempo beat thats a far cry from the ska boogie sound that was now decidedly passe.

Like bassist Byron Lee, trombonist Carlos Malcolm ran the gamut of Jamaican music styles performing mento, calypso and ultimately ska whilst simultaneously making recordings in all of these genres. His only ska recording for the Island label was this kitschy, brassy ska cover of the theme tune to the U.S. western TV show "Bonanza" which was subsequently reissued by Trojan on three separate occasions over the next four decades.

3. SHENLEY DUFFUS-"Rukumbine" WI 186 1965
"Rukumbine" like "Bother Ration" is a Jamaican slang term. It is stated that it originally referred to combining ingredients to make a stew but was also a double entendre for copulation! The track is a slower number with a slight mid tempo ska boogie shuffle. It was Shenley's 8th single for the label and was previously done by Carlos Malcolm in '64 on the Jamaican Son label .

4. DON DRUMMOND-"Man In The Street" WI 208 1965
Skatalites trombonist Don Drummond is best known sadly for his short and tragic life (read more about the circumstances here). Drummond cut singles in the U.K. for Blue Beat, R&B, Black Swan and Ska Beat in addition to Island where he released his epic "Man In The Street". From it's razor sharp trombone intro it's instantly recognizable and along with The Skatalites "Guns Of Navarone" is probably one of the most famous ska instrumentals of all time.

5. ROLAND ALPHONOSO-"El Pussycat" WI 217 1965
Skatalites sax player Roland Alphonso (also credited as Roland Al) had singles released in Britain on Rio, Ska Beat, R&B, Blue Beat and Island where he cut this ska'd version of Mongo Santamaria's latin groove "El Pussycat" powered by a selection of incredibly tight horn players with each player soloing in a perfect mash up of jazz meets ska.

6. OWEN GREY-"Shook Shimmy And Shake" WI 252 1965
Okay we're stretching this one a bit as it's technically NOT a ska number. Owen Gray, like just about everyone else in this list cut ska sides for U.K. releases for Rio, Blue Beat, Starlite, Dice etc and several on Island. And like many other Jamaican artists (Jimmy Cliff, Jackie Edwards etc) he also recorded non-ska material.  This 1965 single is distinctly r&b but the horns have a distinct ska flavor to them that makes for an excellent combination. The track was later cut in 1967 for the label by the mod/r&b instrumental combo Wynder K. Frog.

7. THE WAILERS-"Put It On" WI 268 1966
Bob Marley and Co.'s Wailers bounced between Doctor Bird, Ska Beat and Island in the U.K. in 1965-1966. This Coxsone Dodd produced 45 is an uptempo number with high falsetto vocals at the intro that melodically owes a great deal to The Drifter's "Sweets For My Sweets" . The band's brilliant three part harmonies carry the water on this one. Curiously both U.K. copies I own of this are of inferior sound quality. Was this a mastering issue???

8. THE GAYLADS-"Message To My Girl" WI 291 1966
"Message To My Girl" is a cheeky re-write of Burt Bacharach's "Message To Michael" (the band would later transform The Four Top's "It's The Same Old Song" into "Stop Making Love" on their next release). This is the B-side of the weak "You Never Leave Him", it's backed by some steady horn blowing and it chugs along nicely with a mid tempo boogie rhythm while the band croon like ska's answer to The Impressions.

The "rude boy" topic in ska could take up an entire piece in itself. This 1966 single by Desmond Baker and the Claredonians was the only release known as The Claredonians (who had previously cut the storming "Rudie Bam Bam" for the Rio label). It's a mid tempo tune that's rather primitive in it's simple recording with a social observation/message about the perils of being a rude boy, a frequent theme in the genre.

10. ROY RICHARDS-"South Vietnam" WI 3000 1966
Starting with horns blowing "Charge" before a shout of "Attention!" the number lumbers into a harmonica led instrumental track including with "Taps" over the top of your basic mid tempo ska beat. It's a curious number that's fairly rudimentary (listen for the bassist flub a note about 2:04 in) but interesting in it's use as a harmonica as the lead instrument!

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