Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Skatalites - Ball Of Fire

Totally vital 1997 album by these Jamaican legends. Augmented by the brilliant Jamaican guitarist Ernest Ranglin, these venerable musicians are at the top of their game on Ball Of Fire. They play many of the classics they made famous, although they are in a far longer form here than their original 7" vinyl format. Most tracks feature solos from the horn players as well as Ranglin, bookended in joyful fashion by the classic themes played in unison. This pushes the album into jazz territory, as does the crystal clear recording style, not to mention Lloyd Brevett's use of upright bass. All this serves to breathe glorious new life into what are already great compositions. I'm sure there is dubious providence surrounding who authored these classic tunes, as the producer no doubt garnered a lot of credit in the history of Jamaican music. Anyway, between the late Don Drummond, the rest of the band, Duke Reid and Clement Dodd, they created timeless classics like Occupation, Eastern Standard Time, Latin Goes ska. Actually, every horn arrangement here is magnificent, and when the band come back to playing each one aftere the extended solos, it is never less than joyous.
I saw The Skatalites around 1997 or 1998 - they toured this album around the world, giving lots of lucky people a precious glimpse of a legendary group. The whole band were terrific, and I still maintain that it was one of the best rhythm sections I've seen live. Also I was fortunate to witness Roland Alphonso who sadly died shortly after.
As another fairly rubbish summer peters out (for us in England, anyway), I prescribe this album as an auditory replacement for sunshine.


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