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Original Cool Jamaican Ska / After Sunset (Re-mastered,Collection)

Laurel Aitken

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Album Review

Something to clarify right off the bat: although Laurel Aitken was responsible for the majority of the 15 tracks issued on the 1964 LP titled Original Cool Jamaican Ska (also known as After Sunset), this 2009 CD does not have the same contents. In this case, that's a good thing, as this 29-track disc has — in addition to all nine Aitken songs that appeared on the original Original Cool Jamaican Ska — no less than 20 bonus cuts from the same era, most taken from the 1963-1964 singles listed in the booklet's discography. So it serves as a bountiful survey of the period in which Aitken was establishing himself as a major ska artist, though he'd already recorded quite a bit of material before 1963. The Skatalites back Aitken on many of these sides, most of which were written by the singer. While much of them are merry rhythmic odes to romance and good times, there are also hints of the declarations of independence and spirituality that would inform much later reggae music, especially in "Freedom Train," "Zion City Wall," "Let My People Go," and "One More River to Cross." Aitken might not have been the greatest of ska singers, and his songwriting not the most diverse that the style's major talents had to offer. But he was among the most consistent of the genre's figureheads, and occasionally he did depart from an approach that could verge on the formulaic, getting into more soul-oriented balladry on "You Left Me Standing" and particularly rousing group vocal interplay on "Jericho." The liner notes aren't perfect, but give a great deal more detail about the material than many a reggae reissue, including a discography of his Island/Rio/Columbia/R&B/Decca recordings in 1963 and 1964.

Biography

Born: 22 April 1927 in Havana, Cuba

Genre: Reggae

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Known as "the Godfather of Ska," Laurel Aitken was Jamaica's first real recording star. He was a pioneer in many other respects as well: he was one of the first artists ever to release a ska record, the first to work at promoting his music in the U.K., and one of the first to record for the seminal Island label, itself a major force in the international popularity of Jamaican music. Cutting his teeth on the sort of jump blues and boogie shuffles popular during the early days of American R&B,...
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Original Cool Jamaican Ska / After Sunset (Re-mastered,Collection), Laurel Aitken
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