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On the Right Track

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Album Review

The Skatalites lineup on this new recording, cut in Australia in 2006 during their first tour there, consists of just two original members of the ridiculously influential Jamaican group, drummer Lloyd Knibb and alto saxophonist Lester Sterling. But even with such legendary founders as Don Drummond and Roland Alphonso long gone, the sound produced by the Skatalites more than four decades after their inception is instantly recognizable as the one that defined the genre and set the standards that would be copied by generations of neo-ska bands. On the Right Track, the Skatalites' first album of new music since 2000, is comprised almost entirely of original material penned by the current members. Reportedly, the musicians created the songs in the studio and cut most of the songs in one take. But to its credit there's little to distinguish On the Right Track from the classic Skatalites music of old, save, perhaps, for the superior recording quality and the more open-ended, jazz-informed approach to the instrumental solos. And one big distinction: there's a female vocalist, Doreen Shaffer, whose own soulful "Bye Bye" is one of the album's highlights on the primarily instrumental album. Beyond that, it's the Skatalites doing what they've been doing so brilliantly all these years: the trademark tandem horn charts burst forth like the best of the American Stax records of the '60s, Knibb and bassist Val Douglas remain steady on the beat, the guitars and keyboards provide ceaselessly inventive melody, and the tunes are all remarkably, immediately familiar even though you've never heard them before.


Formed: 1963

Genre: Reggae

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

More than a band, the Skatalites were and are an institution, an aggregation of top-notch musicians who didn't merely define the sound of Jamaica, they were the sound of Jamaica across the '50s and '60s. Although the group existed in its original incarnation for less than 18 months, members brought their signature styles to hundreds upon hundreds of the island's releases. The Skatalites officially lined up as guitarist Jerome "Jah Jerry" Hinds, bassist Lloyd Brevett, teenaged pianist Donat Roy "Jackie"...
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On the Right Track, The Skatalites
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