Hepcat- Out of Nowhere (1993)

Hepcat is a rocksteady/ska band from southern California formed in 1989. This, their first album was on Moon records, which back then was the ska label with almost all the good two-tone bands of the time… And Hepcat.
They came out of L.A. playing what I would describe as traditional ska with a strong rocksteady influence. But they were a new band playing new songs using modern recording equipment. On this first album they sound like the lost band from 1960’s Jamaica, but encompassing the musical styles of the entire decade. A truly incredible album, another that can be left on repeat, undoubtedly a classic.
It was musically such a strong album that it was impossibe for the band to produce another work that was even equal to Out of Nowhere. Their subsequent albums are all good but they do stand in it’s shadow. Besides for that the rocksteady influence became a touch too strong. (Rocksteady differs from ska by being built around the “one drop” drum beat, characterized by a heavy accent on the second and fourth bars” (Wiki). )
Enjoy and next week I’ll review the brand new (came out this month) Skatalites album.
-Apogeematt

download Out of Nowhere
Hepcat@MySpace

Western Standard Time- A Big Band Tribute to the Skatalites (2009)

I found this over at SkaRevolution69 and while I don’t normally like tribute albums because the majority of the time it is just bands who are lacking in creativity rehashing old music. However there are exceptions, like Leadbelly made a career out of playing cover songs in his own unique style and tempo, and Western Standard Time is one of those exceptions.
While it isn’t the Skatalites and it isn’t recorded on a single track reel-to-reel, it is an album made by musician of the same caliber with modern recording methods.
Honestly, I would say that this is the best new Ska album I’ve heard in the past ten years. None of the cheese-factors from Two-Tone and Third Wave are present and as the name implies the sound is more big band oriented. There is another YouTube video below of a studio session for anyone who is intrested.

download Western Standard Time
official site

Laurel Aitken- The Original Cool Jamaican Ska (2009)

This is a re-issue of the 1964 album of the similar name, plus 20 bonus tracks. This is most of Aitken’s Ska recordings up until 1964, with most of the Skatalites playing as the studio band in most of the songs. There are hints of the political climate and the roots of rastafarianism and reggae throughout this album.
HERE is another more in-depth review. Enjoy.

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Laurel Aitken Says Fire (1967)

Laurel Aitken, “The Godfather of Ska”, 1927-2005, he started singing mento (Jamaican folk, like Day-O) for tourists in Kingston in the early 50’s and by 1958 he had released the single Boogie In My Bones (wiki), which was snapshot of the scene just before Ska came into being. Says Fire is a sampling of Aitkens work over the early years of Ska. Right up until his death Aitken was an active part of the Ska scene since it’s inception, and thus the name; the Godfather.

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Ska and Rocksteady Thursday: Derrick Harriott Sings Jamaican Rocksteady-Reggae (1990)

Skatalites Thursday has evolved into Ska and Rocksteady Thursday. The Skatalites are the founding Ska band, but they were also a semi-studio-made band with a floating line-up so much so that the original band in the early 1960’s was more like a sampling of the Jamaican music scene. Because of this the explaination of songs and recording brings up other musicians, bands, DJ’s and producers, such as Duke Reid and Coxsone Dodd, both of whom Derrick Herriott recorded hit singles for in 1960 & 1961 (wiki) but was never a Ska musician. Both Reid and Dodd recorded members of the Skatalites and other pioneering Jamaican musicians and their names always arise in any discussion of early Ska and are thus a perfect example of the natural evolution from Skatalites Thursday to Ska and Rocksteady Thursday.
Derrick Harriott is one of few surviving Jamaican musicians that witnessed and helped create Rocksteady and Reggae. I happened across this album and discovered that this was the guy who sang Lollipop Girl, and after reading his biography I decided he was the perfect example of being “in the scene” but not apart of the scene, because Derrick Harriott was never into Ska but was recording and performing around Jamaica at the time in a small group of Jamaican musicians at the time.

DL Derrick Harriott