The Skatalites – Ska-Boo-Da-Ba
Originally released in 1965 in Jamaica and the UK, and reissued on CD by Westside as part of their Top Sounds From Top Deck series in 1998, The Skatalites’ Ska-Boo-Da-Ba has now been reissued on a 180 gram vinyl LP by Pressure Sounds.
The Ska-Boo-Da-Ba album is the result of a very long one night session that was organised by Chinese-Jamaican record producer Justin Yap and his brother Ivan at Studio One in November 1964. It was through Coxsone Dodd’s friend Allen “Bim Bim” Scott that Justin Yap had met The Skatalites, a band that was very popular at the time. The Skatalites’ line-up then included legendary musicians such as Roland Alphonso, Don Drumond, Johnny Moore, Tommy McCook, Lloyd Knibb, Lloyd Brevett, and Jah Jerry Haynes.
The 12-track LP is a vibrant and timeless collection of instrumentals that not only showcases The Skatalites’ mastery of the ska genre but also encapsulates the essence of ska. The Skatalites’ musicianship shines throughout the album, with each member contributing to the cohesive and dynamic sound of the band. From the nice guitar work to the pulsating basslines and the vibrant horn solos, every aspect of the band’s performance reflects their unparalleled musical prowess. Ska-Boo-Da-Ba features a dynamic blend of upbeat tempos, intricate horn arrangements, and irresistible grooves.
Right from the start, Ska-Boo-Da-Ba, a delightful ska arrangement of Bill Doggett’s single Boo-Da-Ba from 1958, sets the tone with its lively brass section and driving riddim, inviting listeners to immerse themselves in the infectious energy of ska music. The album opener and title track is one of several cover versions that, together with five original compositions by Don Drummond, make up this set. Among the well-chosen cover versions are two classic Duke Ellington compositions, Caravan and In A Mellotone. The interpretation of the former appears here as Skaravan, a real nice and smooth instrumental, while the ska version of the latter is called Surftide Seven. With the beautiful Ringo the listener is treated to another cover version. Although the band probably knew the instrumental from Arthur Lyman’s 1959 LP Taboo, Ringo Oiwake (Apple Brossom’s Memory) is originally a song from 1952 by great Japanese female singer Hibari Misora. Composed by Paul Conrad, China Clipper (not retitled) is another cover version coming from Arthur Lyman’s Taboo LP. Some real fine sax play can be heard in Ghost Town, which can be traced back to Can’t Sit Down by The Bim Bam Boos from 1959 which became a hit for Phil Upchurch in 1961. Lawless Street also isn’t an original but in this case its source is unknown.
All these interpretations of original pieces are topped off by incredible compositions by the genius Don Drummond. Truly excellent is Confucious, a killer horns-laden instrumental on a far east theme. It’s followed by the great sounding China Town, a track that can be listened to multiple times and still bring delight. With The Reburial and Marcus Junior, Don Drummond has composed two commendable instrumentals in tribute to Marcus Garvey. And then there’s the last original piece, the astonishing Smiling, which showcases drummer Lloyd Knibb’s exceptional skills and includes a stellar trombone solo to fully appreciate.
This Skatalites LP stands as a timeless classic. With its infectious riddims, masterful musicianship, and enduring appeal, the album continues to captivate fans of vintage ska music, cementing its status as one of the standout achievements in the band’s long-standing career.