From Paris With Love (World Village 468017, 2003)
No matter how much ebb and flow there is in the popularity of ska, the fact remains that it’s one of the most recognizable and enduring forms of music on the planet. It’s been 40 years since the Skatalites combined shuffling jazz and r+b with Afro-Caribbean rhythms and sharp accents on the off beat to create a style that went on to influence and inspire punk rockers, reggae rebels, musicians of various stripes and listeners the world over.
Ska started out not only as music but as a reflection of contemporary culture, with many ska songs over the years being reconfigured versions of popular classics or drawing ideas from movie soundtracks and matinee idol personas. The Skatalites continue to keep that spirit alive to this very day, and From Paris With Love is the latest jewel in the crown of their long and distinguished career.
Recorded in the French capital late in 2001, the disc includes the amazingly honed chops of longtime members Lloyd Brevett (bass), Lester Sterling and Cedric Brooks (saxes), Lloyd Knibb (drums), and Dizzy Moore (trumpet) as well as perennial vocalist Doreen Shaffer singing on a few selections.
The 15 tracks are heavy on updated old favorites, and though the production is considerably more polished than the often ragtag quality that made vintage Skatalites recording so charming, no one would deny that this band has earned a bit of gloss.
Ageless and timeless as ever are the likes of “Rock Fort Rock,” “African Beat,” “Freedom Sounds” and “Guns of Navarone,” with a smattering of new instrumentals like “Skata Skata” fitting right in. Horn melodies and solos bob and weave over tightly skanking riffs and rhythms, with Knibb’s dead-on drum fills always hitting the mark and the entire ensemble recalling glory days of ska that never truly went away.
The latter-day additions to the group earn their wings alongside the old masters, the album sounds great throughout, and ska fans from Paris to Polynesia will be grooving with renewed vigor.
Buy From Paris With Love.