Released: 16 January 2012
There seems to be millions of ska compilations, but a lot of them contain filler tracks unfit for inclusion. Fortunately, there's no excess baggage on Ska Madness 2, a 22-track (including bonus tracks) collection compiled by former Bodynatchers lead singer, Rhoda Dakar.
Opening with perhaps the ultimate ska tune, 'The Israelites' by Desmond Dekker, what follows is a good mix of familiar and not-so-well-known numbers, perfect for anyone looking for an introduction to ska. Actually, some of the tracks will not be strangers to many listeners, as the original version of the 1980 Blondie chart topper (or 2002 Atomic Kitten number one), 'The Tide is High' is there, as well as Tony Tribe's version of 'Red Red Wine' (written by Neil Diamond but a hit for UB40 in 1984) and Nicky Thomas' 1970 Top 10 hit, 'Love of the Common People' which Paul Young took to number two a dozen years later.
Having listened to a bit of ska over the years, the beauty of Ska Madness 2 is that there are numbers this reviewer had never heard before. The first bonus track, 'Enoch' (originally known as 'Enoch Power') by Millie Small (of 'My Boy Lollipop' fame) is a curious yet stinging response to Enoch Powell's infamous 'rivers of blood' speech in 1968. Elsewhere, it's difficult to believe that the same Boris Gardiner who recorded 'Elizabethan Reggae', a strange tune which has the sound of a 1960s TV theme to it, is the same person who inflicted the dire 'Want to Wake Up With You' on the UK charts in 1986.
For me, however, the standout tracks on Ska Madness 2 are Bob and Marcia's 'Young Gifted and Black', a rare cover of a NIna Simone song which sounds fresh every time I hear it, and 'Pressure Drop' by Toots and the Maytals, a number which takes me back to a youth that, thanks to the influence of punk and mod, first introduced me to ska and reggae music.
Now where did I put that Fred Perry shirt and those Sta-Prest trousers?