Ska collection is an
unintended tribute to Chin

"The Rough Guide to Ska"
World Music Network

By Gary C.W. Chun

Just as reggae is popular in the islands, so is its rhythmic precursor ska -- especially when it's mixed in with pop-punk melodies. But this compilation is the real deal, so solid in its roots in American R&B that listeners can hear how the music evolved from its blues-shuffle roots to that identifiable skipping groove.

This is a collection of early-1960s singles from Chinese-Jamaican Vincent "Randy" Chin's productions. (Chin died a little more than two months ago.) Of the 20 brief offerings on this audio guide, 12 of them are reissued for the first time in more than 35 years.

Recognizable names include the pioneering Skatalites who, with the mighty horn core of Tommy McCook, Roland Alphonso and Don Drummond, check in with four cuts, including their own interpretations of "La Cucaracha" ("Ska-Racha"), Henry Mancini's "Baby Elephant Walk" and Lee Morgan's soul-jazz classic "The Sidewinder," here curiously titled "Malcolm X." All three horn players have songs under their own names here as well.

The Maytals, featuring the hearty vocals of Toots Hibbert, chime in with some raw, revival-style singing on "Someone's Going to Bawl" and "Lost Penny."

Other pleasantries on this collection are the Rasta rumba of Bunny & Skitter's "A Little Mashin'," the legendary Alton Ellis in a duo doo-wop performance of "Let Me Dream" that successfully transfers the street-corner harmonies to the Caribbean, and the charming "Don't Stay Out Late" from Lord Creator, who originally hailed from neighboring Trinidad.

>> One CD being released nationally today of local interest is the latest Tower of Power album, "Oakland Zone." The title track was one of the more memorable new songs the band did back in January during their sold-out concert at the Sheraton-Waikiki ballroom.

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