Album Remarks & Appraisals:
Digitally remastered and expanded edition of this album from the 'Godfather of Ska'. In 1964 the world was rocking to the sound of Ska: Millie's 'My Boy Lollipop' was rocking the charts and every major in Britain and U.S. were keen to jump on the bandwagon. In such an atmosphere, Decca Records in London approached leading West Indian music independent, Rio, to license some of the company's latest singles for a new album highlighting the new, exciting sound from Jamaica. The result was essentially a collection of Laurel Aitken tracks, along with a few others by the singer's brother, Bobby, and unknowns, Vic Brown and Alan Martin. Released in the U.S. on London as Original Cool Jamaican Ska, the LP promptly became a collector's item both sides of the Atlantic. Now, shorn of the tracks by other artists and augmented by 20 rocking Ska tracks from the Rio, Ska Beat, Island and Columbia catalogs, this seminal LP is available for even less than the cost of an original single! 29 tracks. Pressure Drop. 2009.
Record Collector (magazine) (p.94) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "[T]he best so far of Pressure Drop's comprehensive series of Aitken reissues."
Liner Note Author: Mark Wyeth.
Recording information: Jamaica.
Something to clarify right off the bat: although Laurel Aitken was responsible for the majority of the 15 tracks issued on the 1964 LP titled Original Cool Jamaican Ska (also known as After Sunset), this 2009 CD does not have the same contents. In this case, that's a good thing, as this 29-track disc has -- in addition to all nine Aitken songs that appeared on the original Original Cool Jamaican Ska -- no less than 20 bonus cuts from the same era, most taken from the 1963-1964 singles listed in the booklet's discography. So it serves as a bountiful survey of the period in which Aitken was establishing himself as a major ska artist, though he'd already recorded quite a bit of material before 1963. The Skatalites back Aitken on many of these sides, most of which were written by the singer. While much of them are merry rhythmic odes to romance and good times, there are also hints of the declarations of independence and spirituality that would inform much later reggae music, especially in "Freedom Train," "Zion City Wall," "Let My People Go," and "One More River to Cross." Aitken might not have been the greatest of ska singers, and his songwriting not the most diverse that the style's major talents had to offer. But he was among the most consistent of the genre's figureheads, and occasionally he did depart from an approach that could verge on the formulaic, getting into more soul-oriented balladry on "You Left Me Standing" and particularly rousing group vocal interplay on "Jericho." The liner notes aren't perfect, but give a great deal more detail about the material than many a reggae reissue, including a discography of his Island/Rio/Columbia/R&B/Decca recordings in 1963 and 1964. ~ Richie Unterberger