This week a friend of mine who works at the bookstore with me asked if I had ever heard of a group called “The Skatalites”. Me being a fan of traditional ska said “of course!” He told me he heard them for the first time on Millersville University’s college radio station out of Lancaster PA the other night. He said, “they sound like an older group. Did they come out in the 80s?”
I explained to him briefly the history of the group and told him I’d bring in some CDs for him to hear. I went digging through my CD collections at home and came across a gem that I forgot I had. I found a double disc set from the Skatalites called “Stretching Out”. It was a live concert from their reunion concert in 1983. It’s an absolutely amazing CD.
Recorded for a cassette-only release, the concert features the original Skatalites in their first concert since 1968 I believe. And the best part of the CD? It’s raw in every way! The liner notes ask that the listener overlook audio flaws as it says that they had technology working against them in every way, but I believe the audio quality only adds to the beauty of the album.
Apparently, some of the album was recorded straight to a reel-to-reel 2-track recorder, which impressed me even more. The quality almost makes me feel like I’m sitting back in a local jazz club listening to a jam session, which is the way the music was meant to be heard. This set of discs is a great introduction to anyone interested in island music, particularly early ska. Definitely worth the sticker price.