Album Info

July 18, 2000
Reggae, Ska, Rocksteady

Album Review

No single compilation could fairly represent the breadth of Alphonso's career -- so often did he record as a solo artist, bandleader, band member, and session musician. This, however, is an excellent 20-song retrospective of vintage sides from 1958-68 released largely under his own name; if they weren't, they were by groups in which Alphonso was the leader or principal player. Actually, he recorded in a staggering variety of guises, and this anthology includes cuts that were billed to Roland Alphonso & the Alley Cats, Roland Alphonso & the Studio One Orchestra, Roland Alphonso & the Soul Brothers, just the Soul Brothers, Rolando & His Group, Soul Vendors, Clue J & His Blues Blasters, Rolando & the Sharks, and so on... you get the picture. The important thing is that these are exciting, seminal ska and reggae instrumentals, with styles traversing ska roots to rock steady and soul-influenced reggae. There's more variety to be heard here than with almost any other single-artist ska compilation -- from ska takes on spy movie themes and witty novelties like "Rollie Pollie" to the cooking "Do It Good" (which is as close to early American funk-soul as it is to reggae). Alphonso plays imaginative, jazzy sax throughout, and unlike many of the ska brassmen, was not prone to a wobbly or out-of-tune squeak. Among the dozens of other musicians heard on this collection are numerous major ska-reggae figures: Tommy McCook, Rico Rodriquez, Ernest Ranglin, Rita Marley, Clement Dodd, Jackie Mittoo, and even Lee Perry. The liner notes, recording and release dates, and session personnel are amazingly comprehensive for an early reggae reissue. Three of the songs were previously unreleased.
Richie Unterberger, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. Four Corners
  2. From Russia With Love
  3. Dr. Ring Ding
  4. Jack Ruby
  5. El Pussy Cat Ska [Take 2]
  6. Federal Special
  7. Do It Good
  8. Jah Shakey
  9. Pepe To
  10. You Trouble Me
  11. Rollie Pollie
  12. Proof Rum
  13. James Bond
  14. Provocation
  15. Grand National
  16. Hully Gully Rock
  17. Something Special
  18. Rolando Special
  19. Groovy Sax
  20. Maria Elena