Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

This Is Ska! [Music Club, 1997]
Ska compilations are a puzzlement--once you get the ramshackle groove, the supply of likable stuff you'd never heard expands toward infinity as the roll call of undeniable classics remains as brief as ever. Island instigated the confusion with Intensified! and More Intensified! two decades ago, and finally solved it with the first volume of the four-CD reggae overview Tougher Than Tough. But this $10, 16-track, 44-minute alternative also strikes just the right mix of funky popsters (two Desmond Dekkers, one Jimmy Cliff) and loose-limbed groovemasters (their pace set by the Skatalites' "Guns of Navarone"). Prime MIAs: the unrepresented Prince Buster's "Al Capone" and Roland Alphonso's "Solomon Gundie," the latter available on Island's semiobscurantist new Ska's the Limit, which does unearth the archetypally out-of-tune sax solo of Lord Creator's "Independent Jamaica." Then there's Music Club's This Is Ska Too!, specializing (it says) in third-wave cover faves. Skank on. A