The Skatalites: Devon James (guitar); Lester Sterling (alto saxophone); Roland Alphonso (tenor saxophone); Nathan Breedlove (trumpet); Will Clark (trombone); Bill Smith (piano, organ); Lloyd Brevett (electric upright bass); Lloyd Knibb (drums).
Additional personnel: Ernest Ranglin (guitar).
Producers: Nathan Breedlove, Bill Smith, Shay, The Skatalites.
Includes liner notes by Jon Preston.
Personnel: Devon James, Ernest Ranglin (guitar); Lester Sterling (alto saxophone); Roland Alphonso (tenor saxophone); Nathan Breedlove (trumpet); Will Clark (trombone); Bill Smith (piano, organ); Lloyd Knibbs (drums).
Liner Note Author: Jon Preston.
The amazing thing is not that the Skatalites, the group that pretty much invented Jamaican pop music in the early '60s, reformed in the '90s, but that their albums since the reformation are, in a much different way, every bit the equal of the hits that made their name. The band's '90s material mixes ska with the vintage bebop-era jazz that most of the members were playing before the group formed, and BALL OF FIRE continues that remarkable fusion. Consisting entirely of new, jazzier arrangements of old ska tunes, a concept first explored on 1996's GREETINGS FROM SKAMANIA, BALL OF FIRE is a most instructive primer for people for whom ska means the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. The front line of hornmen, here featuring original members tenor saxophonist Roland Alphono and alto Lester Sterling (the great Tommy McCook, who died shortly after this album was released, does not appear) has always attracted most of the attention. However, the Skatalites' secret weapon has always been bassist Lloyd Brevitt and drummer Lloyd Knibb, the tightest rhythm section in '60s ska and every bit the equal of Sly and Robbie or Aston and Carlton Barrett. Guitarist supreme Ernest Ranglin sits in on several tracks.
Rolling Stone (2/5/98, pp.60-62) - 3.5 Stars (out of 5) - "...several original members of the Skatalites...reunite for a casual, disarmingly sweet trip through the band's storied songbook....the Skatalites reclaim the subtle side of ska....Guitarist Ernest Ranglin...is particularly lyrical..."