- The Beat Featuring Ranking Roger: Public Confidential (CD/LP, DMF Records, 2019)
- King Zepha: King Zepha’s Northern Sound (CD/digital/LP, Happy People Records, 2019)
- Lee “Scratch” Perry: Heavy Rain (LP/CD/digital, On-U Sound Records, 2019)
Catbite: Catbite (LP/digital, Bad Time Records, 2019)
Vin Gordon: African Shores (LP/CD/digital, Tradition Disc, 2019)
The Prizefighters: Firewalk (CD/cassette/digital/LP, Jump Up Records/Prizefighter Sound System, 2019)
The Specials: Encore (CD/2xCD/LP, Island Records/UMG, 2019)
Subject A: Writer’s Eyes (CD/digital/LP, Pop-A-Top Records, 2019)
The Void Union: Return of the Super Vape (CD/digital/Red vinyl LP, Jump Up Records, 2019)
Various Artists: Check One-2: Spirit of ’79 (4xCD, Specialized Records, 2019)
Top Ska Reissues of 2019
Laurel Aitken and The Skatalites: Ska Titans (LP, Black Butcher Classics, 2019)
Dennis Bovell: Babylon: The Original Score (Digital, Old School, 2019)
Prince Buster: Africa – Islam – Revolution (CD, Earth Sound Records, 2019) — Review to come soon!
Various Artists: Max’s SKAnsas City (LP, Jungle Records/Max’s Kansas City Records, 2019)
About and From Steve Shafer
I’m always a bit reluctant to post my top picks of ska albums each year, as I don’t have the chance to listen to and review every ska release that most likely deserves it (for instance, I still need to write up the Loving Paupers’ Lines and Lines in Dub albums, Emily Capell’s Combat Frock, and Steel Pulse’s Mass Manipulation). I do what I can, but it never feels like it’s comprehensive enough!
Despite all of the ugly band politics (and tragic deaths) that prevented a bigger/more coordinated celebration from taking place, there were several fantastic albums and events that celebrated 2 Tone’s 40th anniversary in 2019, including new records from Ranking Roger’s version of The Beat and Hall/Golding/Panter’s version of The Specials, and Pauline Black and Gaps Hendrickson’s Selecter toured of parts of the US with The Bodysnatchers’ Rhoda Dakar (Ranking Roger’s Beat surely would have been part of this tour had he not passed). And many of 2 Tone’s descendants turned in incredibly creative covers of practically everything that was released on that label for the Check One-2: Spirit of ’79 compilation–proving how the 2 Tone sound and message continues to burn bright around the world four decades on.
So, with my caveat above, here’s my imperfect list of the Top 3 Ska Albums of 2019 (and nitpickers will notice that one of them is actually a dub record, but it’s so good that it earns a spot here), as well as my top ska reissues for the past year (note that all of the titles are linked to their reviews on The Duff Guide to Ska): www.duffguidetoska.blogspot.com