author of skabadip.it and singer at The Smarts
1) Roy (Panton) & Yvonne (Harrison) – “Believe in Yourself” – Fajador Records : What to say about what for me is my number 1 in the ranking? That I loved it right away because I have always loved Roy Panton’s songs? That I’ve always loved his duets with his wonderful wife Yvonne? That the Mighty Megatons accompanying the two famous Jamaican artists is one of the best band made of 100% ska tradition musicians you could find around? That “Believe in Yourself” rather than Roy and Yvonne’s latest album sounds like an anthology of practically all the musical styles practiced in Jamaica from 1960 to 1970? With same original sound? That each song is characterized by lyrics full of love and good feelings and compelling rhythms? That they are all so beautiful tracks that, including the only wonderful instrumental, I would not be able to indicate what I like most? That is the first album of a label that will be exclusively dedicated to similar works to record new songs by great Jamaican artists still alive? Needless to say, all of this. It’s my # 1 album.
2) The Bluebaters – “Shock” – Sony Music: the Bluebeaters are the traditional ska in Italy since 1994. For over twenty years, despite various changes they have been able to maintain a style that has always made them immediately recognizable thanks to the “beating heart” of the band that has never changed, that is Ferdinando “Count Ferdi” Masi on drums, Gianluca “Cato” Senatore on guitar, Patrick “Pat Cosmo” Benifei piano and voice and Paolo “De Angelo” Parpaglione on tenor sax. After so many years of sensational covers, being able to “stay the same” even with the very first album all of original songs and all sung in Italian, was not an easy thing but the mission turned out extremely well. “Shock” contains on twelve pieces, in addition to a very beautiful instrumental in Ennio Morricone style “Sette Bastardi” (Seven Bastards), only three other ska, all three phenomenal, the one that gives the title to the album “Come un Shock” (Just like a Shock), the beautiful “Il Caffè e Le Rose” (the Coffe and the Roses) (my absolute favorite) and the louder “Solo Guai” (Only Trouble) (perhaps the first song ever made by BB that winks at two tone ska more like the very first Casino Royale. The other catchy songs are sung on powerful rocksteady/reaggae rhythms with some hip hop sprinkles. The best is heard with “La Relatività”, “Mamma Perdonami” and “Un Inverno Stupendo” but one of the tracks that overwhelm you is the only non-ska reggae, already a live favorite, “Tempo”. BB continues to bring prestige to an entire musical genre.
3) The Uppertones – Easy Snapping – Jump Up Records: I do not hide behind a finger and I admit to being parochial in my choice and, therefore, in the third place of the best albums of 2020 I can only put Easy Snapping by the Italians Uppertones. Brilliant formula, a trio dedicated to the origins of Jamaican music, the shuffle boogie and, by obvious consequence, dedicated to the origins of almost all American music that have made it possible for this group of fine musicians to perform with the same success both in music festivals swing, both in jazz and, obviously, in ska ones. The involvement is total thanks to the warm voice of the trombonist Luigi “Mr Tbone” De Gaspari and the impeccable drums work of Ferdinando “Count Ferdi” Masi (two ska columns in Italy) and the very gifted Phil Cuomo on the piano. A beautiful album that has in my opinion the highest moments in “Got My Mojo Working”, “Reet Petite”, “Down in Mexico” the title track “Easy Snapping” and in “Guarda che Luna”.
4) Victor Rice – “Drink” – Easy Star Records: Anyone who loves ska music and reggae loves instrumental music and “Drink” is the best instrumental album released in 2020. “Drink”, which follows on “Smoke” (is the Author really a vicious one?), shows pretty well the reason why Victor Rice is among the most famous and important musicians and producers related to ska music. The ten tracks of the album, which begins with a spectacular “La Mura” and ends with an equally spectacular ska / dub titled “Time to Go”, is a real musical journey, relaxing, hypnotic, exciting thanks to a real feast of melodies and rhythms that immediately enter the soul. In addition to the already mentioned songs, “Simao”, “This is Fine” and “Bebida” are among the unmissable tracks. Victor Rice, is a true guarantee of beautiful music since 1991!
5) Alpheus – The Victory – Liquidator: Alpheus of all those who precede him in my personal Top Five is the youngest to enter the ska / reggae arena with his first album released in 1999. In a few years, however, Alpheus has become one of the favorite singers of ska fans all over the world also for his multiple references to the world of rude boys. The ease with which he ranges from Rocksteady to the so-called Early Reggae (for which he has a predilection), to traditional Ska and the equally ease with which he invents never banal, catchy melodies and sung with a voice reminiscent of that of the great Jamaican performers like Cornell Campbell, make Alpheus one of my favorite artists. Some of the songs I love most in “Victory” are “Hooray”, “Gonna Be Good”, “Vailant” and “Family Fruit” a powerful Ska, which reminds me of another wonderful Jamaican singer like Joe Higgs. “Victory” is another excellent record produced by the Spanish Liquidator, a label without which the world of us fans of the most beautiful music in the world would be smaller and sadder.
About Sergio Rallo
Sergio “Da Prophet” Rallo is a Milanese lawyer and French boxing instructor who has been loving ska music since the late 1980s, was the singer of the Milanese group The SmartS for eight years and collaborated for many other years on the first website dedicated to ska ever made in Italy www.skabadip.com and then personally carrying it out for another three years as www.skabadip.it. Passionate about all Jamaican music of all ages and ska in particular, he had the honor of meeting and interviewing the main exponents of the music and still tries to never miss a concert during which he dances from start to finish until the last drop of sweat. Music is beneficial for the soul and body.