Best Ska Compilations? English Beat, Specials etc

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by lightbulb, Dec 7, 2019.

  1. lightbulb

    lightbulb Not the Brightest of the Bunch Thread Starter

    Smogville CA USA
    Please provide your recommendations for currently in-print, reasonably priced CD compilations of each artist:

    1. The English Beat
    2. The Specials
    3. Madness
    4. Various Ska Artists - including the above, plus The Selecter, General Public, possibly with later Ska punk artists etc
  2. notesofachord

    notesofachord Get Ya Hands Outta Your Pockets

    Dan C, action pact, lightbulb and 2 others like this.
  3. hutlock

    hutlock Forever Breathing

    Cleveland, OH, USA
    For the Beat, my vote goes to the original What Is Beat? comp on IRS. Nice cross section of material, good sound, and some non-LP tracks to boot.

    For the Specials, I go for their original Singles comp because again, a lot of their best songs weren’t on the albums (like “Ghost Town” for example).

    Both of these should be found for well under $10.
    patient_ot, Dan C, lightbulb and 2 others like this.
  4. uzn007

    uzn007 Pack Rat

    Raleigh, N.C.
    Yeah, that's pretty much the classic one from that period. There's also the live Dance Craze album that's probably not in print either but is worth hunting down.

    Is the OP looking for compilations of each band? Because the original Specials only had two real albums and an EP and the English Beat only had three albums. Out of those six, four are completely essential anyway, so just buy the original albums, kids. :D

    Madness is an interesting case because they became huge in the UK in the 80s and also moved away from ska to a large degree. So you can probably find a lot of Madness compilations but it may be hard to find compilations where they appear with the other classic UK ska bands (I know of cases where they've been removed from compilations because it was too expensive to license their tracks).

    So anyway, for that classic "second-wave" ska, I just recommend tracking down the original albums and those two compilations mentioned above. If you're interested in ska compilations that focus on earlier material (Jamaican ska from the 60s) or later material (international ska from the late 80s/90s) I could come up with some specific recommendations.
    Gez, lightbulb and Chemguy like this.
  5. Two Sheds

    Two Sheds Tea-sipping bad boy!

    I agree with the suggestions made for the Beat and the Specials. Also recommended:

    - Complete Madness
    - Utter Madness
    - Dance Craze (soundtrack LP all of the above, the Selecter, and more)
    lightbulb and hutlock like this.
  6. Sebastian saglimbenI

    Sebastian saglimbenI Forum Resident

    New york
    I saw an awesome singles vinyl only "TWO TONE" boxset ON amazon/u.k.. .like a dozen 7' inch singles....wish this was available in c.d. form as well!
    hutlock and lightbulb like this.
  7. hutlock

    hutlock Forever Breathing

    Cleveland, OH, USA
    Yeah, that just came out this week. I’d like it too but my disposable income isn’t THAT disposable!
    Sebastian saglimbenI likes this.
  8. beccabear67

    beccabear67 Musical Omnivore

    Victoria, Canada
    There wasn't all the much 2-Tone and UK Ska of the time released; just get everything. I don't think there can be a proper Madness 'best of' with different companies owning different parts of the catalog, unless that's changed. It used to be 'Total Madness' only had one track from the first LP that Virgin ended up owning, and the Dance Craze soundtrack had to drop the Madness tracks on it for the CD era. The entire first Beat album is all killer to me, same with The Selecter (or you could get Selected Selecter Selections), and the two Specials and Madness albums are also very chock full of goodness...

    Then you'll want all of The Bodysnatchers singles, the Rico sides, probably all The Swinging Cats, and these and more are on the two disc 'A Checkered Past' set. A good Bad Manners comp would be a good idea, oh and the aformentioned Dance Craze, they (Bad Manners) are awesome on there as are The Specials, The Selecter, and The Bodysnatchers... I have to say the live Madness and Beat stuff on there is really the record done live, not bad but too note for note for me (and that Man At C&A live by the Specials is mind-blowing and even gives me the real mushroom cloud nightmare chills many had back then).

    But the original Ska was late '50s to early '60s Jamaican singles... there are a lot of good budget sets, the Proper 4 disc "Deep Ska' set has a nice book with it and the originals of things covered later and well known in UK and U.S. (Blondie covered The Tide Is High, Shaggy did Oh Carolina), if you get only one this is a good one...
  9. danomar

    danomar My spoon is too big.

    Atlanta, GA
    If you are interested in old-shool ska, then Lee "Scratch" Perry's four CD compilation I Am the Upsetter is essential. Nearly all of the original ska and reggae artists from Jamaica are on it.
    Rockford & Roll likes this.
  10. Sebastian saglimbenI

    Sebastian saglimbenI Forum Resident

    New york
    I am in the same boat.....decisions....decisions!
    hutlock likes this.
  11. Sebastian saglimbenI

    Sebastian saglimbenI Forum Resident

    New york
    If I may highly recommend the first few UB40 Albums!
    Thunderman and hutlock like this.
  12. uzn007

    uzn007 Pack Rat

    Raleigh, N.C.
    A few thoughts on this comp, which I haven't heard, just going on the songlist.

    It definitely looks like a nice deep dive into 60s ska, as promised. There are some all-time essential tracks and a lot of obscure stuff.

    One potential downside is that I often find that the old-time ska can get somewhat monotonous if compilations aren't well-chosen and well-programmed. There were probably more average tracks recorded in Jamaica in the 60s than great, legendary tracks, so just because something is obscure doesn't necessarily mean it's noteworthy.

    In any case, again, I haven't heard this comp so that might not apply, but to someone who's just getting exposed to 60s ska, I would probably recommend a shorter all-killer-no-filler comp.

    I also notice that some of the versions on this comp don't appear to be the original versions, e.g. "Oh Carolina" was originally by the Folkes Brothers and "The Tide is High" was originally by the Paragons (with John Holt singing lead... this may be the original version or it may be a re-cut). The Pyramids' "Jesse James Rides Again" may be a cover of the Laurel Aitken tune "Jesse James", etc.

    Anyway, that sort of oddity pretty much comes with the territory with ska comps, especially those that originate in the UK (because there were a whole bunch of ska and reggae tunes cut *there* in the 60s as well as in Jamaica).
  13. uzn007

    uzn007 Pack Rat

    Raleigh, N.C.
    Just sort of scrolling through while searching for "Ska Compilation":

    I've got to get a copy of this myself. This is killer. There are a number of different albums with the name "Ska Authentic" but this is the original. Lots of essential tracks here.

    Anything on Soul Jazz is recommended. Most of their Jamaican comps are reggae, but I would dive into their ska compilations without hesitation. Soul Jazz sources from vinyl, but most of their compilations sound great and are extremely well-selected.

    This looks like it's got most of your essential Treasure Isle ska cuts in one place. Don't know anything about the sound.

    This is an odd duck. Includes some 80s ska along with some 60s Jamaican cuts, along with a bunch of reggae (mostly early, but it looks like it goes up to the late 70s). Probably doesn't sound awesome, but might be worth checking out for the price.

    Shifting gears, this is an awesome international compilation of late-80s ska, featuring American mainstays the Toasters and Bim Skala Bim.

    Extensive compilation of southern California bands from a long-running radio show.

    Here's another Soul Jazz comp of the Skatalites.

    If you can find either of these 90s Heartbeat compilations, they both have great song selection and good sound quality. Heartbeat also did tribute albums to Tommy McCook and Roland Alphonso that are worth picking up if you see them.
    beccabear67 and neruda like this.
  14. django68

    django68 Forum Resident

    If you are trying to keep it as simple as possible I suggest

    The Beat - Hard To Beat [2017]
    Madness - Full House [2017]
    The Specials - The Best of The Specials [2003]


    The Selecter - The Best of [Disky 1996]
    Selecter haven't really had a fully satifying greatest hits, but I think this one should do. Better to get both original studio albums on CD re-issue.
    I highly recommend their Made in Britain [2011] String Theory [2013] Subculture [2015] and Daylight [2017] albums if you want to delve deeper.

    Bad Manners - The Very Best of [Rhino 2015]
    This is the best of all the original recordings. Other compilations are marred by album tracks, B sides or re-recordings. There is also a 5CD 1980-1985 set available.
    uzn007 and beccabear67 like this.
  15. Derek Slazenger

    Derek Slazenger Specs, rugs & rock n roll

    Dance Craze :)
    beccabear67 likes this.
  16. jimod99

    jimod99 Daddy or chips?

    Vienna, Austria
    UB40 are not Ska, they are/were a reggae band.
    beccabear67 and sonnyrock like this.
  17. beccabear67

    beccabear67 Musical Omnivore

    Victoria, Canada
    I think one UB40 reggae song was sort of part of the scene thematically, rubbing elbows a bit at the time: I Am The One In Ten... but then you could add Steel Pulse's Handsworth Revolution and maybe even a track or two by the Clash or Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson, so yeah, they really aren't appropriate to a conversation about ska.
    AlmostHeavenWV likes this.
  18. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

  19. uzn007

    uzn007 Pack Rat

    Raleigh, N.C.
    Does Heartbeat Records even exist any more? I think most of their stuff is out of print, but that's a great compilation to be sure.
  20. Black Elk

    Black Elk Music Lover

    Bay Area, U.S.A.
    This one?

    The Specials - Singles

    If so, I agree.

    Talking comps. only.

    For The Selecter, I have (and enjoy):

    The Selecter - Too Much Pressure (first album with bonus tracks)

    The Selecter - Selected Selecter Selections (mentioned up-thread, lots of overlap with above)

    For Madness, I have (and enjoy):

    The Business – the Definitive Singles Collection - Wikipedia
  21. hutlock

    hutlock Forever Breathing

    Cleveland, OH, USA
  22. 99thfloor

    99thfloor Forum Resident

    There is no Ska on that box set, it starts in 1968, in the Early Reggae era.

    Heartbeat don't operate as a label anymore and everything is indeed out of print, their parent label Rounder Records are still around and maybe some of the catalogue is available as downloads...?

    Foundation Ska however has been reissued by Yep Roc (who have licensed the Studio One catalogue for America), with a slightly altered track list to replace a few non-S1 tracks: The Skatalites - Foundation Ska
    patient_ot and uzn007 like this.
  23. uzn007

    uzn007 Pack Rat

    Raleigh, N.C.
    Interesting, although they still left at least one non-Skatalites track in "Scandal Ska", which was, I think, originally credited to Don Drummond and which definitely features Wackie Henry on drums and not Lloyd Knibb.

    I can't remember offhand if there are any other tracks that don't feature the core Skatalites band on that comp.
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2019
  24. 99thfloor

    99thfloor Forum Resident

    I think you misunderstood me, it's not about the Skatalites or not (and I am out of my depth knowing who played on what here). It's that the original release had some Treasure Isle recordings (Heartbeat had a licensing deal for that label too), and since Yep Roc only have the rights to Studio One material six tracks have been substituted (to make it "a strictly Studio One affair"). Here is the page at their site for the re-relesae: The Skatalites - Foundation Ska
  25. uzn007

    uzn007 Pack Rat

    Raleigh, N.C.
    I understood that, but I still think it's a mixture of amusing and annoying that a major compilation of "THE SKATALITES", which should have been definitive, is so sloppy when it comes to track credits. There was even one track duplicated on the original release, IIRC.

Share This Page