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July 22, 2024

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Tommy McCook and Friends
The Authentic Ska Sound of Tommy McCook (Moon Ska Records)

By: Alex Steininger

Continuing with their "Ska Authentic" series, Moon Ska has released a solo album by legendary Skatalites' founder and tenor saxophonist, Tommy McCook. Backed by many talented (and noteworthy) musicians including Lloyd Brevett, the Skatalites' bass player, King Bravo and Lord Tanamo on vocals, and the Skatalites' trombonist Will "Skabone" Clark, this album is drenched with talent. Many other star players in the world of ska perform on this album, bringing to life every note that is thrown at the listener. If you're looking for some hearty traditional ska that you won't be able to put down, you've came to the right album.

"They Laughed" kicks off the CD with Lord Tanamo on vocals. Pure Jamaican heart and soul, the vocals make the song clearly an authentic traditional number. Getting you dancing from the beginning, the guitar helps push the way for the song, backing up the vocals nicely. The horns influence the music a lot, as they come in at just the right time and splash some warmth on the music. The percussion section is clear and steady, keeping the beat of the music very level for all the dancers and movers listening. The bass also helps the rhythm section with light riffs that blend nicely into the mix. Serving up an old Skatalites number by the name of "Big Trombone," they bring new life to "Don Drummond-The Man With The Big Trombone." A nice tribute to the late Skatalites' trombone player, Don Drummond, this song helps to remind us all how "he was the best, and through the many years he passed all the tests." Very breezy and moving, this is definitely one of the stand out tracks on this album. And once again Lord Tanamo's vocals add a nice touch to the music. My other favorite song on this album, "Blood Clad Eyes," features King Bravo on vocals. A cover song, a lot of you might be familiar with The Skalars (formerly Issac Green and the Skalars) version of this song by the name of "Blood Shot Eyes." And if you liked their version, or even if you haven't heard it, Tommy McCook and Friends version will blow you away. Very melodic, this song gets you moving with ease. And with all the melody, as you move up and down the dance floor, you'll be singing along. Very common with traditional ska bands, they write songs that are very jazzy and soulful, but they don't have the kick of infectiousness that grabs you and just gets you singing along with them. Not a problem here, it's equipped and comes standard with this song. "Skalypso Dub" is a nice instrumental version of "They Laughed." Containing the same danceable melodies as its counterpart, this song will also melt straight to your heart and get you smiling. Closing off with "Loving Princess Diana (African Rap)," King Bravo leads the band through a heart warming tribute to the late Princess. Strong horn lines stab all the way through the song, while the percussion backs up the horns and gets your feet tapping. And of course the guitar and its upbeat get your whole body moving, with help from the bass. Nine tracks in all, this CD is over forty-three minutes of nice, authentic ska.

Was there ever any doubt that Tommy McCook and an all-star ska line-up would create very authentic, grand sounding ska once they got together? Well, if there was, this CD erases any and all of those doubts. I'll give this CD an A.

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