Top Deck Presents Ska Vocals and Instrumentals – album review

Top Deck Presents Ska Vocals and Instrumentals (UMC / Spectrum)


Released June 24th 2013.  

Legendary Jamaican Ska label Top Deck is about to release a 40 track double CD of some of its’ finest vocal and instrumental tracks. We take an advance look at it.

Coming from a generation that saw first-hand the power of Ska in its ‘second wave’, post-punk incarnation, the history of this music has always held a fascination. Social and political comment was fused with some infectiously danceable music to create a musical phenomenon that is still hugely popular today. However, this vital release focuses on the hugely important early ‘first wave’ and the work of legendary producer, Philip Justin Yap.

Having formed the Top Deck Sound system with his brother Ivan, Yap was still a teenager when he founded the Top Deck label in Kingston in 1962. However he soon established himself as one of Jamaica’s finest producers and for the next four years set about turning out some of the best Ska tracks to come out of the period. The music scene in Kingston at that time was a pretty cut-throat environment but the young producer soon earned a reputation for extreme professionalism and also ensured his artists were paid twice as much as at other labels, and importantly in cash.

When success came, Yap still ensured the quality of his productions remained high and avoided the temptation to churn out more songs of a lower standard. He worked with established artists like Jackie Opel, who has a number of classics showcased in this collection, notably ‘Pictures of Smoke’ and ‘Take Your Time’. However, Yap was always on the lookout for new talent and introduced Bibby and the Astronauts, The Angelic Brothers and The Avalons, all of whom are represented on the vocal disc.

Yap was to leave Jamaica for the US in late 1966 but this double disc spans the  4 years of his work in Kingston.The instrumental disc includes classics from Baba Brooks, Roland Alphonso, Don Drummond and the legendary Skatalites, Jamiaca’s number one band.  Alongside their more well- known tracks are alternate cuts and some lesser known gems that make this double CD an absolute must for the many lovers of Ska or those who are curious to find out more about this brief, but hugely influential period in music.

All words by Dave Jennings. More work by Dave Jennings on Louder Than War can be found here. He is also on Twitter @blackfoxwrexham.

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  1. These two CDs are the absolute best of what can be found covering these years in Ska. Sound is also nice (top for the instrumental part) and fans of the Skatalites should look out for this. All of the”Ska-ba-do-ba” album is featured in the instrumental set, but the vocals don’t fall behind apart from a few tracks that could not be saved by an otherwise pristine mastering done by Keiron McGerry. 80 tunes that deliver the very best of Top Deck’s legacy, strange there ain’t more reviews to be found. Thanks Dave Jennings!


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