Tis the season to go back-tracking
Kool And The Gang - The Best Of (1969-76) (Mercury); Desmond Dekker - The Best Of (Music Club); Shabba Ranks - King Jammy's Presents Shabba Ranks; (King Jammy's/Melodie); The Style Council - Here's Some That Got Away (Polydor) SUMMER is definitely the silly season when it comes to album releases. It seems that the sugar brigade appears in force. Oleta Adams, Mica Paris and James Ingram all have albums out this month but they are poor by their standards and sickly by anyone else's. Time then to dig through the re-releases which for many a record label fill the summer haze with the scent of pure profit.
The Jazziacs may not ring many bells but in the late 60s this band of scrawny teenagers took their brand of street jazz to a totally new dimension.
They hired a full-time vocalist and became one of the first jazz funk fusion bands, Kool and The Gang.
By 1976 they were just about played out, producing tinny disco numbers. Today they are sampled and emulated by everyone and his brother, hence the interest in the back catalogue.
In Kool and The Gang: The Best Of (1969-76), you'll find some rarities like Pneumonia and Let the Music Take Your Mind.
If you want a taste of some Jamaican dance hall music from two different generations try The Best of Desmond Dekker and King Jammy's Presents Shabba Ranks.
The former bears the summer of 67 hit 007 which pioneered the launch of the so-called rocksteadybeat outside Jamaica.
Dekker and his backing band, the Aces, were the first to popularise reggae abroad, preceding Bob Marley by a few years.
Dekker in his early years was very much a player in the gangland, rude-boy scene and his music bears many of its values and glorifies its lifestyle.
You'll find the first reggae No 1 The Israelites and all six UK chart hits including Rudle Got Soul and You Can Get It If You Really Want.
Meanwhile Shabba Ranks, the only Jamaican megastar since Bob Marley, has released some early material from his King Jammy label days. The album has a raw live feel and catches the man at one with his musical environment.
Shabba can't say a thing right at the moment. The macho, homophobic garbage that spills out of his mouth in interviews has become a noose round his neck and it may tarnish his newly-acquired gold necklaces, which ironically such sour sentiments, set to music, earned him in the first place.
But for the moment Shabba sells. This album is no exception, being snapped up as a rarity due to the inclusion of the previously-unreleased Halli Fi Buddy.
Until Paul Weller's much-awaited album appears on the shelves of our local record stores we will have to make do with a bunch of B sides from The Style Council's Here's Some That Got Away , all good dark glasses, elbow-out-of-the-window, one-hand-on-the-wheel, head-bobbing stuff. Grooving out is a tricky with your Walkman in the back of a taxi being driven by a geriatric who thinks second gear is for youngsters, but believe me the music will transcend even this minor hindrance.
Here we find the musings of the man himself and his sidekick Mike Talbot taking a lighter, groovier and less intense note than demonstrated on some of the A sides. Mick's Up and Mick's Company are real stompers with the boys letting loose over a fluid keyboard-guitar mix that they perfected so well. Twenty-two tracks in full-on party mood and even a cover of Who Will Buy from the musical Oliver given suitable Wellerian irony in its treatment. If you're a fan it'll release you from sifting through all that nasty vinyl, if you're not, you are about to become the definition of cool in the back of many a high-pitched taxi this summer.