Do you know D.C.?
Get our free newsletter to stay in the know about local D.C.
Island Records’ adeptness at producing handsome, musically acute historical packages has resulted in landmarks such as the four-CD Tougher Than Tough overview of Jamaican sounds, the recent Lee Perry boxed set, and now, these single-disc packages celebrating the label’s first decade. Ska’s the Limit pulls together threads of ska, mento, and calypsowith the latter presaging the political forthrightness of ’70s Bob Marley and Burning Spear in Lord Creator’s 1962 “Independent Jamaica”as vital culture on its way to becoming reggae. An astoundingly young-sounding Robert Marley offers “Judge Not,” an earnest defense of rude boys that could have been shoehorned into a Kingston production of West Side Story; the Maytals and Jimmy Cliff offer religious and moral instruction, as the Skatalites’ Don Drummond pushes genre boundaries on the beguiling “Eastern Standard Time.” The ‘Lites’ enduring “Guns of Navarone” is a highlight of Rhythm & Blues Beat, which peaks even more awesomely with Desmond Dekker’s closing “Israelites.” The disc also shows Island’s sources reaching beyond Jamaica with U.S.-licensed soul 45s by Inez Foxx, Bob and Earl (the original “Harlem Shuffle”), and Robert Parker, not to mention two late-Invasion hits by the Spencer Davis Group. It’s hard to believe that anyone fell for the company’s claim that a plodding pseudonymous version of “Stormy Monday Blues” by Brit footnote Chris Farlowe was another American nugget, though; here’s yet another set of rootsthose of the hype that later buoyed the likes of Melissa Etheridge for the by-then truly multinational Island.Rickey Wright