Desmond Dekker – In Memoriam: 1941-2006 (Secret Records)

When Desmond Dekker passed away in 2006, he left behind legacy that earned him the undisputed title “King of Ska”. In Memoriam presents the last recordings Dekker made before his death, which were laid down in a London studio in 2004. Almost all of the twenty tracks Dekker and his six-piece backing band recorded during these sessions are old songs which is something of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the songs are considered classics by reggae and ska aficionados (“007 (Shanty Town)”, “Intensified”, “Problems” and Dekker’s defining moment, “Israelites”). On the other hand, Dekker did these songs more than thirty years ago (and in some cases, over forty years ago) and those are the definitive versions. His voice still sounds youthful here, and the band knows their way around the material, but there’s no way to recreate the wonderfully ramshackle sound of a 1960s Jamaican recording studio, and In Memoriam sounds too clean and smooth. Do yourselves a favor and seek out one of Desmond Dekker’s many Best Of collections to hear these songs in their original glory.