The Ten Best Ska Tracks

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The Independent Culture

1 INDEPENDENT WOMAN Jackie Brenston (1952)

1 INDEPENDENT WOMAN Jackie Brenston (1952)

Prince Buster once told me that you couldn't run a sound system in Jamaica during the Fifties without this tune. Backed by Ike Turner's Kings of Rhythm this crucial r&b classic, from 1952, was said to be one of the first true rock'n'roll records.

2 INDEPENDENCE SKA Baba Brooks (1964)

This is authentic Jamaican ska instrumental led by the legendary trumpeter Baba Brooks. One of many tunes that acknowledged Jamaica's independence from Britain.

3 FREEDOM SOUNDS The Skatalites (1963)

The Skatalites were probably the greatest ska band of all time. This was their signing on and signing off tune, and it continues to drive crowds wild to this day.

4 LIFE COULD BE A DREAM The Maytals (1970)

Based on the Fifties doo-wop classic "Sh-boom", this is guaranteed to rock the house. This has got a joyful love vibe, and the group's gospel inspired vocal harmonies hit the spot. It's a killer ska tune.

5 BELLEVUE SPECIAL Don Drummond (1964)

This is one of the greatest ska instrumentals ever, featuring Dandy Don D, internationally regarded as one of the top trombonists of all time. He was a genius but prone to bouts of mental illness and was intermittently committed to Bellevue Mental hospital. This single and its flipside "No More" reflect his awesome combination of street roots, jazz expertise, and emotion.

6 LIFE Laurel Aitken (1963)

The Cuban-born Laurel began his career as a calypso singer and was among the first artists to record in Jamaica. He emigrated to London in 1960 and was one of the pioneers of early Jamaican club dance music. In the late Sixties he was a skinhead idol pumping out a series of great tunes on Trojan and their main rival Pama records.

7 ROCK AND SHAKE Prince Buster's All Stars (1967)

Said to be the creator of ska, the mighty Prince "voice of the people" Buster, acclaimed as Jamaica's first national musical superstar, and acknowledged as the heavyweight champion of ska, starts this track declaring himself "Free, single, and disengaged" to a wicked rocksteady rhythm.

8 GYPSY WOMAN The Uniques (1968)

Produced by Bunny "striker" Lee and featuring the late great vocalist Slim Smith, this haunting rocksteady classic was originally written by Curtis Mayfield.

9 54-46 WAS MY NUMBER Toots & the Maytals (1968)

This surefire floor-filler is possibly the most-played, tighten-up Trojan reggae club classic. It was written by Toots after a spell in jail, and it's a fantastic foot-stomping anthem to freedom. It was produced by Leslie Kong, one of the many Jamaican independent label bosses to achieve No 1 hits in the UK.

10 LIBERTY Junior Ras & the Spars (1975)

Another exhilarating example of Jamaican revolutionary zeal expressed in sound. This great dub reggae "dread on a mission" song has Junior Ras singing a typical Seventies anti-apartheid, Rastafarian chant, still in the ska bloodline.

Like all the music I've chosen, "Liberty" expresses the heartfelt passion, sweet melody and dynamic beats of the island's music.

'Gaz Mayall Presents... Top Ska!' is released on Monday on Trojan records

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