Following hot on the heals of the reissue of Ska With Laurel and Laurel Aitken Says Fire, Pressure Drop have now re-issued the other two Laurel Aitken LP’s from the 60’s/early 70’s; Scandal In Brixton Market and The High Priest Of Reggae. Laurel Aitken is one of those artists that people will always have an opinion about, Mark Wyeth of Club Ska, who wrote the sleeve notes for these two releases clearly loves him, alot of people wont share his enthusiasm.
For sure Laurel Aitken recorded some fine tracks at the tail end of the 60’s and into 1970 but he recorded plenty of clunkers too. The good the bad and the shockingly ugly all make it on to these two releases.
It’s hard to escape the fact that a “Best of…” featuring the strongest tracks from these two LP’s and the Laurel Aiken Says Fire release might have been a far more attractive prospect than three seperate CD’s. But this has been done before and whilst some of the music is hard work the gathering together of most of Aitken’s early reggae output is historically much more interesting, and gives those who do love this stuff the chance to obtain a number of tracks that are rare as hens teeth and are unlikely to have seen the light of day otherwise. These LP’s are very much of their time, and as the sleeve notes point out, a number of the tracks illustrate the experince of early West Indian immigrants to the UK in a way that is both graphic and illuminating, these stories should not be forgotten.
Also perhaps more of a historical interest is the inclusion of Aitkens partner in crime Girlie on many tracks especially on the Scandal In Brixton Market LP. She has a finer line in spoken word patois and though her skills as a deejay maybe somewhat limited she must hold the claim to being the first female in that role committed to vinyl.
Now is High Priest… “the definitive Skinhead Reggae album – the very best of all time” as the sleeve notes claim? Absolutely not. Does it contain a few great tracks including many that you’d need to take a mortgage out to buy on ebay? Yes it does, as does Scandal. Both releases are well worth checking out as a result.