Desmond Dekker …In Memoriam 1941-2006

Toots and the Maytals were right: Desmond Dekker came first. While Toots was actually referring to Dekker’s placement in Jamaica’s 1968 Song Festival, the sentiment could easily connote Dekker’s place in the pantheon of internationally recognised Jamaican singers. A hit-maker in his home country since 196, Dekker also took rocksteady international with "007 (Shantytown)” and reggae to the top of the UK charts with "Israelites.” ...In Memoriam is more than just a career overview of one of Jamaica’s most important culture creators — you can pick up numerous greatest hits packages for that. This album was recorded in January 2004 in London with Dekker’s touring band, the Aces, and is an rewarding document of the king of ska himself in the final years of his career. As to be expected, the songs are covers of his earlier glory days and, as such, lack the wide-eyed youthful vigour of the originals. But for true fans …In Memoriam shows a singer that never lost his uniqueness and credibility in an industry full of copycats. How are the songs? A few tracks, like "007” and "Rudie Got Soul,” are slowed down a bit here and, overall, there is a noticeable absence of the heavy reverb and cardboard drum sounds evident on the originals. Plus, in general, the recordings sound technically crisper (since, I’m guessing, these versions used more than four tracks!). Overall Dekker’s voice lacks the lightness of his youth (but is still in fine form) and really, with songs like "Pickney Girl” and "It Mek,” a few years really aren’t going to diminish their impact. Pick up the original versions first but don’t pass this one by just because of its young vintage. It’s still a pedigree. (Secret)