Album Review: Melbourne Ska Orchestra – Self Titled Debut (2013 LP)


For someone who is regularly possessed by the rhythm and spirit of Reggae and Ska, Melbourne Ska Orchestra instantly becomes an obsession. Even the simple concept of a vast orchestra with an 18-piece horn section playing a style I find it difficult not to move to is orgasmic, let alone when they actually start playing. After years of dazzling festival audiences with their high-energy sound, I finally have a product that captures that performance to a tee and allows for compulsive playback in my very own living room.

The best part of the album is that it lacks the modern perversion of multi tracking and captures the performance in impressive old school style with a simple live recording. Sure, they had to be well rehearsed and probably even attempted more than one take for each song, but considering their playing abilities and the perfect live performances they are known for, this album could well have been recorded in little more time than it takes to play back the product. Everything, even occasional in between song banter, has been captured and preserved on record perfectly emulating the fiery performances the orchestra is famous for.

The album also has a distinctively Australian lilt with songs like “Katoomba” and “Lygon Street Meltdown” effectively making what has become an international style our very own. Of course, the old school revamps are also a treat with the opening “Get Smart” theme and “The Best Thing In Life Are Free” contributing greatly to the record. Other definitive highlights are “The Diplomat” and “Paradiso” that I deign not to describe here due to my respect for the music. Otherwise, I’d be dancing about the architecture.

This isn’t simply a Ska revival, but a delicately thought out concept with soaring arrangements that gives a nod to the traditional at the same time as remaining decidedly modern and giving the style an injection of life it doesn’t necessarily “need”, but is certainly most welcome. Naturally, I’m a little biased, but in my opinion, this is the album of the year, nay, decade; perhaps even the century. To avoid the risk of gushing too much I choose to end this review now and let the score speak in volumes. Bless you Nicky Bomba for conceiving this band.

Review Score 10 out of 10.