(Review by Steve Shafer)
Named after one of the greatest non-ska tributes to the scene (by The Ruts, of course, who also appear on this comp backing Laurel Aitken), Pressure Drop/Cherry Red's Staring at the Rude Boys: The British Ska Revival (1979-1989) does a superb job of documenting the UK ska scene from the rise of 2 Tone through the "New Ska" scene that emerged in its wake in the latter half of the 1980s and was promoted by Unicorn Records (which coined the "New Ska" moniker), Staccato, and Gaz's Rockin' Records. This compilation presents 69 tracks over three CDs--with mostly excellent liner notes on each song/band (though there's a cringeworthy error in the Laurel Aitken/Potato 5 entry)--and while the 2 Tone and New Ska cuts are terrific (if not already featured on many other likeminded comps), the real treasure here are the dozens upon dozens of cuts from lesser-known, obscure, and even one-off novelty tracks that capitalized on/took a bit of the piss out of 2 Tone (see The Charlie Parkas' "Ballad of Robin Hood" and Max Headroom & the Car "Parks'" "Don't Panic"). Some of these non-2 Tone songs are more rough than ready, but the majority are good to great, and many of the original records now nearly impossible to find or quite pricey. Even though I'm a long-time fan/collector of UK ska from this decade, a surprising number of these songs are new to me, and this compilation fills in a big gap in my knowledge and collection (and may do the same for you, too).