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Lee Thompson of Madness Releases Tribute to Sister Mary and Classic Ska

The Benevolence of Sister Mary IgnatiusOver 35 years ago sax player Lee Thompson helped introduce an entire generation to Ska music as part of Madness which exploded on to the music scene on the crest of the 2-Tone wave. Now in the time between various Madness gigs and duties El Thommo has been filling that gap performing his brand of Ska-jinks and hilarity with his own Ska Orchestra appropriately named The Lee Thompson Ska Orchestra.

The band was founded in 2011, with the aid of fellow Madness member and bassist Mark Bedford, to recreate and pay homage to those authentic Ska and Reggae rhythms that burst out of Jamaica in the mid to late 1960s that influenced him and the band so much.

The group was able to record a full length album The Benevolence of Sister Mary Ignatius with the title itself paying tribute to the lady who opened and ran the Alpha School for Boys. The first single was a re-working of Desmond Dekker’s “Fu Man Chu” featuring the outstanding Bitty McClean on vocals.

The album features their takes on many Ska classics like Baba Brooks’ “Gun Fever” , Jackie Mittoo’s “Napoleon Solo” and  “Eastern Standard Time” by Don Drummond. It was co-produced by Mike Pelanconi aka Prince Fatty who has worked with the likes of reggae greats Dennis Alcapone, Little Roy and Winston Francis as well as helping introduce us to the delights of the talented Hollie Cook.

I have yet to pick it up but from what I’ve heard and seen of the band I think it’s well worth it. The tracks sound very authentic. More so than the Madness’ Dangerman Sessions album at least. With that much talent behind the instruments and sound board I should hope so!

Lee did an interview with Pete OnTheBeat for the Reggae Steady Ska site where he talks about how it came together and where the chose to record it: The Benevolence was recorded at Pelanconi’s Ironworks, a studio that was brought to my attention by my piano player, Louis Vause, who had previously recorded there with Blur’s Graham Coxon. I met up with Mike P and immediately got on with him. And his studio was perfect for what I wanted to achieve. Basically we were on the same page, paragraph and story line.

Check out their version of “Eastern Standard Time” at United Reggae.

Here they are rocking Jools Holland show with Bitty McClean doing “Bangarang”

I've been involved in the Los Angeles music scene since at least 1995 going to shows, promoting, spinning records and running labels. Ska and Early Reggae are my passion among other things of course.