Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Video/Photos of Rude Boy George, The Scofflaws, and Beat Brigade at Otto's Shrunken Head on 12/5/14!

Editor's note: File this post under shameless self-promotion--but it's also helping to promote some of our favorite, fellow NYC area bands!

If you weren't able to catch the packed and sweaty Rude Boy George record release party with our incredible special guests The Scofflaws and Beat Brigade at Otto's Shrunken Head last Friday night, you can take great comfort in the fact that some of the night was pretty well documented for your viewing/listening pleasure--thanks to Bryan Kremkau of SkaPunkPhotos (check out his awesome photos here and here), All-Nite Images (lots of great black and white photos can be seen here) and Otto Yamamoto (see his video below). Massive thanks to the photographers/videographers for doing this!

The following 45-minute black and white video shot by Otto Yamamoto is like a Dance Craze for (part of) the NYC ska scene in 2014 (with veterans from the 80s and 90s!), as it captured some amazing live footage of The Scofflaws, Rude Boy George, and Beat Brigade up close and in action!

Here's a rundown of what's in this video by time code:

00:00  The Scofflaws: "Rude Boy Train"
04:46  The Scofflaws: "Theme from the Godfather"
09:48  The Scofflaws: "Nude Beach"
15:02  The Scofflaws: "Nightmare"

19:13  Rude Boy George: "Always Something There to Remind Me"
22:00  Rude Boy George: "Love My Way"
25:48  Rude Boy George: "On My Radio"
29:04  Rude Boy George: "Kids in America"

32:33  Beat Brigade: "401 Kill"
38:06  Beat Brigade: "I Second That Emotion"

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And here's some fantastic color video of RBG and The Scofflaws from Bryan Kremkau of SkaPunkPhotos...

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Rude Boy George "Confessions" Record Release Party!

Here's a shameless plug for the band I'm in, Rude Boy George...

If you're in the NYC area (or beyond--I know someone from Brazil whose planning to catch our show), please come out for the Rude Boy George record release party this Friday night (12/5/14) at Otto's Shrunken Head (14th Street, between Avenues A and B in Manhattan)! We do some pretty cool 2 Tone ska and rootsy-reggae versions of new wave and post-punk classics.

This is a FREE show with three of the best ska bands in NYC!

Here are the set times:

10:00 pm: The Scofflaws

11:00 pm: Rude Boy George

12:00 am: Beat Brigade

If you haven't seen them recently, The Scofflaws have a new album's worth of awesome new tunes in regular rotation, as well as their hits from the 1990s ("Paul Getty," etc.). And Beat Brigade will be performing many songs off Kings (read The Duff Guide to Ska review here)--their incredible long-awaited debut album that was issued last summer.

As I mentioned, this is a record release party for Rude Boy George's debut album, Confessions (which can be pre-ordered here and features songs by Berlin, Naked Eyes, INXS, Human League, The Romantics, Billy Idol, Madness, Squeeze, and Eurythmics).

At Otto's, we'll have digital download card/stickers for sale at the gig, as well as our new t-shirt, stickers, buttons, and a limited-edition yellow vinyl single on Jump Up Records from the Specialized 3: Mad Not Cancer benefit CD (supporting the Teenage Cancer Trust in the UK) that features our cover of Madness' "Driving in My Car."

Below, please find a video of Rude Boy George in action, playing our version of the Talking Head's "Psycho Killer" from the last time we were at Otto's in April.

We hope to see your face in the crowd Friday night!

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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Life's Little Victories: Record Collecting #5 (The Slits' "Typical Girls" 7")

Over the summer, while rummaging through the bins at my favorite (and undisclosed!) used record shop, I came across the 12" version of The Slits' 1979 debut single ("Typical Girls" b/w "Heard It Through the Grapevine") for $15. For whatever stupid reason (wasn't feeling flush with cash that day?), I didn't grab it, but when I got back to work, I listened/watched videos of both tracks--and was particularly taken with their ragged, punky-reggay-ish cover of Marvin Gaye's hit (where Ari Up sometimes sings: "I heard it through the bass line..."). So, I checked Discogs and found that picking up a copy of this single (and I wanted the 7" version) from any US sellers would cost a pretty penny (let's just say that the $15 price at my favorite record haunt was very reasonable).

I now very much wanted this record.

I ended up being outbid on two separate eBay auctions, but finally stumbled upon a mint (!) copy of the 7" single that I was able to "Buy Now" for $20 (including shipping!)--which has a sleeve that folds out into a poster of Pennie Smith's photo that was used for The Slits' debut album, Cut (Smith also shot the cover of this single).

To be honest, I really didn't take to The Slits back when I was first introduced to them through Jon Savage's incredible and absolutely essential 1992 book "England's Dreaming: Anarchy, Sex Pistols, Punk Rock, and Beyond" (which led me to discover and buy albums from dozens of punk and post-punk bands) and catching the punk segments of the surprisingly good 1995 PBS/BBC documentary series "Rock and Roll: An Unruly History" (watch part of the punk segment that highlights roots reggae's relationship to 1970s UK punk rock and features interviews with Johnny Rotten, Paul Simonon, Don Letts, Mick Jones, Ari Up, Bunny Wailer, Mikey Dread, and Lee "Scratch" Perry here and here). But I get them now.

I'm in the midst of reading Slits' guitarist Viv Albertine's superb and brutally honest autobiography "Clothes Clothes Clothes Music Music Music Boys Boys Boys" (watch a recent interview with Albertine from Britain's Channel 4 here). One of the many great bits of info she shares is how her final break-up with Mick Jones of The Clash, whom she had dated on and off for years, led Jones to write "Train in Vain," which turns out to be an answer record to The Slits' "Typical Girls" (The Slits: "Typical girls stand by their man"; The Clash: "You say you stand by your man/Tell me something, I don't understand/You said you loved me and that's a fact/And then you left me, said you felt trapped/Well some things you can't explain away/But the heartache's in me till this day/You didn't stand by me/No, not at all/You didn't stand by me/No way"). Of course, "Typical Girls" lists all the "acceptable" behaviors imposed on women by 1950s and 1960s Western societies (and reinforced by their media)--and was everything that The Slits were defying and attempting to obliterate in the late 70s. It's smart, cheeky, and ironic feminist commentary, as well as an apt Slits mission statement--and it's made somehow all the more stinging and poignant by Jones' wounded reply to it. He wanted/expected the stereotypical 1960s girlfriend, but got one of the original riot girls instead.

It's very much worth it to check out the lyrics to this song--as, 35 or so years on, our male-dominated world still holds many of these same attitudes towards women...

"Typical Girls"

"Don't create
Don't rebel
Have intuition
Can't decide

Typical girls get upset too quickly
Typical girls can't control themselves
Typical girls are so confusing
Typical girls, you can always tell
Typical girls don't think too clearly
Typical girls are unpredictable, predictable

Typical girls try to be
Typical girls very well
Typical girls try to be
Typical girls very well, well

Typical girls are looking for something
Typical girls fall under spells
Typical girls buy magazines
Typical girls feel like hell
Typical girls worry about spots, fat
And natural smells, stinky fake smells

Typical girls try to be
Typical girls very well, well

Don't create
Don't rebel
Have intuition
Don't drive well

Typical girls try to be
Typical girls very well
Can't decide what clothes to wear

Typical girls are sensitive
Typical girls are emotional
Typical girls are cruel and bewitching
But she's a femme fatal

Typical girls stand by their man
Typical girls are really swell
Typical girls learn how to act shocked
Typical girls don't rebel

Who invented the typical girl?
Who's bringing out the new improved model?
And there's another marketing ploy
Typical girl gets the typical boy

Who invented the typical girl?
Who's bringing out the new improved model?
And there's another marketing ploy
Typical girl gets the typical boy, typical boy

The typical boy gets the typical girl
The typical girl gets the typical boy
The typical boy gets the typical girl
The typical girl gets the typical boy"

Sunday, November 9, 2014

HR and The Scotch Bonnets to release "Quest" EP

I'm ashamed to admit that last year I never got around to completing my review of The Scotch Bonnets' phenomenally good debut album Live Ya Life (this Baltimore/DC rocksteady-reggae-soul crew released their CD through a successful Kickstarter campaign--and I highly recommend it if you don't already have it). With this in mind, it should be noted that The Scotch Bonnets are releasing Quest, a six-song EP that they recorded with HR of Bad Brains, which will be released on December 2, 2014 by Morphius Records.

After playing a series of gigs together last year, HR and the Bonnets had initially planned to collaborate on one track for Morphius Records' 20 anniversary compilation XX. But they left the studio session with six cuts--and the president of Morphius Records felt that they all deserved to see the light of day. From The Scotch Bonnets' press release, it seems like Quest promises to be one of the more compelling and unusual ska/reggae releases of the year:

"From the romping pub ska of "Cheyenne" to the spacey reggae love vibes in "My Universal Love" to "Just A Kid," a rare Bonnets soul-rocker, Quest is an eclectic mix of songs sung by both HR and Lady Hatchet. The EP's title track boasts HR's first recorded boy-girl duet, his avant-garde vocals in juxtaposition with Lady Hatchet's R and B tinged hooks. And what HR session would be complete without a little studio experimentation? Precisely that can be found on "H.R. Psalm," a mesmerizing HR composition for which he conducted the band as they played along to a previously recorded HR track!

The EP boasts three new vocal performances by HR. Two of those songs, the title track "Quest" as well as "My Universal Love" were penned by Pablo Fiasco many years ago. Long guarded as instrumentals, the tracks were finally given to HR to complete during these sessions."

HR will be backed by The Scotch Bonnets on a series of mid-Atlantic tour dates in support of the Quest EP early this December:

Thursday, December 4: Baltimore, MD: Holy Frijoles
Friday, December 5: Washington, DC: Comet Ping Pong
Saturday, December 6: Brooklyn, NY: Palisades
Sunday, December 7: Philadelphia, PA: Kungfu Necktie

Catch them live if you can!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

NYC Fall 2014 Ska Calendar #18

Don Letts with his trusty Super 8!
Friday, November 14, 2014 @ 8:00 pm

Rude Boy George, Across the Aisle, The Screw-Ups

Two Boots of Bridgeport
281 Fairfield Avenue
Bridgeport, CT
$5 cover

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Saturday, November 15, 2014 @ 9:00 pm

Live Reggae NYC presents Top Shotta Band featuring Screechy Dan, African Love HiFi, The Far East

Secret Project Robot Art Experiment
389 Melrose Street
Brooklyn, NY

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Saturday, November 15, 2014 @ 5:30 pm

Skanksgiving 2014 w/The Pietasters, Mephiskapheles, Westbound Train, Avon Junkies, Backyard Superheroes

Starland Ballroom
570 Jernee Mill Road
Sayerville, NJ 08872
All ages
$17 in advance/$20 day of the show

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Saturday, November 29, 2014 @ 8:00 pm

Rude Boy George, The New Limits, and Special Guests

433 Park Avenue
Worcester, MA

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Friday, December 5, 2014 @ 9:30 pm

Beat Brigade, Rude Boy George and The Scofflaws!

Otto's Shrunken Head
538 East 14th Street
Manhattan, NY
No cover/21+

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Saturday, December 6, 2014 @ 7:00 pm

HR with The Scotch Bonnets, The Far East

906 Broadway
Brookyn, NY

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Friday, December 12, 2014 @ 10:30 pm

Straight to Hell (Clash Tribute) Celebrating the 35th Anniversary of "London Calling"

B.B. King's
237 West 42nd Street
New York, NY
$12 in advance/$15 day of show
All ages
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Friday, December 19, 2014

The Scofflaws

89 North
89 North Ocean Avenue
Patchogue, NY

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Saturday, December 20, 2014 @ 8:00 pm

Rude Boy George

Cafe Nine
205 State Street
New Haven, CT

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Saturday, December 20, 2014 @ 8:00 pm

The Slackers, Mephiskapheles, Jesse Wagner

The Bell House
149 7th Street
Brooklyn, NY

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Sunday, January 4, 2015 @ 7:00 pm

Rude Boy George (with Selector Duff Guide Steve spinning ska and new wave before the show!)

Sellersville Theatre
24 West Temple Avenue
Sellersville, PA

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Thursday, January 8, 2015 @ 8:00 pm

Hollie Cook, The Barr Brothers and Taylor McFerrin

Highline Ballroom
431 West 16th Street
Manhattan, NY

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Saturday, January 17, 2015

Rude Boy George Celebrates Marc's Birthday

Hill Country BBQ
30 West 26th Street
New York, NY

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Copy Cat Cover Songs Night: New Wave w/Rude Boy George

Otto's Shrunken Head
538 East 14th Street
Manhattan, NY
No cover/21+

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Friday, October 31, 2014

Update: Tracklisting for Rhoda Dakar's Bodysnatchers Album!

While we recently learned who joined Rhoda Dakar in the studio recently for her PledgeMusic project to record (mostly) unreleased Bodysnatchers songs (members of The Specials, Pama Int'l, and Intensified), we now know which songs they recorded:

"Easy Life"
"The Ghost of the Vox Continental"
"Happy Time Tune"
"Private Eye"
"Too Experienced"
"The Loser"
"Mixed Feelings"
"Let’s Do Rock Steady"

And since the project has been "overfunded" at 156%, an additional digital download-only track will be recorded and made available only to pledgers.

Obviously, a few of these tracks were recorded by The Bodysnatchers and released as singles on 2 Tone ("Easy Life," "Let Do Rock Steady," and "Too Experienced") and "Hiawatha" was released as The Belle Stars' debut single (though it was a Bodysnatchers original). The rest you only may be familiar with if you were in the right place and time to catch The Bodysnatchers when they were in action on stage (sadly, I was not--so these are mostly new to me!).

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Members of The Specials, Pama Int'l, and Intensified Join Rhoda Dakar In the Studio to Record Unreleased Bodysnatchers Songs!

If you're looking for another reason to support Rhoda Dakar's PledgeMusic project to record The Bodysnatchers' unreleased 2 Tone-era material (in celebration of that band's 35th anniversary), she announced last week that the recording had begun and revealed which musicians were with her in the studio:

Drums: Mark Claydon (The Get Up)
Bass: Horace Panter (The Specials)
Keys: Sean Flowerdew (Pama Int'l, Phoenix City All-stars)
Guitar: Lenny Bignell (The Sidewalk Doctors, Phoenix City All-stars)
Guitar: Lynval Golding (The Specials)
Sax: Karl Wirrmann (Intensified)

Obviously, this is an incredible band backing Ms. Dakar on this project--and the presence of two of The Specials should make this of even greater interest to ska fans!

If you're interested, there is still time to support Rhoda Dakar's PledgeMusic project (I've already put up the cash for a CD and a limited edition, hand-numbered LP, since I have a romantic attachment to vinyl!). It's your chance to get your hands on what arguably could be considered a "lost" 2 Tone album--music from The Bodysnatchers' set that was never committed to tape...

Read a recent and fantastic Fred Perry Subculture interview with Ms. Dakar here.

And listen to an October 8th interview with Ms. Dakar on CKUT's Roots Rock Rebel show (that refers to an earlier Duff Guide to Ska post on this PledgeMusic project!) here.

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On a related note, while I was putting together a post on the (30th anniversary) reissue of The Special AKA's In the Studio album on heavyweight vinyl, it reminded me of how essential Rhoda Dakar's singing was to the extraordinary sound and brilliance of that album (plus, she co-wrote the sublime "Nelson Mandela")...

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

John Holt, RIP

The great reggae singer John Holt, who first rose to fame with The Paragons, passed away in London on October 19, 2014 at age 67. The cause of death has not yet been released. Read Holt's obituary in The Guardian, Rolling Stone, and the BBC News.

We extend our deepest condolences to his family and friends.

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Like many people, I first heard Holt's music via Blondie's cover of "The Tide Is High" (which was featured on their Autoamerican album, released in 1980--and was a number one single on the Billboard Hot 100, selling over 1 million copies in the USA). After I discovered ska via 2 Tone in the early 80s and began to learn more about the Jamaican originators, I discovered The Paragons and came across some of Holt's solo work on various rocksteady and reggae compilations (I think the first solo Holt song I heard was his amazing cover of the somewhat cheesy "Mr. Bojangles" on the bizarrely sequenced The Trojan Story!). But my two favorite Holt songs--which are possibly some of the greatest rocksteady/reggae cuts ever written and recorded--are "Ali Baba" (from 1969 and produced by Duke Reid) and "Strange Things" (from 1971 and produced by Phil Pratt), both of which sound completely otherworldly--and are out of this world. The man and his wonderfully smooth, rich, and expressive tenor voice will be sorely missed.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Last Reissue: The Special AKA's "In the Studio" Heavyweight Vinyl LP

Heavyweight vinyl LP

It appears that Rhino's and Parlophone's campaign to reissue all of The Specials' albums on heavyweight, 180 gram vinyl will soon be complete with the upcoming release of The Special AKA's remastered In the Studio album on October 27, 2014 in the UK and on November 17, 2014 in the USA. While used copies of this original LP are fairly easy to find, this will be the first time this record will be back in print since 1984.

According to Paul Williams' "You're Wondering Now: The Specials from Conception to Reunion," The Special AKA's In the Studio took two, very difficult years (during which Jerry Dammers nearly lost his sanity and nearly took John Bradbury, Rhoda Dakar, John Shipley, Gary McManus, Stan Campbell, Dick Cuthell, and Rico Rodriguez with him!) and almost half a million pounds to record, which swallowed up the budgets of the three additional albums that the band were contractually obligated to deliver afterwards. (The This Are Two Tone compilation was released in 1983 by Chrysalis in an attempt to recoup at least some of the money that was hemorrhaging in The Special AKA's never-ending recording sessions). Upon its release, In the Studio generated great reviews, but wasn't the hit Chrysalis or the band needed it to be (it only climbed to #51 on the UK charts)--though "Nelson Mandela" made it up to #9 on the UK singles chart and became a worldwide anti-apartheid anthem.

Back in 1984 when I was still in high school, I picked up In the Studio after hearing the incredible "Nelson Mandela" on WLIR, the awesome new wave/modern rock radio station on Long Island that broadcast to the New York City area. Even though it wasn't a ska album (by then I was used to my former 2 Tone heroes moving far beyond ska; Madness and The Beat had already led the way) and "Nelson Mandela" wasn't representative of anything else on the record, I completely loved it. In the Studio was a compelling, sophisticated, and meticulously crafted mix of no wave jazz, reggae, and soul that grew on you and didn't sound like anything else that was unleashed on the UK pop charts in 1984 (i.e., Wham, Duran Duran, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, etc.). The album was claustrophobic (see "Night on the Tiles" and the jab at "Housebound" agoraphobic Terry Hall), full of righteous outrage (see "War Crimes," which was about Israel's invasion of Lebanon), brutally uncompromising in its principles (see "Racist Friend," which urged you to completely disassociate yourself from anyone, friend or family, who held racist views), and yielded what may be the catchiest protest song ever written and recorded, the euphoric hit "Nelson Mandela" (pleading for the release of the ANC leader who had been jailed by the apartheid South African government for decades)--the one moment of pure joy on record that often found the world to be a terribly and disappointingly ugly, petty, predatory, and unjust place (see "Alcohol," "What I Like Most About You Is Your Girlfriend," "Bright Lights," "Lonely Crowd," and "Break Down the Door").

In the Studio wasn't the hit pop album that the Chrysalis execs pined for (while facing down all of that red ink on their spreadsheets) or the ska album that Specials fans were expecting following the brilliant Ghost Town EP (though their hopes would have long been dashed by the string of decidedly non-ska singles from this album that preceded In the Studio's release). The Special AKA--defiantly led by Jerry Dammers--stubbornly refused to give the people what they wanted, but delivered what they thought they needed to help them navigate increasingly desperate times. Thirty years on, In the Studio sounds as strikingly unique and innovative as it did in 1984--every song is stellar--and its lyrics still contain their sting and relevance. The music and its messages endure. I only wish that The Special AKA could have found a way forward. I suspect that there was much more musical brilliance to come.

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Here's a live performance of "Nelson Mandela" by The Special AKA (but without Stan Campbell, who had left the band by then) with Elvis Costello, Ranking Roger, and Dave Wakeling that was taped for The Tube in 1984.

And here's the fantastic (and hilarious) video for "What I Like Most About You Is Your Girlfriend"...

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Duff Review: Radio Riddler "Purple Reggae"

Mita Records
CD/digital download

(Review by Steve Shafer)

As someone who loves all things new wave and who's a member of a band doing ska/reggae covers of new wave/post punk hits, my antennae shot up when I first heard about Radio Riddler's Purple Reggae project, a song-by-song reggae take on Prince and The Revolution's Purple Rain. Back when this record and film were released in the summer of 1984 (following the massive success of 1999--so much so that my dad even used my purple 1999 t-shirt with the title song's lyrics on the back for a cringe-inducing sermon he gave one youth Sunday at our church), Purple Rain was one of those near-perfect albums (take a look at the track list), where almost every song on both sides of the record was stellar. And the songs touched on enough musical genres to have extraordinarily wide appeal--they attracted fans of new wave, classic rock, pop, funk, rhythm and blues, and more.

It was inescapable, too. Cuts from Purple Rain were all over radio and MTV--and deservedly so. If you were a teenage consumer of music at the time, Purple Rain had a profound impact. Years on, the album has become a touchstone of your youth and the songs evoke all sorts of sharp memories. You know where you were, what you were doing, and who you were doing it with. I'll always remember how the girls in my circle of friends were all out crazy for Prince--they dug his music, his intense and charismatic performances, and his overt sexuality that was tempered by all the theatricality and androgyny. My girlfriend at the time was the one who scored us tickets to see Prince and The Revolution at Madison Square Garden and it was a pretty great show, even if we were in the last row in the nosebleed seats and could only see Prince through a pair of binoculars.

For the past several years, Radio Riddler--Brian Fast Leiser and Frank Benbini of Fun Lovin' Criminals--have been creating reggae and dub mixes of songs by many of their favorite artists (such as Marvin Gaye). This has led them to take on a reported five-year project in celebration of Purple Rain. (I wonder how Prince feels about Radio Riddler's logo, which appropriates Warner Brothers' logo. He had an ugly and long-running battle with WB, which was just recently resolved...) Timed to celebrate the 30th anniversary (!) of the release of Purple Rain, Radio Riddler's Purple Reggae, featuring guest vocals by Suggs (Madness), Sinead O'Connor, Ali Campbell (ex-UB40), Citizen Cope, Deborah Bonham (sister of the Led Zeppelin drummer), and Beverley Knight (a hugely popular soul/r and b singer in the UK, who has an MBE in recognition of all of her charity work), is an ambitious, ingenious, and throughly enjoyable tribute this classic album.

The most successful realization of this effort may be Radio Riddler's incredible version of "Let's Go Crazy" with Suggs on vocals--his relaxed, assured, and upbeat delivery is the perfect counterpoint to the amped up music and propulsive riddim he's riding. It's always been my favorite track on Purple Rain (I've always thought of it as a "1999, Part II" with its "enjoy yourself, it's later than you think" attitude about our mortality, coupled with the subliminal Cold War-era dread of living with the pretty high possibility of nuclear war--the air raid siren at the beginning and end of Radio Riddler's mix reinforces what was then a very real threat, as does the Pac Man-like "game over" sound effect when the track fades out...). This version uses many of the same elements of the original--Prince's unique, processed electronic drum sound, which is used throughout this album, and the song's emphasis on the repeated organ line--but everything's been revamped with a bouncy and extremely catchy reggae skank and it works exceedingly well. (I'd almost recommend you buy this album on this track alone, but that would give short-shrift to all the amazing songs that follow...)

"Take Me With U" moves into loping reggae/soul territory with Deborah Bonham's impassioned singing (it's no longer a duet, as it was between Prince and Apollonia) and this arrangement sheds some of the original's tightly-wound urgency, but in turn adds more emotional depth and impact. In contrast, "The Beautiful Ones'" tempo is sped up here, giving Prince's mostly breezy, delicate ballad (with Benbini singing falsetto) a bit of worried urgency over whether she'll choose the other guy over The Kid that the source lacks (until the end, of course, when Prince freaks out). Radio Riddler manage to translate the electro-funk of "Computer Blue" into a great horn-driven ska track (with a killer reggae break in the middle, featuring trombone and melodica). Back in the day, I remember thinking that "Darling Nikki" was a ridiculously indulgent (and kind of embarrassing) track (and it still is), marring Prince's otherwise extraordinary album. At least Radio Riddler's cooly seductive dancehall-ish version--with Benbini at the mic--is a much more pleasant/less skanky experience.

While Prince and The Revolution's mega-hit "When Doves Cry" is a spare drums/keyboard track with no bass line (that endows it with a tension and claustrophobic feeling that reflects the pain and desperate sorrow in the lyrics--as well as a distinctive sound that was unlike anything on the radio at the time), Radio Riddler sneak the bass back in under the bubbling keys (after all, how can you have reggae without the bass?!). And their inventive arrangement (it opens with a marimba and accordion covering the keyboard riff from the original) along with Citizen Cope's wounded singing are completely stellar. Given Sinead O'Connor's past association with Prince (she had an enormous hit in 1990 with the Prince composition "Nothing Compares 2 U") and her well-known love of reggae (in 2005, she recorded the superb Throw Down Your Arms, where she covered roots reggae cuts by Burning Spear, Junior Byles, Peter Tosh, Bob Marley, Lee Perry, The Abyssinians, and others, backed by Sly and Robbie), it's brilliant that Radio Riddler were able to feature her on this recording. It's even more fantastic that O'Connor sings "I Would Die 4 U" (where Prince, um, strives to be like/assumes the qualities of the son of God and pledges to sacrifice himself in order to redeem his lover), given her deep religious beliefs and that fact that she's an ordained priest in the Catholic Latin Tridentine Church. She serves up a restrained, but very moving performance, as if she's already carrying the sins of the world on her shoulders and knows what will have to be done to save us.

The slow, but strutting funky-reggae arrangement of "Baby, I'm a Star" provides Beverly Knight the space to show off her gorgeous voice and considerable talent--and so effectively convey the mighty swagger of the lyrics that she gives Prince a run for his money. She owns this. Purple Reggae is capped off by an awesomely melancholic, but defiantly joyful rendition of "Purple Rain" sung by the unmistakable Ali Campbell. If you played this track for someone who didn't know what it was, they'd swear it was a long-lost UB40 cut from the 80s, when they were in their prime.

Radio Riddler's Purple Reggae is a superb (and fun!) re-imagining of this classic record, one that is faithful to the spirit and sound of the original, while successfully transforming these songs into dynamic, new reggae cuts. If you're a fan of reggae and of Prince, Purple Reggae is a must!

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