Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Duff Interview: Barney Boom of Sonic Boom Six!

Barney Boom, bassist, vocalist, and lyricist for the Sonic Boom Six was kind enough to take the time to answer some of our questions below about the band's extraordinary new album, "The F-Bomb" (Phoenix City Records/Cherry Red). We think it's probably the best ska release of the year (read The Duff Guide to Ska review of "The F-Bomb" here to see how we back up our bold claim)!  

The Duff Guide to Ska: What range of reactions has "The F-Bomb's" cover photograph elicited so far (and are they what you expected)?

Barney Boom: I think at the moment it's largely been only in and around our own fan base, so people have generally got it and loved it. With the video for 'From The Fire To The Frying Pan', I think we've given people another lens to look at the cover through, to flesh out the point we are trying to make. Observing the reaction when the cover has been posted on sites like Rock Sound and seeing the comments, it's obvious that the world at large will react differently to it than our fans, but that's the point. Like our videos and our music it's meant to provoke discussion, it's meant to prod a finger on convention and the status quo and say, 'is this OK?' The only reaction that surprised me was a few that thought that the 'Bomb' in 'F-Bomb' was purely a Muslim fundamentalist/terrorist pun and it was a shock jock thing to provoke, with no actual substance beyond that. I think that without the 'F', on a purely visual level, I can get that, but when you throw in the 'F' there and consider that these ideas and associations are overlapping with another concept, the whole thing is a lot more interesting than us going 'this album will go with a BOOM!' or anything like that.

DGTS: In my review, I've guessed at what the F in "F-Bomb" signifies, but what does it mean to you?

BB: It's only when we finished the album that we noticed the streak that ran through it that prompted that title. I think Dan Weller actually came up with it. The whole thing happened this way because I'd made a conscious decision to write songs from Laila's perspective, and that entailed a female perspective. So, a lot of the social issues we'd been exploring from a third person point of view on previous records, we were now drilling down on a bit more personally. Something like 'All The Same To Me' might have previously been a song like 'F.U.C.K' off our first album; a sideswipe at the sickly, aspirational side of social media and TV. Whereas on this record it's a girl watching it and feeling the pressure it puts out there for her. So, I think that's where it came from. Certainly, to me, the 'F' in the 'F-Bomb' stands for female. There was something in the air last year and feminism was a hugely hot topic. It just permeated the whole record without us being aware of it when writing the lyrics.

DGTS: I recently about one of the 2 Tone-era musicians, how they were approached years later by fans who told them that their music and message made them think about and then alter their racist behavior--the music kept them from becoming life-long racists! Do you feel that the Sonic Boom Six's politically progressive songs are having this kind of impact? Are you reaching the people who might change their attitudes and behavior for the better?

BB: Yeah, I've had anecdotal evidence of exactly the same thing. We've had kids come up and tell them we've been a conduit to change their attitude to racism. We've had kids come up and tell them we've been a conduit to change their attitude towards rap and grime music, or dance music, and that could well be the first step to opening their minds up to everything else. I mean, changing attitudes 'for the better' is subjective. Certainly, if you read YouTube comments on our videos, a lot of people think we're changing attitudes for the worst! But our form of activism has always been velvet glove. Our gigs are a party and there is stuff in the lyrics we're happy for people to take or leave or disagree with. That being said, unlike some bands in the 2 Tone era--who were probably too young to understand the implications of what they were saying--we don't leave politics at the door. Racism or sexism or anything that flies in the face of what we're about is not welcome at our shows. We'd definitely take a stand for that.
Barney Boom in action!

DGTS: Several of the songs on "The F-Bomb" seem like they're based on real people/experiences. For instance, is there an actual Joanna?

BB: 'Joanna' is about Laura Jane Grace of Against Me! I consider myself a progressive person, but apart from a transsexual woman at work years ago, I hadn't had any direct experience with transsexual people. One of the women at work didn't want her using the same toilets and I didn't have much of an opinion on it. After Laura Jane Grace, I would have a strong opinion on it. Her publicly transitioning in the way she did put that whole issue in front of me and lit the way for both Laila and I to consider the implications of that, so it's life-changing and we wanted to capture that. But elsewhere on the album there are certainly a lot of parts that relate real experiences. 'From The Fire To The Frying Pan' is about a fan of ours that went from innocent kid to mouth-foaming immigrant-hater in the space of months on social media; 'Worship Yourself' is about a friend of ours who was in an emotionally abusive relationship for years on end; 'Do What You Wanna Do' is about moving to London from Manchester and the negativity that caused among certain friends and family... It's all mired in real life.

DGTS: The harrowing, but inspiring "Echoes in the Dark" appears to be about a woman who had been sexually assaulted as a teen finally finding the strength to reclaim her life. What compelled you to write this song?

BB: I think at the point that I'd written a few songs on the album, a theme was emerging, so I wanted to explore it in a way that was consistent with the idea of 'The F-Bomb', but ended the album on a note of hope. Obviously, this is a hugely sensitive subject but the title came to me and the music sounded so dark and open that it lead me to explore these issues. No matter what shit people go through, human beings have an incredible ability to move past trauma. 'Sexually assaulted' might be a bit strong, but it's up to the listener to decide that. Certainly I was thinking about an older lad using and preying upon a girl that's under 16, so legally I guess that's accurate, but in my head the girl was in love with him and he had his way with her in a way she only just understood, then he rejected her, and it's years later she's considering the hugely problematic implications of it, and how much it affected her, and how she's ultimately moved past it. I grew up with girls that when we were 14 running round in parks were sleeping with men, and for some that's fine, but for others it has lasting negative effects. I've known Laila since we were kids and certainly this song is -- if not about a specific person -- a definite exploration of what could have happened. I think 'Echoes In The Dark' is ending the album on a note that says that no matter what is going on in the world, especially as it pertains to females and the pressure that society puts on them, that we're headed in the right direction as human beings and we're going to get through it.

DGTS: The Specials and Dexys Midnight Runners clearly influenced the sound and message of this album. What else were you listening to/reading/watching that helped shape the writing and recording of these tracks?

Sonic Boom Six
BB: Oh wow, I mean, bands like The Specials and Dexys and The Clash were always there, but this album we were really thinking of ways of how we could do the ska thing without sounding like a 'ska band' per se with bass, drums and choppy guitars. So, definitely dance and pop and reggae productions we enjoyed had a huge influence. We had a Spotify Playlist when we recorded the album that we referenced for mixes and tone and vibes, which included stuff like Dub Pistols, modern-era No Doubt, Skool Of Thought, The B-52s, Lily Allen, Santigold, Major Lazer, Rodney P, Mungo's Hifi, Hollie Cook, Kelis, Bruno Mars, Jamie T... those acts are a good indicator of the mix of sounds we were really referencing.

In terms of watching and reading, unlike previous albums, where I'm quoting swathes of books and putting literary puns in there, there wasn't a huge amount of influence from fiction and films this time. Really it was our real life observations and experiences that were driving what we were talking about. 'L.O.V.E' was about what we were seeing on the news on planet earth rather than what we were watching on Game Of Thrones to be honest. It's a very grounded album in that sense.

DGTS: Are there any plans to tour parts of the US for "The F-Bomb"?

BB: We'd love to, and we're going to release the album on vinyl over there at least, so that would be great. Maybe a festival or two--the difficult thing is getting booked, to be honest. Keep spreading the word and keep on to promoters to book us and perhaps we'll get a chance to come back. We'd absolutely love to but it's really just a financial thing; if we can make it without losing dollar, we'll be over!

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Sonic Boom Six's summer 2016 UK dates in support of The F-Bomb can be found here.

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Friday, May 27, 2016

The Duff Guide to Ska NYC Spring/Summer 2016 Ska Calendar #30

Friday, May 27, 2016 @ 8:00 pm

Oi/Punk/Ska Party w/45 Adapters, Changala, Eleventh Hour, The Wurst, plus DJ Gorilla

Don Pedro
90 Manhattan Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
$10/21+

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Saturday, June 4, 2016 @ 11:00 am - 5:00 pm

Rude Boy George

West Orange Street Fair
Edison National Historic Site
211 Main Street
West Orange, NJ
Free

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Friday, June 10, 2016 @ 9:00 pm

Raskahuele, The Ladrones, Escasos Recursos, plus DJ Gorilla

Big Bang Nightclub
65-12 Roosevelt Avenue
Queens, NY
$20/18+

+ + + +

Thursday, June 16, 2016 @ 8:30 pm

The Duff Guide to Ska presents: The Rudie Crew All-Stars, Skarroñeros, and 1592 (from Detroit!) w/DJ Ryan Midnight

Otto's Shrunken Head
538 East 14th Street (between Avenues A and B)
Alphabet City
New York
No cover/21+

(Bring some extra cash for when we pass the hat for each band!)

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Saturday, June 18, 2016 @ 4:00 pm

Rockers Underground with Top Shotta Band, The Far East, 1592, Radio Daze, plus selections by Crazy Baldhead

The People's Garden
Greene Avenue and Broadway
Brooklyn, NY
$10

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Sunday, June 19, 2016--from Noon to 10:00 pm

*****The Duff Guide to Ska and Skamela present An All-Star NYC Ska Benefit for Roy Radics' Family*****

Pilfers, The Rudie Crew All-Stars, King Django Sextet, Reggay Lords, The Ladrones, Skadrophenia (members of The Pietasters and Beat Brigade), The Pandemics, Shunklings, Brendog/Jerica/Mikal, The Applecores, and more!

Plus selectors Agent Jay, Grace of Spades, John Glenn Sound, and Frankie Too Far--and Bucket and Checkerboard Phil as emcees.

Outdoor/All-day festival!

The Well
272 Meserole Street
Brooklyn, NY
Tickets: $10 in advance/$15 day of show
18+

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Wednesday, June 22, 2016 @ 8:00 pm
The Far East, Shellshag, DAAP Girls

Union Hall
702 Union Street
Brooklyn, NY
$6.00/21+

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Friday, June 24, 2016 @ 8:00 pm

Masters of Ska w/Beat Brigade, Hub City Stompers, Domino Propio, plus DJ Gorilla

Don Pedro
90 Manhattan Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
$10/21+

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Sunday, June 26, 2016 @ 2:00 pm

Toots and the Maytals, Beres Hammond, Brian McKnight, Peabo Bryson, Tessanne Chin, Duane Stephenson

Groovin' in the Park
Roy Wilkins Park
Jamaica, Queens
Tickets: $59.99

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Tuesday, June 28, 2016 @ 7:00 pm

The Toasters

Revolution Bar and Music Hall
140 Merrick Road
Amityville, NY

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Saturday, July 9, 2016 @ 7:00 pm

The Scofflaws, Lowhency Pierre, Atlantic Avenue, Thin Lear

Pianos NYC
158 Ludlow Street
New York, NY
$10/21+

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Friday, August 19, 2016 @ 7:00 pm

Rude Boy George

Oskar Schindler Performing Arts Center (OSPAC)
4 Boland Dr
West Orange, NJ

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Friday, August 26, 2016 @ 7:00 pm (boat departs at 8:00 pm)

Rocks Off Booze Cruise with The Slackers

The Liberty Belle departs from Pier 36
299 South Street
Manhattan, NY
21+
$30 in advance/$35 day of show

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Friday, September 9, 2016 @ 7:00 pm

The Specials, The Far East

Terminal 5
610 West 56th Street
Manhattan, NY
$45.00 (plus service fees)

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Thursday, May 19, 2016

New Madness Album: "Can't Touch Us Now"!

Madness has just announced that their new album--their 11th!--Can't Touch Us Now will be released on October 21, 2016 and the band will be playing UK dates in support of it in December. Wherever you are, you can pre-register for the tour pre-sale, as well as pre-order the album, now! (Would it be too much to ask for a NYC show at some point in the future?!)

Based on their two, previous, and extraordinarily good albums, The Liberty of Norton Folgate (2009) and Oui, Oui, Si, Si, Ja, Ja, Da, Da (2013), I have very high hopes/expectations for Can't Touch Us Now.

Of course, I've just pre-ordered Can't Touch Us Now and will have to patiently wait for it to show up in the mail this fall...

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Read my thoughts on The Liberty of Norton Folgate and my review of Oui, Oui, Si, Si, Ja, Ja, Da, Da. (I've also reviewed Julien Temple's 2009 Madness concert film, "The Liberty of Norton Folgate.")

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Pilfers Headline All-Star, All-Day, Outdoor Ska Benefit/Festival for Roy Radics Family!




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This is the latest flyer for the Roy Radics benefit/festival that I'm helping to organize! More bands will be added to the line-up as details are finalized...

Advance tickets are available here: https://www.ticketfly.com/purchase/event/1176989?utm_medium=bks.

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Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Duff Guide to Ska NYC Spring/Summer 2016 Ska Calendar #29

Saturday, May 14, 2016 @ 9:00 pm

Dubistry

The Shrine
2271 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard
New York, NY
No cover!

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Saturday, May 14, 2016

Mustard Plug, Rude Boy George

Founders Brewing Co.
235 Grandville Avenue SW
Grand Rapids, MI

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Monday, May 16, 2016 @ 6:30 pm

Stacked Like Pancakes, Beat Brigade (featuring original BB sax man Nelson Rivera!), Whaleneck

Mercury Lounge
217 East Houston Street
New York, NY
$10/18+

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Friday, May 27, 2016 @ 8:00 pm

Oi/Punk/Ska Party w/45 Adapters, Changala, Eleventh Hour, The Wurst, plus DJ Gorilla

Don Pedro
90 Manhattan Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
$10/21+

+ + + +

Saturday, June 4, 2016 @ 11:00 am - 5:00 pm

Rude Boy George

West Orange Street Fair
Edison National Historic Site
211 Main Street
West Orange, NJ
Free

+ + + +

Friday, June 10, 2016 @ 9:00 pm

Raskahuele, The Ladrones, Escasos Recursos, plus DJ Gorilla

Big Bang Nightclub
65-12 Roosevelt Avenue
Queens, NY
$20/18+

+ + + +

Thursday, June 16, 2016 @ 8:30 pm

The Duff Guide to Ska presents: The Rudie Crew All-Stars, Skarroñeros, and 1592 (from Detroit!) w/DJ Ryan Midnight

Otto's Shrunken Head
538 East 14th Street (between Avenues A and B)
Alphabet City
New York
No cover/21+

(Bring some extra cash for when we pass the hat for each band!)

+ + + +

Sunday, June 19, 2016--from Noon to 10:00 pm

*****The Well and The Duff Guide to Ska present Skamela: An All-Star NYC Ska Benefit for Roy Radics' Family*****

Pilfers, King Django Sextet, The Rudie Crew All-Stars, Reggay Lords, The Ladrones, Funkface, The Pandemics, Shunklings, and many more bands and artists to be announced soon!

Plus selectors Agent Jay, Grace of Spades, John Glenn Sound, and Frankie Too Far--and Bucket and Checkerboard Phil as emcees.

Outdoor/All-day festival!

The Well
272 Meserole Street
Brooklyn, NY
Tickets: $10 in advance/$15 day of show

+ + + +

Sunday, June 26, 2016 @ 2:00 pm

Toots and the Maytals, Beres Hammond, Brian McKnight, Peabo Bryson, Tessanne Chin, Duane Stephenson

Groovin' in the Park
Roy Wilkins Park
Jamaica, Queens
Tickets: $59.99

+ + + +

Tuesday, June 28, 2016 @ 7:00 pm

The Toasters

Revolution Bar and Music Hall
140 Merrick Road
Amityville, NY

+ + + +

Saturday, July 9, 2016 @ 7:00 pm

The Scofflaws, Lowhency Pierre, Atlantic Avenue, Thin Lear

Pianos NYC
158 Ludlow Street
New York, NY
$10/21+

+ + + +

Friday, August 19, 2016 @ 7:00 pm

Rude Boy George

Oskar Schindler Performing Arts Center (OSPAC)
4 Boland Dr
West Orange, NJ

+ + + +

Friday, August 26, 2016 @ 7:00 pm (boat departs at 8:00 pm)
Rocks Off Booze Cruise with The Slackers

The Liberty Belle departs from Pier 36
299 South Street
Manhattan, NY
21+
$30 in advance/$35 day of show

+ + + +

Friday, September 9, 2016 @ 7:00 pm

The Specials, The Far East

Terminal 5
610 West 56th Street
Manhattan, NY
$45.00 (plus service fees)

+ + + +

Friday, May 13, 2016

Duff Review: Sonic Boom Six "The F-Bomb"

Phoenix City Records/Cherry Red Records
2016
CD

(Review by Steve Shafer)

In these strange, terrible days when the forces of ignorance and fear are on the rise in so many supposedly civilized nations and baldfaced xenophobia, Islamophobia, racism, and sexism are increasingly (re-)mainstreamed, it's quite fantastic to behold Sonic Boom Six's singer Laila K. (a British woman of Pakistani descent) wearing a traditional Muslim niqab and staring out at you (with a glint in her eyes) from the cover of their fifth album, The F-Bomb.

The imagery, of course, is meant to provoke and challenge any overt or hidden biases you may hold regarding women, Muslims, ethnicity, or otherness. But, like the brilliant, joyful songs contained within, it's also about being fully empowered and unequivocally expressing support for gender equality, finding empathy for our fellow human beings (no matter how they're packaged), and fully embracing the wonderful diversity of people. The trick that the Sonic Boom Six so artfully pull off is that they address these issues without being preachy or resorting to polemics. These aren't dour songs of liberal indoctrination. The band aims to change hearts and minds with progressive social messages delivered in fantastic, hook-filled music that will make everyone want to dance (though one should be asking the question why advocating for true equality for everyone--no matter what their color, religion, gender, orientation, disability, or background--is solely seen as a liberal/left-wing cause). It's the tried-and-true 2 Tone formula that helped promote racial unity (along with other bands aligned with Rock Against Racism) during a time of great social and economic turmoil in England, when racist and fascist ideologues and groups like the National Front (which was making a play for real political power) were fomenting racial violence with incendiary language blaming all of the country's ills on non-white Britons and recent immigrants.

All of this is to say that for people who like their music to have a message, as I do, this extraordinary record is the mother-lode. In fact, Sonic Boom Six's The F-Bomb may just be the best ska album of the year.

The F-Bomb--I suppose it's up to the listener to decide if the F stands for female or feminist, though the implication is that these words are associated with an obscenity--roars out of the starting gate with the powerful and insistent "No Man, No Right," a gleefully unapologetic women's rights manifesto set to a brisk ska beat:

"No man, no right
To tell me what I should wear
Or what I put inside my body
While pretending to care
They've no right
And we can live our life with way we like
No man, no right

No man, no right
To put himself in my head
Judge the company I keep
Or what I do in my bed
They've no right
And we can live our life the way that we like
No man, no right

No man, no right
To define a sexuality
By a tattoo on the base of a back
No man, no right
They blame the victim, 'cause she chose that skirt
Not the animal who chose to attack

No man, no right
To decide it is a liberty
If I choose to take my own control
No man, no right
'Cause this is my body and I have my choice
And I pop it out and swallow it whole.

No man, no right
No man, no right to
Call the woman bitch 'cause she don’t want you boy

No man no right
No man no right to
What a foolish thing to do"



The final strains of "Rule, Britannia!" (one of Britain's unofficial anthems, closely associated with the Victorian era, when England's Empire consisted of great, colonized swaths of Africa and Southern Asia, which placed about a fifth of the planet's land mass and a quarter of the world's population under her rule) introduce "From The Fire to The Frying Pan" (check out the video here!), the tale of a young, disaffected, white Briton who comes under the influence of those who want to radicalize him to hate perceived foreigners like Laila K., who supposedly want to take over the country.

""See them coming over here to take what's yours"
Johnny nodded, but he wasn't really sure
"Won't be happy till we're living by their laws
--every time we give an inch they just want more!"

Johnny just take it easy, easy
Take a step back and see me, here I stand
Out of the fire to the frying pan
Well, if you want to hate me, here I am

He just a boy in an angry mob
Might throw a punch, but he ain't no yob
Proud of defending his own country
Blissfully blind of his history

"See them coming over hear to take what's yours"
Johnny found a cause worth fighting for
"Some of them are gonna start a holy war
--how to tell the ones apart, I'm still not sure."

The irony, of course, is that a) she's as British as he is, and b) he's completely ignorant of England's imperialistic past, which forcibly brought many non-white people (living in their own countries, mind you) into the British Empire (many of whom emigrated to the "mother" country after WWII and helped rebuild its economy and enrich its culture). And then there's the personal connection between Johnny and the singer--she represents "those people," the object of their hate (refer to the album cover). But he knows her and should be aware that she doesn't represent what the nationalistic racists accuse the people who happen to look like her of wanting/plotting/being. It's the personal connections to people in the "other" group that always disprove the ridiculous racial stereotypes--they're firsthand evidence of how the supposedly true stereotype is false and a great example of why we all need to live in diverse communities. The song ends on an ominous note, though, quoting The Specials' "Why?" ("With a Nazi salute and a steel-capped boot/You follow like sheep inna wolf clothes"). Lynval Golding, of course, wrote this song after being severely beaten in a brutal racially-motivated attack in 1980 (his "offense" was walking down the street with two white women).

Sonic Boom Six
The ska/dubstep cut "Do What You Wanna Do" nicks the opening horn and bass lines from Dexys Midnight Runners' "Geno" (and towards the end there's a bit of The Specials' "Nite Klub" mixed in!) for a song about not conforming to societal norms or giving into other people's expectations of you (particularly, if you're a woman):

"Lead your life your way
After the middle of the night
Is a brand new day
Don't wait around, lady
Hesitate or stall
'Cause if you don't get on it now
Then you won't at all

Do what you want to
Not what they told you to

Your history is behind you
The sun is rising on a brand new day
Don't let their limits define you
It's doesn't matter what the neighbors say"

While this song is pitched to women specifically, it's sure to give encouragement to all the self-doubters who hear it, no matter what their gender.

With its references/allusions to the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi ("An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind."), Martin Luther King, Jr. ("Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”), Jesus ("But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;"), even The Beatles (do I really need to provide the reference here?), "L.O.V.E" is an incredible ska-pop clarion call for using this still radical emotion/expression/philosophy to counter all the hate and violence in the world.

"All the boys on the left
Want to shoot down
All the boys on the right
at their own town
There's a bomb going off in the background
Everybody's suffering

Angeline puts her faith in religion
Sits alone as she cries in the kitchen
At the scenes on her own television
Everybody's struggling

I don't know just what we need to do
All I have are just the words I sing to you
Please excuse my simple point of view
But if I stand for love
Will you stand there, too?

We've got to stand for something
It's all or nothing
If I stand for love
Will you stand there, too?
Because the way we're living
Is just not working
If we stand for love
Maybe they will, too

There's a war going on and we don't mind
There's a death on the screen and we rewind
Take an eye for an eye and we're all blind
Everybody's murdering

Now the town it'll drown in the bloodshed
or the god with a gun to his own head
Take a life for a life and we're all dead
It's time for something new

We've got to stand for something
It's all or nothing
If I stand for love
Will you stand there, too?
But the road we're taking
We just can't make it
And my heart is breaking...

Stand
'Cause if there's a chance to make
This for the human race
It's only love that can make amends
Now, that's why I'm standing for you
You've got to stand for something, my friend

L-O-V-E"

The song doesn't pretend to present specific solutions, but it's on the money for where we need to be in order to find ways to stop inflicting all of this pain and death on each other. (A little off the topic side note: I love the computer-y sound effects in the song, including one that seems like it's sampled from one of the blasters in "Star Wars.")

"Joanna"--a vibrant track that sounds like it could have been written by The Equators or The Beat--may be the first ska song about the experience of knowing someone who is transgendered. And it's a really great one.

"Joanna, I know it shouldn't matter
In this day and age
That you slipped into a dress
And you stepped out your cage
How can we deny her
When you're shining like a diamond
With a guitar, singing on the stage?

Oh, irony, irony
I get on my knees, ashamed
I thought everything was over
'Cause you changed your name
And then I saw a photograph
It still was you, but looking like you wanted to
I'll never see the world the same

Joanna, I don't care what the people say
'Cause we need you to guide the way
Shine you light for the world today
And we can follow your lead, I say

Joanna, light the way and we can take it together
Waiting for the day when all the world will see
That you never should have had to hide
All the beauty that you have inside
How could anybody miss it?
Joanna, you shine so bright

Growing up is never easy, but it had to be
So confusing when you're losing your identity
Your gender is a riddle when you're swimming in the middle
Of a world that sees in binary

Only she led a life of desperation and torn
Between the life you envision and the way you're born
I really hope that you can have the patience to illuminate the way
It's always darkest just before the dawn"

This song makes the case that the best way to overcome one's fears/prejudices/misconceptions is through our connections to people who are different that you are. And, again, that's why it's so vital that we live, go to school, work, and socialize in diverse communities, so we come into regular, close contact with all sorts of people and have a greater understanding, acceptance, and love of other people's differences. (Racism and discrimination are learned behaviors; if kids are growing up amidst tolerance and diversity, it's likely that they won't turn out to be racist, homophobic, fearful adults.)

Other tracks on the album are concerned with boasting about making incredible dance music ("Drop The Bass (And Pick It Up)," which quotes The Skatalites' opening riff of their cover of "Guns of Navarone"); a sweet reggae-pop break-up ballad ("Train Leaves Tomorrow"--with guest vocals by Coolie Ranx!); ensuring that you take care of/respect yourself so other people can't abuse you ("Worship Yourself": "Don't doubt, worship yourself/Don't let him bring you down/Get out, break up, and stand your ground"); and trying to be aware of how the standards of seemingly effortless beauty that we're bombarded with via all of our screens are manufactured and fake, with no connection to reality ("All The Same To Me": "Do I look as thin as they do?/Is it too good to be true?").

"Echoes In The Dark," the final track on the album, is both harrowing and inspiring. It's about a woman who was sexually abused when she was barely in her teens, but who has the resilience to survive and eventually reclaim her life: "You, without a care in the world/Took everything and left me broken/Then did your best to avoid the little girl you destroyed/Was it all a dream?/A memory of that scene/A girl of age fourteen/A shadow in the park/And as I strengthen here/Through every passing year/The fears disappear/Like echoes in the dark...Was it all a dream?/Waking up from an endless night/With the shadows fading in the light/Was it all a dream?"

The Sonic Boom Six's The F-Bomb is brimming with immensely relevant, optimistic, and hopefully useful ska/dubstep/pop songs that are meant to inspire us to think about our own behavior and attitudes towards each other--and alter them for the better. They recognize that individual change ultimately can bring about societal change--and they want to be part of the catalyst that advances this type of progress that we all so desperately need.

These songs should be broadcast far and wide...

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Friday, May 6, 2016

New Rude Boy George Track and Video for "Close To Me"--Plus Gigs in Michigan with Mustard Plug!

My good friends from Rude Boy George are at it again, releasing the second song and video from their forthcoming album, Love and Dancing (the previous cut/video was for Soft Cell's "Tainted Love"). This time out, they're giving The Cure's "Close To Me" (from their 1985 album, Head on the Door) their fantastic ska touch. The track was produced by Wayne "Wayylo" Lothian (ex-English Beat, Special Beat, General Public, Sunday Best) and the video directed by RBG's keyboardist Pamela Buckley and her husband John (I even make a brief appearance at around 2:17, from a show at Cafe 9 in New Haven, CT at the end of 2014).



Rude Boy George is also hitting the road, playing several gigs with Mustard Plug in Michigan:

Friday, May 13, 2016: Bell's Eccentric Cafe in Kalamazoo, MI w/Mustard Plug and Sailor Kicks
Saturday, May 14, 2016: Founder's Brewing Co., Grand Rapids, MI w/Mustard Plug and Sailor Kicks

And they have two NYC-area dates soon, too:

Saturday, June 4, 2016: West Orange, NJ Street Fair
Friday, July 1, 2016: Arlene's Grocery, New York, NY

They always put on a terrific, fun show! See them if they're playing near you!

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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Duff Review: The Frits "The Greatest Frits"

Pork Pie Records
2016
CD

(Review by Steve Shafer)

I can't quite remember how I first learned about The Frits--it may have been a review in George Marshall's essential Zoot! skazine--but I know I mail-ordered their releases through Unicorn Records and managed to buy their entire catalogue in the early 1990s (I just checked The Frits' Discogs entry for confirmation--I even have their CD single "Ebbies Bluff," which has their cover of Guns N' Roses' "November Rain"!). Fortunately, you don't have to go to the lengths that I did (going to the bank, exchanging dollars for pounds, and mailing them off with fingers crossed to the UK) to enjoy some of the best tracks from the band dubbed "the German Specials"--they're all collected on the aptly titled The Greatest Frits.

Like the post-2 Tone UK ska scene, which featured the likes of Laurel Aitken, Bad Manners, The Trojans, Potato 5, Maroon Town, The Loafers, King Hammond, The Riffs, The Deltones, and more, the late 80s/early 90s German ska scene had fostered an equally impressive roster of bands, including The Busters, No Sports, El Bosso und die Ping Pongs, The Braces, Skaos, The Butlers, Blechreiz, and, of course, The Frits. What first attracted me to the band was their hyper-charged 2-Tone ska, but what made keep coming back for each subsequent release was their fantastic songwriting and performances, all of which still sound great and vital twenty-five years on.

The Greatest Frits opens with "Life of Brian" (from The Frits' 1988 single of the same name), their inspired cover of Monty Python's "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life," which, like The Specials' cover of "Enjoy Yourself" (released at a time when things were becoming increasingly dire for working class youth and non-white Britons under Thatcher's rule), is cheerfully positive on the surface ("If life seems jolly rotten [I always thought it was, "If life seems Johnny Rotten"!]/There's something you've forgotten/and that's to that's to laugh and smile and dance and sing/When you're feeling in the dumps/Don't be silly chumps/Just purse your lips and whistle/That's the thing/And...always look on the bright side of life"), but is really meant to be taken ironically, since it masks a much more ominous message. (In the movie "Life of Brian," the protagonist has been sentenced to death and is surrounded by fellow condemned prisoners who try to cheer him up by singing "always look on the bright side of life," while they're all slowly dying on crucifixes--it's interesting to note that The Busters covered Bobby McFerrin's similarly-themed "Don't Worry, Be Happy" a year later; and, like The Busters, The Frits sing in English, which sometimes results in awkwardly phrased lyrics, but their meaning is always clear.)

While The Frits' material from their first two albums, Die Erste in 1988 and The Rude Message in 1989, is very strong and is concerned with work, women, and generally not being a dope, the band really hit their stride in 1991 with Little Idiots. After the unexpected fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the reunification of (communist and very poor) East and (democratic and prosperous) West Germany, there was a horrific increase in the number of fascist/neo-Nazi groups and hate crimes, primarily in the former East Germany, which had seen an influx of Eastern European refugees (who were being blamed by the hate groups for the high unemployment and economic hardship prevalent at that time). The Frits' 2 Tone-like response to this worsening situation was to write some of the most powerful and catchiest anti-racist/anti-fascist songs of that era (which, maddeningly enough, are still very relevant in many parts of the world today, including the USA).

The absolutely searing "The Most I Hate Is You" expresses The Frits' equivocal feelings about fascist youth and their neo-Nazi leaders who've lured and trapped them in their twisted, dead-end ideology:

"You walk in every morning
The same old naked way
Your head is much too heavy
Your thoughts are full of hate

You think of what you've talked about
Last night with your friends
But now you're on the run again
There is no other chance

The most I hate is you
The most I hate is you
The most I hate is you
What you gonna say?
What you gonna do?
The most I hate is you

They will make you smaller
Smaller than you seem
Tell you, "What is all the work for?"
Tell you, "What do you mean?"

You're sitting in a big cage
But you haven't got the key
The key has got your big balls
There is no way to live"



With its irresistible, sing-along chorus, "Bonehead" tries to reach the very misguided--but not irredeemable--knucklehead, to persuade them to stop their violent, racist behavior:

"You are so proud
Of what you've done
Now I see you standing there
With all your friends
You've had a lot of fun
They show you how to go "right" ways

Can't you feel so tall?
You know every trick
To hide your little weakness now
But I tell you
(I tell you)
You are so wrong
Everyone can see your little sign
Saying...

Bonehead, you are going wrong
Listen to the message
The message of this song, yeah
The black man is all right
There is no reason for a fight, see?
Only stupid reasons are for you, all right?"

[There is only one fan-created video of "Bonehead" out there; it uses footage of neo-Nazi and white power skinheads in an attempt to shame them with the sharp lyrics of this song, but I'm not posting it here, as they don't deserve any kind of exposure that could be misinterpreted as endorsing or glorifying their hateful ways.]

"Searching for Another Place in Town" perfectly captures the loneliness and despair of finding oneself an outcast in one's own neighborhood (because of your anti-racist beliefs) and having no other choice but to leave everything you've known behind:

"I'm searching for another place in town
All the people try to treat me down
I'm searching for another place in town
Without my life, with all the things I do right here

Walking up my home run street I feel so down
Recognize these stupid guys, make me so frown
They never try to understand what is going all wrong
Going on their stupid ways, I never go
'Cause I am strong, yeah

That I'm searching for another place in town
Is because of all the stupid talk of youth
I want you to respect me and all my dreams
And I won't wait while you try to understand..."



It's such an incredibly sorrowful--but ultimately triumphant--track that will haunt you for days after hearing it (I wake up in the night with this one running through my head).

The Frits' following album Not Enough for You (1993), produced by Roger Lomas (The Selecter, The Bodysnatchers, Bad Manners), didn't burn quite as white hot, but they still delivered the goods (see "It's Not Enough for You" and "I Don't Want To Live Alone") and contained some fiercely political songs: "We Fight For You" ("We saw them kill an innocent/We saw them bomb some families and kids/We won't just sit home and wait/We won't just close our eyes and walk away/We fight for you/We'll fight for your rights!"); a cover of Oscar Brown, Jr.'s "The Snake," a jazz/Northern Soul cautionary tale of an act of compassion and charity repaid with betrayal and violence; and The Specials' "Concrete Jungle" with Sir Horace Gentleman making an appearance on bass. The Frits' final (?), live album Always Look on the Bright Side of Live (1994), also recorded by Lomas, showcased the band's considerable live chops (represented here by covers of Specials and Selecter tracks, as well as two Frits originals).

Lastly, there is one terrific newly recorded Frits cut, the defiant "Still Alive," which gives us hope that there may be much more new music to come as long as they're, "On the street/With something to say/Kicking the blues away..."

The Greatest Frits is a fantastic compilation for people new to the band (if you're a fan of 2 Tone, you're likely to be a Frits fan) and will remind long-time followers just how good The Frits were back then--and still are today!

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Here's a German translation of this review (courtesy of Google):

Ich kann mich nicht mehr genau erinnern, wie ich zum ersten Mal über die Fritten gelernt - es kann eine Überprüfung in George Marshall wesentlich Zoot gewesen! skazine - aber ich weiß, dass ich für E-Mail aufgefordert, ihre Veröffentlichungen durch Unicorn Aufzeichnungen und verwaltet den gesamten Katalog in den frühen 1990er Jahren zu kaufen (Ich habe gerade den Discogs Eintrag 'Frits zur Bestätigung - ich habe sogar ihre CD-Single "ebbies Bluff" die hat ihre Abdeckung von Guns N 'Roses' "November Regen"!). Glücklicherweise müssen Sie nicht auf die Längen gehen, die ich habe (zur Bank gehen, Dollar für Pfund Austausch und Mailing sie mit Daumen nach Großbritannien aus) einige der besten Tracks aus dem Band zu genießen genannt "die Deutsch Specials "- sie sind alle auf dem passenden Titel The Greatest Frits gesammelt.

Wie die Post-2 Tone UK Ska-Szene, die die Gleichen von Laurel Aitken gekennzeichnet, Bad Manners, die Trojaner, Kartoffel 5, Maroon Town, die Loafers, König Hammond, die Riffs, die Deltones und mehr, die Ende der 80er / Anfang 90s deutschen Ska-Szene hatte eine ebenso beeindruckende Liste von Bands gefördert, darunter The Busters, No Sports, El Bosso und sterben Ping Pongs, die geschweiften Klammern, Skaos, The Butlers, Blechreiz, und, natürlich, die Fritten. Was mich zuerst an die Band war ihre hyper geladen 2-Tone Ska, aber was immer wieder für jede weitere Veröffentlichung kommen würde ihre fantastische Songwriting und Aufführungen, von denen alle immer noch groß und vital 25 Jahre klingen auf.

Die größten Frits öffnet mit "Life of Brian" (aus dem Frits 1988 Single mit dem gleichen Namen), ihre inspirierten Cover von Monty Pythons "Always Schauen Sie auf der Sonnenseite des Lebens", die, wie die Specials "Cover von" Genießen Yourself "(zu einem Zeitpunkt freigegeben, wenn die Dinge immer mehr dire immer für Jugend arbeiten und nicht-weiße Briten unter Thatcher-Regel), ist fröhlich positiv auf der Oberfläche (" Wenn das Leben scheint lustig faul [ich dachte immer, es war "Wenn das Leben scheint Johnny Rotten "!] / Es gibt etwas, das Sie vergessen haben / und das ist zu, dass zu lachen und lächeln und Tanz ist und singen / Wenn Sie das Gefühl nicht dumm chumps sein in den Deponien / Do / So Portemonnaie Ihre Lippen und Pfeife / das ist die Sache / Und ... schauen immer auf der Sonnenseite des Lebens "), aber ist wirklich ironisch gemeint genommen werden, da es Masken eine viel ominösen Nachricht. (In dem Film "Das Leben des Brian", der Protagonist wurde zum Tode verurteilt und ist umgeben von Mitgefangenen verurteilt, die versuchen, ihn durch das Singen aufzumuntern "immer auf der Sonnenseite des Lebens aussehen", während sie alle langsam sterben auf Kruzifixe - es ist interessant, dass The Busters Bobby McFerrin "Sorge dich nicht glücklich sein" bedeckt zu beachten, ähnlich dem Motto des ein Jahr später, und wie The Busters, The Frits singen in englischer Sprache, die manchmal in ungeschickt formulierte Texte ergibt, aber ihre Bedeutung ist immer klar.)

Während die Fritten "Material aus ihren ersten beiden Alben, 1988 Erste sterben und die Rude Nachricht im Jahr 1989, ist sehr stark und mit Arbeit, Frauen betrifft, und in der Regel nicht eine Schmiere zu sein, traf die Band wirklich ihren Schritt 1991 mit wenig Idiots. Nach dem unerwarteten Fall der Berliner Mauer 1989 und die Wiedervereinigung (kommunistischen und sehr schlecht) Ost und (Demokratie und Wohlstand) der Bundesrepublik Deutschland gab es eine schreckliche Zunahme der Zahl der faschistischen / Neonazi-Gruppen und Hassverbrechen, in erster Linie im ehemaligen Ost-Deutschland, die einen Zustrom osteuropäischer Flüchtlinge gesehen hatte (die von den Hassgruppen für die hohe Arbeitslosigkeit und wirtschaftliche Not weit verbreitet zu dieser Zeit verantwortlich gemacht wurden). Die Frits '2 Tone ähnliche Reaktion auf diese Verschlechterung der Lage war heute einige der mächtigsten und eingängigsten antirassistischen / antifaschistische Lieder jener Zeit (die aufreizend genug, sind immer noch sehr relevant in vielen Teilen der Welt zu schreiben einschließlich der USA).

Die absolut Anbraten "The Most I Hate Is You" die Fritten "zweideutig Gefühle über faschistische Jugend zum Ausdruck bringt und ihre Neonazi-Führer, die gelockt haben und gefangen sie in ihren verdrehten, Sackgasse Ideologie:

"Sie gehen in jeden Morgen
Die gleiche alte nackte Weg
Ihr Kopf ist viel zu schwer
Ihre Gedanken sind voller Hass

Sie denken an, was Sie gesprochen haben
Letzte Nacht mit deinen Freunden
Aber jetzt bist du wieder auf der Flucht
Es gibt keine andere Möglichkeit,

Die meisten, die ich hasse, ist, Sie
Die meisten, die ich hasse, ist, Sie
Die meisten, die ich hasse, ist, Sie
Was sagen Sie gonna?
Was wirst du machen?
Die meisten, die ich hasse, ist, Sie

Sie werden machen Sie kleinere
Kleiner als Sie scheinen
Sagen Sie: "Was ist die ganze Arbeit für?"
Sagen Sie: "Was meinst du damit?"

Du bist in einem großen Käfig sitzen
Aber Sie haben nicht den Schlüssel bekam
Der Schlüssel ist Ihre große Bälle bekam
Es gibt keine Möglichkeit zu leben "

Mit seinem unwiderstehlich, Mitsingen Chor, "Dummkopf" versucht, die sehr fehlgeleitet zu erreichen - aber nicht unkündbar - knucklehead, sie zu überzeugen, ihre gewalttätigen, rassistischen Verhalten zu stoppen:

"Sie sind so stolz
Von dem, was du getan hast
Jetzt sehe ich dich dort stehen
Mit all deinen Freunden
Sie haben viel Spaß gehabt
Sie zeigen Ihnen, wie "richtige" Wege zu gehen

Können Sie sich nicht so groß fühlen?
Sie kennen jeden Trick
So blenden Sie jetzt Ihre kleine Schwäche
Aber ich sage Ihnen
(Ich sage dir)
Sie sind so falsch
Jeder kann Ihr kleines Schild
Sprichwort...

Bonehead, du gehst falsch
Hören Sie die Nachricht
Die Botschaft dieses Liedes, ja
Der schwarze Mann ist alles in Ordnung
Es gibt keinen Grund für einen Kampf, sehen Sie?
Nur dumme Gründe sind für Sie, alles in Ordnung? "

[Es gibt nur ein Fan erstellte Video von "Dummkopf" da draußen; es nutzt Aufnahmen von Neonazis und Nazi-Skinheads in einem Versuch zu beschämen sie mit den scharfen Text dieses Liedes, aber ich bin es nicht hier veröffentlichen, da sie keine Art der Exposition verdienen, die als Billigung falsch interpretiert werden könnte oder verherrlichen ihre verhasste Weise.]

"Nach einem anderen Ort in der Stadt Suche" perfekt erfasst die Einsamkeit und Verzweiflung, sich ein Außenseiter zu finden, in der eigenen Nachbarschaft (wegen Ihrer antirassistische Überzeugungen) und keine andere Wahl haben, aber alles zu verlassen Sie hinter gekannt habe:

"Ich bin auf der Suche nach einem anderen Ort in der Stadt
Alle Leute versuchen, mich zu behandeln unten
Ich bin für einen anderen Ort in der Stadt suchen
Ohne mein Leben, mit all den Dingen zu tun ich hier richtig

Gehen meine Home-Run Straße bis ich fühle mich so nach unten
Erkennen Sie diese dummen Jungs, machen mich so Stirnrunzeln
Sie niemals versuchen, zu verstehen, was alles falsch läuft
Gehen auf ihren dummen Wege, ich gehe nie
Denn ich bin stark, ja

Dass ich für einen anderen Ort in der Stadt bin auf der Suche
Ist wegen all dem dummen Gerede von Jugend
Ich möchte Sie mich und alle meine Träume zu respektieren
Und ich werde nicht warten, während Sie versuchen zu verstehen ... "

Es ist so ein unglaublich traurig - aber letztlich triumphierenden - Spur, die Sie für Tage nach der mündlichen Verhandlung hat sie verfolgen wird (wache ich mit diesem einen in der Nacht laufen durch meinen Kopf).

Die Frits folgende Album nicht genug für Sie (1993), produziert von Roger Lomas (The Selecter, The Bodysnatchers, Bad Manners), brannte nicht ganz so weiß heiß, aber sie lieferte noch die Ware (siehe "Es ist nicht genug für Sie "und" I Do not To Live Alone "einige heftig politische Lieder) und enthielt:" Wollen wir kämpfen für Sie "(" Wir sahen sie einen unschuldigen töten / Wir sahen sie einige Familien bombardieren und Kinder / Wir werden nicht nur sitzen zu Hause und warten / Wir werden nicht nur die Augen zu schließen und gehen weg / Wir kämpfen für dich / Wir werden für Ihre Rechte kämpfen! "); eine Abdeckung von Oscar Brown Jr. "The Snake", ein Jazz / Northern Soul warnende Geschichte von einem Akt des Mitgefühls und der Liebe mit Verrat und Gewalt zurückgezahlt; und The Specials ' "Concrete Jungle" mit Sir Horace Gentleman einen Auftritt am Bass. Die Frits 'letzte (?), Live-Album auf der hellen Seite der Live-Schauen Sie immer (1994), die ebenfalls von Lomas aufgenommen, präsentiert die erhebliche Live Koteletts Band (hier vertreten durch Abdeckungen von Specials und Selecter Spuren sowie zwei Frits Originale ).

Schließlich gibt es einen tollen neu aufgenommenen Frits Schnitt, der trotzige "Still Alive", die uns Hoffnung gibt, dass es auf der Straße viel mehr neue Musik zu kommen, solange sie sind ", kann sein / mit etwas zu sagen / Kicking den Blues weg ... "

Der größte Frits ist eine fantastische Zusammenstellung für neue Leute in die Band (wenn Sie ein Fan von 2 Tone sind, sind Sie wahrscheinlich ein Frits Fan zu sein) und wird seit langer Zeit Anhänger, wie gut die Fritten waren wieder erinnern dann- -und noch heute!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Skamela and The Duff Guide to Ska Present An All-Day, Outdoor Ska Festival at The Well in Bushwick Benefiting Roy Radics' Family!

As many of you know, Roy Radics of The Rudie Crew passed away very unexpectedly earlier this winter--leaving a huge hole in the hearts of his family, friends, and fans. To honor his legacy, The Duff Guide to Ska has teamed up with Skamela to organize an all-day, outdoor ska festival benefiting Roy Radics' family on Father's Day (June 19, 2016) at The Well in Bushwick. All of the bands, selectors, and emcees listed below (and more will be announced soon!) are donating their time and talent to celebrate Radics' music and life. We all hope that you'll join us for an incredible day full of great music for Radics!

Tickets can be purchased in advance here: https://www.ticketfly.com/purchase/event/1176989?utm_medium=bks.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Lord Tanamo, RIP

Lord Tanamo
I was away for much of this week, so am behind on reviews, news, etc. So, please forgive this late post on Lord Tanamo's passing.

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On April 24, The Jamaican Observer announced that singer and songwriter Lord Tanamo (AKA Joseph Gordon)--a founding member of The Skatalites--passed away in Toronto at 82 on Tuesday, April 19, 2016. When I last wrote about Lord Tanamo in 2009, he had suffered a stroke, was in a nursing home, and had no contact with family or friends.

In tribute to Lord Tanamo, I'm re-posting my review of his excellent final album--Best Place in the World--recorded with Dr. Ring Ding and the Senior Allstars in 2000, which includes some background on Lord Tanamo's musical career. (One of the best collections of his original recordings is Trojan's I'm in The Mood for Ska: The Best of Lord Tanamo, released in 2007.)

We offer our deepest condolences to Lord Tanamo's family, friends, and colleagues.

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Lord Tanamo with Dr. Ring Ding and The Senior Allstars
Best Place in the World
Grover Records (Germany)
2000

(Review by Steve Shafer)

It is fitting that Lord Tanamo, the first singer to front the brilliant Skatalites in the early 60s (he is said to have dubbed them the “Satellites”--this was the era of Sputnik and the space race, after all--and that quickly evolved into The Skatalites), should make an album with Dr. Ring Ding and The Senior Allstars, who are arguably one of the best ska/rocksteady/reggae acts currently on the planet. Lord Tanamo knows a top-notch band when he hears it, and he’s always backed by the best.

Lord Tanamo (AKA Joseph Gordon) launched his musical career in the early 1950s (when he was singing mento, R and B, jazz and calypso tunes, and by the middle of that decade was working with pre-Skatalite members Lloyd Brevette and Lester Sterling); half a century later, his gruff, yet wonderfully versatile voice is still in amazing shape. It almost goes without saying that Dr. Ring Ding and The Senior Allstars are in top form here (and yet their style of playing is so understated and confidently relaxed--the best always make it seem so easy!).

Best Place in the World kicks off with Tanamo’s signature tune with The Skatalites, his cover of Jimmy McHugh's and Dorothy Fields' 1935 song “In the Mood for Love” (AKA “In the Mood for Ska”), and several of his best-known songs recording with them are represented in fine form here, such as “Come Dung” and the Don Drummond tribute “Big Trombone.” Tanamo scored a big hit in the 70s with a reggae cover of “Rainy Night in Georgia” (which Prince Buster also transformed into the semi-naughty “Big 5”), and this version is truly sublime. The stripped-down cover of Prince Buster’s “Hard Man Fe Dead” is a revelation, with its acoustic guitar, congas, and spiritual-like backing vocals (and dare I say that it is almost better than the original?).

Yet the real gems of this album are Tanamo’s lesser-known songs, as well as several brand new tunes.  From Lord Tanamo’s back catalogue comes the surprisingly smooth ‘n’ sexy “Keep Moving”; the admonishing and upbeat treat-your-mother-right “Mother’s Love” (“A mother’s love is from creation/it is truly the greatest association”); and the sing-along rude boy tale of crime in “Iron Bar,” among others. Tanamo’s new tunes easily measure up to the caliber of his previous work: the unabashedly romantic “Best Place in the World” (“…is the place that you were born”), the wonderful old-school calypso “Musso,” and the rhythmic love song “Out of this Big World.”

After listening to Best Place in the World, it strikes me that Dr. Ring Ding and The Senior Allstars’ style of composing and arranging ska and rocksteady songs is very much in the same vein as Lord Tanamo’s (listen to their stunning debut album “Dandimite” after Best Place in the World and you’d never know that there had been almost 40 years between the time each set of songs was written). Dr. Ring Ding and The Senior Allstars don’t imitate the old time ska sound, they inhabit it--and that’s what makes this album (and the band in general) work so well. (Having said all that, it is eerie how much Dr. Ring Ding sounds like Lord Tanamo.) The Best Place in the World is wherever you are when you listen to this album, because the music that will be pumping out of your speakers is awesome. Get it!

(Originally reviewed in October 2000 and published in Read Magazine.)