Sunday, December 30, 2012

Duff Review: The English Beat "Live at the US Festival '82 and '83"

Shout! Factory
CD and DVD
2012

(Review by Steve Shafer)

In a period of endlessly recycled nostalgia for decades past (I admit to enthusiastically wallowing in some of it myself)--which fuels the greedy repackaging of "greatest hits" collections and reissuing of remastered/enhanced/expanded hit albums--it's an unexpected pleasure to be in the position to review a bona fide new release from one of the more brilliant groups of the New Wave/2 Tone era, The English Beat. After listening to The Beat's Live at the US Festival '82 and '83 CD and viewing the DVD, one is kind of astonished as to why it has taken three decades (!) for this to emerge from the vaults, as it would have made one hell of a follow-up to The Beat's singles/rarities (in America, at least) compilation What is Beat?, issued in 1983 after the band's demise.

Live at the US Festival documents The Beat's two performances (before what must have been some of the most massive audiences they had ever played for) at Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak's incredible, but money-losing music festivals held in San Bernardino, CA in 1982 (Labor Day weekend with 425,000 in attendanceand 1983 (Memorial Day weekend with 670,000 fans)--click here to read a great piece from the Orange County Register about it all. Each festival featured a mind-blowing roster of early 80s New Wave acts (in addition to some very mainstream rock, metal, and country groups): Gang of Four, The Ramones, Oingo Boingo, The B-52s, The Police, The Cars, The Clash (who sparred verbally and physically with Van Halen behind the scenes and demanded that some of the festival proceeds be donated to charity after learning that Van Halen was being paid $1 million for their appearance), Divinyls, INXS, Talking Heads, Wall of Voodoo, A Flock of Seagulls, Men at Work, Stray Cats, U2, Missing Persons, and The Pretenders (only The Beat and Oingo Boingo played both US Festival dates)!

If it wasn't printed on the tray card, you'd be hard-pressed to sort out on the CD where the 1982 concert ends and the following year's begins (it's a combination of the two, as there was considerable overlap in The Beat's '82 and '83 set lists). The Beat's two performances fit together practically seamlessly--which confirms the fact that they were an extraordinarily talented and consistent great live act (pity that the sound isn't better; the vocals are pitched high in the mix and the recording makes the rhythm section seem distant and muddy--a crime, since Everett Morton, Andy Cox, and David Steele were some of the best in the business and always made the band sound so full and crisp on their studio albums). It's also worth pointing out that both concerts were performed under less than ideal circumstances in triple-digit heat (the band sure looks drenched on the DVD). But The Beat played with unflagging energy, precision, and passion (check out the supercharged "Twist and Crawl," "Two Swords," and "Hands Off She's Mine").

The CD and both sets on the DVD are loaded with tracks from Special Beat Service (they sound fantastic here--particularly "Sugar and Stress," "I Confess," and "Spar with Me"), which was just about to be released in America when The Beat performed at the 1982 US Festival, and supplemented with choice cuts from I Just Can't Stop It. I would like to have heard more material from my favorite Beat album, Wha'ppen? (apart from "Doors of Your Heart" and "Get-a-Job"), but that record never seemed to find the same toehold in college/modern rock radio that their other two did (so, I suppose The Beat were justified in mainly sticking to the fan hits!).

The Live at the US Festival DVD captures both the '82 and '83 Beat performances in their entirety (with the exception of two songs that were lost at the beginning of the 1982 show, due to damage to the masters). In addition to the historical value of documenting The Beat in action in front of hundreds of thousands of fans, it's fascinating to see the contrast between the band members and the Americans. While the members of The Beat look cool and stylish (for the early 1980s), shots of the fans and stage crew reveal the males of the species stuck in the fashion trends of the late 1970s (looking like extras from "CHiPs"): cut-off jeans shorts, no shirts, handle-bar mustaches and shaggy hair, and trucker baseball hats (most of the women seem to be in the timeless combination of bikini tops and shorts). An ugly time for men in America, but an amusing one from our vantage point.

A big surprise found in the video is that original Beat saxophonist Saxa--who had retired from touring with the band after recording Special Beat Service--joined The Beat for their 1983 concert (he must have heard how incredible the 1982 festival was and wanted in on the follow-up one!). So, the songs in the later half of the CD feature both Saxa (in what looks like his outfit from the cover of Wha'ppen?) and Wesley Magoogan; their rich and silky dueling saxophones sound particularly sweet on "Tears of a Clown," "Get-A-Job/Stand Down Margaret," and "Jackpot."

Some other minor quibbles (apart from the larger issue of the less-than-optimal sound mix) with this release are the skimpy liner notes (some context regarding the band's history would have been helpful: The Beat was finding success at the US at this point, while their fortunes in the UK were diminishing--and the band's split into General Public and Fine Young Cannibals wasn't too far off) and that not all of the band members are featured on the cover (no Everett Morton, Saxa, Dave Blockhead, and Wesley Magoogan--the latter two appeared on Special Beat Service and fleshed out the band's sound on stage for SBS-era touring). Certainly not fatal mistakes, but the devil's in the details, right?

Live at the US Festival will probably be most appreciated by hardcore English Beat fans (especially those who only know the band from their studio recordings and never had the chance to see the original band live), but anyone who picks up this CD/DVD will be rewarded with some of the best music and live performances the Beat had to offer.







Friday, December 28, 2012

Lloyd Charmers Passes Away at 74

According to an article in the Jamaica Observer, Lloyd "Charmers" Tyrell suffered a heart attack and died in London on Thursday, December 27, 2012 at the age of 74. Charmers was a key ska and early reggae singer, songwriter, keyboardist for acts such as The CharmersThe UniquesThe Hippy Boys (when they worked for Lee "Scratch" Perry, he also named them The Upsetters; in addition, The Hippy Boys recorded with Max Romeo), and Lloydie and the Lowbites--as well as a producer for Ken Boothe ("Everything I Own") and Marcia Griffiths ("Play Me").

Charmers is perhaps best known for the classic "rude reggae" track "Birth Control," later adapted by The Specials for "Too Much Too Young" (which--as all 2 Tone fans know--advocates the use of condoms).

Our deepest condolences go out to his family and friends.

Update: There is a terrific tribute to Charmers on the Trojan Records website.

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Thursday, December 27, 2012

NYC Winter 2012 Ska Calendar #8473


Friday, December 28, 2012 @ 9:00 pm

Dirty Reggae Party XIX w/Top Shotta Band featuring Screechy Dan, The Bluebeats, Soul Radics, The Facts

The Swamp
Bushwick, NY
$7

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Monday, December 31, 2012 @ 9:00 pm

The Forthrights/Frightnrs New Year's Eve Reggae Prom
(with Selectors Grace of Spades, Ticklah, Fidel "Twice" Luna)

The Tea Factory
175 Stockholm Street, Apt 111
Brooklyn, NY
Free before 10pm/$5 after
Cash bar
Formal attire (tuxes for the men)!

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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Electric Avenue presents: The Scoffaws and special guests!

Characters NYC (back room!)
243 West 54th Street (between Broadway and Eighth Avenue)
New York, NY

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Friday, January 25, 2013

Bigger Thomas

Hat City Kitchen
459 Valley Street
Orange, NJ

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Sunday, January 27, 2013 @ 7:30 pm

The English Beat, Bigger Thomas

Sellersville Theater
24 West Temple Avenue
Sellersville PA
$33.00

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Thursday, January 31, 2013 (Doors at 6:30 pm/show at 7:00 pm)

Tri-State Conspiracy, Bigger Thomas, and more (plus Agent Jay on the decks)

The Studio at Webster Hall
125 East 11th Street
New York, NY
19+
$12 advance/$15 day of show

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Saturday, February 2, 2013 @ 9:00 pm

Bigger Thomas, Inspecter 7

Court Tavern
124 Church Street
New Brunswick, NJ
$10/21+

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Saturday, February 9, 2013 @ 9:00 pm

The Pandemics, Slightly Askew, and more TBA

Otto's Shrunken Head
538 East 14th Street
New York, NY
Free!

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Friday, February 22, 2013

A Perfect Mess presents: The Pandemics, The Snails, and more TBA!

Dingbatz
620 Van Houten Avenue
Clifton, NJ

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Sunday, February 24, 2013 (Doors at 6pm/show at 8pm)

Fishbone

Brooklyn Bowl
61 Wythe Avenue
Brooklyn NY
21+
$10 in advance/$15 day of show

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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Lost at Sea presents: Sailor Jerry's Final Long Island Show w/The Pandemics, Eli Whitney and the Sound Machine, Life Between Sleep, Wester, Cut the Brakes, Donny Uccellini II of Lost and Adrift, and more TBA!

Even Flo Bar
150 East Main Street
Bay Shore, NY
All ages!/$10

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Monday, February 25, 2013

Fishbone w/The Pandemics, Disposable, Mumbling Lucy, Thank You Scientist

Stanhope House
45 Main Street
Stanhope, NJ
Contact The Pandemics for $20 tix ($25 at door; $23.50 from Stanhope House online)

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Thursday, February 28, 2013 (6:00 pm doors)

The Toasters, Mrs. Skanatto

Stanhope House
45 Main Street
Stanhope, NJ
$12

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Sunday, March 10, 2013

Japan Tsunami/Earthquake Disaster Anniversary Benefit
w/Uzuhi (PMA infused NYC punk rock), The Pandemics, and more TBA!

Public Assembly
70 North 6th Street
Brooklyn, NY
All ages/$10


Duff Review: Joe Strummer and The Mescaleros "Live at Acton Town Hall"

Hellcat/Epitaph (RSD Release)
Double LP
2012

(Review by Steve Shafer)

If you happen to be one of the lucky few who were able to pick up one of these limited-edition double LPs (only 2,200 were pressed) of Joe Strummer's last concert (recorded on November 15 2002--a little more than a month before his decades-too-early death on December 22, 2002), what you have in your possession is an incredible testament to Strummer's extraordinary career and his many gifts as a songwriter and performer. It's almost like having another Clash record from him, especially with Mick Jones playing on three of these cuts (a reunion that was two decades in the making!). If he had to leave this earth--and, god, how I wish it weren't so--this last live album is one hell of a way to go out.

While I always appreciated the cuts on the three Joe Strummer and The Mescaleros albums, I never really loved these songs as much as I did The Clash's, largely because I wanted more Clash songs from Joe, while he was more interested in incorporating world beat sounds into the mix (and in the lean years between the end of The Clash proper and Strummer starting up with The Mescaleros, only a few of his solo tracks were really satisfying--"Love Kills," from the "Sid and Nancy" soundtrack and "Trash City," from the "Permanent Record" soundtrack). All of these years later, The Clash are still "The Only Band That Matters" to me (I revisit all of their albums regularly) and that's probably why I never got around to seeing Joe and The Mescaleros when they played NYC (a great mistake, I know). But having heard the JSATM tracks live here on Live at Acton Town Hall--they really come alive in a way they never on their CDs.

The implicit endorsement/celebration of multiculturalism in the UK through the host of take away food options in "Bhindee Bhagee," from 2001's Global a Go-Go, has more funk and bite and kick to it, while the apocalyptic "Tony Adams" (about "a catastrophe hitting New York"--in the aftermath of mega-storm Sandy, it's interesting to hear Joe sing about the lights going out on the Eastern seaboard, not being able to find a working phone, and lyrics like, "The whole city is a debris of broken heels and party hats/I'm standing on the corner that's on a fold on the map"), from 1999's Rock Art and the X-Ray Style is more raggedly desperate. I'm surprised to find myself digging two cuts from Strummer's last studio album, 2003's Streetcore, which I don't remember liking much the first time I heard them: "Go Down Moses" is pumped up with much more righteous fury and dread (Strummer pretty much demands everyone's deliverance from Babylon--and if the gods won't heed our supplications, then he'll goad us into taking matters into our own hands: "When I got to the mountain top/tell you what I could see/All of the other boys running/from the priests of iniquity/Where the hell was Elijah?/Anyone of you would do/From a cloudburst on a mountain top/the prophesy game was through/Let's take down Jericho/Let's make or break it, bro"); and "Coma Girl" (a post-modern Shagri-Las-like walk on the wild 'n' druggy side about a "Mona Lisa on a motorcycle gang" that hits all the end-of-days desert music festivals like Burning Man) reveals itself as a surprisingly catchy pop-punk-reggae song with a killer chorus.

Now for what you've really been waiting for. The Clash tracks covered at Acton Town Hall--which largely favor the band's punky reggae output--are pretty fantastic (the best to be hoped for, short of an actual, and now impossible, Clash reunion). The faithful-enough (but far from rote) renditions of "Rudy Can't Fail," "(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais," an almost 10 minute "Bankrobber," and Junior Murvin's "Police and Thieves" (dedicated to Paul Simonon and Nicky "Topper" Headon) give the people what they want and then heap on more. On the punk tip, Eddy Grant's "Police on My Back," Sonny Curtis's/Bobby Fuller's "I Fought the Law," "White Riot," and "London's Burning" are all-out scorching--especially with Jonesy on the latter two cuts. If these don't get your blood pumping, schedule an appointment with the doc to be fitted with a pacemaker.

"London's Burning" (first recorded by The Clash 25 years earlier, when the two sevens clashed)--which rails against a society that doesn't have much more to offer working class youth on a weekend night than driving around aimlessly or vegging out on TV and warns that all this boredom will eventually lead to civil unrest--was the last song that Joe Strummer ever performed live. It's brilliantly fitting that this 50 year-old punk rock warlord would still be singing rebel music, giving voice to society's voiceless and raising money for striking firefighters, to the unexpected end.

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Live at Acton Town Hall is available digitally on the back end of the new-ish, 57-track compilation Joe Strummer and The Mescaleros: The Hellcat Years, which was released on what would have been Joe's 60th birthday on August 21, 2012. Oddly, there is no CD version of this comp, though Joe certainly deserves one.

(To this day, I still can't believe that I snagged a copy of this double LP; I went to J and R Music in Lower Manhattan in the middle of Record Store Day on Black Friday and since they had hidden--yes, hidden--all of the RSD releases in the basement, on a completely different floor from the music department, so no one knew these records were even there. I sauntered in, bought one, and that was that. I had been to earlier RSD days there when they sold RSD releases in the music section on the main floor and masses of people were jostling and climbing over each other to snag their coveted singles and LPs. It's so bizarre--usually J and R is much better at staging and promoting these types of events. Having said that, their misstep was my gain!)

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The Live at Acton Town Hall packaging doesn't contain any track list, but here it is, spread over four LP sides:

1. "Shaktar Donetsk"
2. "Bhindee Bhagee"
3. "Rudy Can’t Fail"
4. "Tony Adams"
5. "(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais"
6. "Mega Bottle Ride"
7. "Get Down Moses"
8. "Police and Thieves"
9. "Cool ‘n’ Out"
10. "Police On My Back"
11. "Johnny Appleseed"
12. "Coma Girl"
13. "I Fought The Law"
14. "Bankrobber" (encore w/Mick Jones)
15. "White Riot" (encore w/Mick Jones)
16. "London’s Burning" (encore w/Mick Jones)


Monday, December 24, 2012

Season's Greetings!




2012: The Year in Ska - Chuck Wren (Jump Up Records/Jamaican Oldies Weekend/Everything Off Beat)

Editor's Note: As the end of the calendar year sneaks up on me--as it always does, since the fall is always so damn busy!--I always scramble around to put together my "best of" lists of the ska singles, albums, reissues, books, etc. that I really enjoyed over the past year and want to highlight for all the ska fans out there. But I also thought it might be interesting to feature some other opinions, so I approached a diverse group of ska musicians, bloggers, DJs, and label heads to find out what their favorite ska things were in 2012. And thus the "2012: The Year in Ska" series was born! Thanks to everyone who is taking the time to participate--I really appreciate it!

Chuck Wren operates the continuously amazing Jump Up Records (celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2013!); is the host of the “Everything Off Beat” ska radio show broadcast on Sundays at 9 PM on WLUW-FM 88.7 in Chicago; and is behind the Jamaican Oldies Weekend, which brings 60s Jamaican musicians (backed by current Midwest ska bands) to perform  in Chicago.

2012: The Year in Ska - Chuck Wren (Jump Up Records/Jamaican Oldies Weekend/Everything Off Beat Radio Show)

Top 5 Favorite Ska Releases


I will have to break it up into two categories--non-Jump Up Records first:


1) Magic Touch Shocks of Lightning CD/LP (Grover) – Fantastic 60s ska and rock steady sounds from a German band that originally formed to back Jamaican legends. This second album really sees the band get in the groove!


2) Los Granadians Reggalactico CD/LP (Liquidator) – They dress kinda wacky, like extras from a Austin Powers knock-off, but their skinhead reggae boogaloo soul is wicked funky.


3) Maddie Ruthless with The Forthrights and Friends CD (Ska In The World) – A fine release indeed! Great to have a powerful female voice inna the scene. "Sammy Kay was here." 


4) Babylove and The Van Dangos Let It Come Let It Go CD/LP (Pork Pie/Grover) – This Danish band really amazes me. Everyone should own one of their records, if not all three. Super soulful neo-traditional ska, very 60’s very modern, and the band is so TIGHT.


5) The Caroloregians Fat Is Back CD/LP (Do The Dog/Grover) – 'Nuff said. These Belgian cats can do no wrong. F.U.N.K.Y. reggae and soul.
 

And I can’t say enough about three new bands we were honored to put out on Jump Up Records:


1) The Fundamentals Get Alright CD/LP – We did the wax and Stomp did the CD, which is quite fitting since they hail from Montreal! From the first time I heard this band I was hooked. Soulful harmonies, great female backing vocals, and a band that plays ska/reggae that’s equal parts Jamaican and neo-trad. Something for everyone on this album.


2) Count Kutu and The Balmers 10” – Many people, including the band themselves, were confused why I was so excited about working with this relatively unknown band. From what I saw on YouTube…it was my mission. Super authentic Jamaican rural calypso and mento from the Philippines. They have Jamaican accents, yet they sing in Tagalog. Their instruments are acoustic and include a rhumba box. Released on out 78rpm-looking 10” vinyl series. One of our proudest moments as a label!

3) 
Soul Radics Down to The Hall CD/LP – Hard-working Tennessee band fronted by skinbyrd pinup Dani Radic. A fantastic debut album that delivers ska, sratchy reggae, and rock steady sounds. This album is gigantic!

Top Ska Shows

Jamaican Oldies Weekend in Chicago. Period. Why the hell weren’t you there? You must be a fool! Stranger Cole was magnetic, so full of life! The Prizefighters backed him perfectly, and the Patsy parts were done so authentically by Whitney. The hits were amazing:"Run Joe," "Ruff and Tuff," "Artibella," "When You Call My Name," and "Hey Hey Hey Baby." The night before, an all-star band made up of members from Green Room Rockers, Drop Steady, plus Anthony from The Drastics brought out some of Pat Kelly’s best soul rocksteady gems like "Queen Majesty," "Dark Side of the Street," and "I Wish It Would Rain." We built a Tumblr page linking some of the live footage to guilt all you people that did not go: http://jumpuprecords.tumblr.com/.


Top Ska Merch


Used vinyl. Can’t list that as it's mostly what I buy. The list would be an entire page and then some. Whenever I leave town on "vacations," all I do is hit record shops in small towns and big cities…the wife finally has gotten used to it! Beside that, this year Soul Jazz released two killer Jamaican art books--one for 45 labels and another for reggae album covers. Save up your bucks and get these. Pretty proud of my Lee Scratch Perry bobble head that was released in Japan, designed by Archer Prewitt. Gary Bushell’s "Dance Craze--Rude Boys On The Road!" is a nice read, it’s a “on the scene” account of the first 2 Tone tours. Also been recently collecting vintage sheet music as it looks great framed. My Jimmy Cliff "Wonderful World, Beautiful People" copy is on my wall at home.


Top Ska Regrets


Honestly, nothing comes to mind really. Well, if this counts--I regret that most Chicago ska fans blew off Jamaican Oldies Weekend! We had an excellent turnout, but practically none of the "ska regulars" who go see The Slackers, Aggrolites, Deal’s Gone Bad, etc. came to the shows. I am beginning to think most of those people are not true fans of Jamaican music! It’s not easy to fly in artists from Jamaica, get a venue to invest, have bands practice months and months to learn the music. We put on a top-notch event and most people missed it. Yeah, I am a bit sore. Once again, a bunch of out-of-towners outshine the Chicago "scene." Tisk tisk! The next Jamaican Oldies Weekend is Friday, March 1st and Saturday March 2nd with Eric Monty Morris and Roy Paton and Yvonne Harrison duets. Time to represent!



Top Ska Wishes for 2013


Gotta make my "International Ska All Stars" tour of the USA happen! Tommy Tornado and Mr. T Bone backed by the Moon Invaders/Caroloregians across the USA! I’d settle for Dr. Ring Ding to come back! Would be nice if we can get some more MJARocker cuts and another live performance from The Drastics. Their Halloween gig was AMAZING.










Saturday, December 22, 2012

2012: The Year in Ska - Jason Lawless (Lawless Street/Moondust Records)

Editor's Note: As the end of the calendar year sneaks up on me--as it always does, since the fall is always so damn busy!--I always scramble around to put together my "best of" lists of the ska singles, albums, reissues, books, etc. that I really enjoyed over the past year and want to highlight for all the ska fans out there. But I also thought it might be interesting to feature some other opinions, so I approached a diverse group of ska musicians, bloggers, DJs, and label heads to find out what their favorite ska things were in 2012. And thus the "2012: The Year in Ska" series was born! Thanks to everyone who is taking the time to participate--I really appreciate it!

Jason Lawless runs the extremely informative Lawless Street blog, as well as the excellent Moondust Record label

2012: The Year in Ska - Jason Lawless (Lawless Street/Moondust Records)

Top 5 Favorite Ska Releases
Jason Lawless and Doreen Shaffer

1) Skatalites - Walk With Me: This was released in the UK last year, but we just got around to getting a US release out. I think this collection is so tight and is one of their best modern collections. The band is still making tunes better than neary every other band in the land that say they play ska. Just so far ahead -- I mean they have been playing for a few years, right?

2) 2000 Tons of TNT - Reggae Mysteria: This is one of my favorite new artists. They're out of San Diego. Really exciting to hear 'em live and the tracks are tight (http://www.lawless-street.com/2000-tons-of-tnt-explodes-with-debut-collection).

3) Western Standard Time - A Big Band Tribute to the Skatalites: This goes without saying. The lineup in this band is unparalleled. A full orchestra doing Skatalites tunes with big band arrangements. It's just sublime.

4) The Lions - This Generation: This group of LA musicians is simple sublime. A true all-star collective that is making such sweet, sweet musical gems. The album isn't yet out, but it will be a real highlight of 2013 and take these guys to another level (http://reggae-steady-ska.com/the-lions-the-joy-music-brings/).

5) Los Granadians - Reggaelatico: These cats are doing the most exciting new music in the world right now. Everything they do is well thought out and fun. They make the music seem effortless, but there is a lot of depth and experimentation in their songs that is pushing the music forward. And yet it still seems classic. Love this album (http://www.lawless-street.com/granadians-new-album-reggalactico-is-out-now/).


Top 5 Ska Shows

I didn't go to too many actually, unless you count all The Skatalites dates I did this year! That and all the amazing LA shows we've had! WOW.

The whole tour with The Skatalites, Sammy Kay, and The Delirians in April was the best time I've ever had. Hands down, the number one most important thing I've done in my career. I was so happy and blessed to be a part of that tour. You can see a bunch of updates from that tour at the Echoes of Kingston site: http://www.echoesofkingston.com/.

There were so many legends that came through this year it's hard to say which ones were better than the others. They were all amazing. Here were a couple favorites:

Derrick Morgan in March

The Pioneers in June

The Gaylads in July

Mr. Symarip Roy Ellis in November

It's just so amazing that we can get these opportunities to see these legends perform. So many have been lost over the last few years.


Top Ska Merch

Gotta say getting to stop into Ska Brewing while out with The Skatalites was a huge highlight. Just a bunch of great guys and got treated to some of their outstanding concoctions and some nice swag to boot.

I continued to pick up every book that I could related to the music. I've got a pretty good collection, but there are a couple choice publications still missing (I'm looking at you "Studio One Covers"). 

I picked up the amazing "Soul Jazz The Label Art of Reggae Singles, A Visual History of Jamaican Reggae 1959-79",  and the new "The Encyclopedia of Reggae: The Golden Age of Roots Reggae," as well as Pauline Black's autobiography "Black By Design: A 2-Tone Memoir," which I just started reading.

The biggest get was one of the first run of the updated version of the now very rare and expensive "Boss Sounds" book. The updated version has a full color all new layout with tons more info than the first. I'd still like an original copy for my collection, but the new one is beautiful. If you love early reggae at all, this is a must have book. There were limited quantities of the first run and the next batch will take some time, but it's def worth it. This is a must have.

It's been great that it's the 50th anniversary of JA independence, 'cause so many things have been happening and with the celebration of 2 Tone the last couple of years, there has been a lot of looking back.


Top 5 Ska Regrets

There is only really one regret of the last year and it's a big one. That I can finally make good on a few things that I've had to put to the side this year due to health and financial issues that I've been dealing with. I've let the label fail on more than a few levels and I am very sad about that. I really want to make sure we do positive things and keep it moving forward. That's a promise.

There were more than a few good shows that I missed like Derrick Harriot in SF on NYE 2012. Luckily he'll be making a stop in LA in February.

This book. I need this book really bad: "Reggae Going International 1967- 1976: The Bunny ‘Striker’ Lee Story."


Top Ska Wishes for 2013

1) More bands getting out and touring, recording, and releasing music. This has to happen to remain vital and exciting. We need to get new blood into the music and the scene.

2) More legends getting a chance to perform before the specter of time catches up to them. Every month someone else passes away and getting a chance to see these great artists that have brought so many great tunes into the world is precious.

3) Getting to the London International Ska Fest again.

4) Echoes of Kingston Tour 2013 is even bigger than it was this year. This is very personal to me to create a tour that brings that sounds of vintage ska and rocksteady to to the masses.

5) A new Hepcat release!



Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Duff Review: The Frightnrs "12/21/12" EP

Self-released
2012
Four-track digital EP (available through Bandcamp)

(Review by Steve Shafer)

Just in time for the holidays (though missing Hanukkah by a couple of nights), NYC's reggae/rub-a-dub kings The Frightnrs stuff our stockings with some choice musical sweets--via this stellar four-track 12/21/12 digital EP (masterfully produced, recorded, engineered, mixed, and dubbed by Victor "Ticklah" Axelrod)--that will keep you grooving long after the tree has been reduced to mulch (and is fertilizing the bushes in some city park) and the ornaments and lights are packed into the hall closet.

Despite its incredibly lovely and lush melody (what love would sound like if it were music), "Never Answer" is about the tension in a relationship that arises when others try to sow the seeds of mistrust in order to destroy it. The singer pleads for his girl to believe in him and their love--because he's never going to dignify, or give life to, the accusations with any kind of response: "I know I never give you any answers, girl/I love you/I'll give you everything but my heartache/I bet you want that, too/No matter what they say, I'll always be there for you/I'm your guy/And if you ever have any doubts, girl/I promise it will be the last time/I'll give you my heart, all of my soul/Everything that I own/For it is better to die a beggar, than to go on all alone..." Singer Dan Klein is so damn sincere in his delivery that you'll believe him, too (even if the excellent dub of this track is called "Questions" and seems to serve as an instrumental response to his grandiose declarations).

The unfairly-accused narrator (more fool for a pretty face than anti-hero) of the spaghetti Western cut "Admiration" ("They're gonna punish me for something that I didn't do!") is desperately determined to evade his pursuers, since capture will certainly subject him to vigilante justice: "I didn't know her before today/Now, I'll walk across the sand/and I'll sail across the sea/They've got their nooses ready/hanging underneath a tree/With their horses and their guns/they've got this man on the run/But what I have done remains a mystery to me." The precise and relentless beat of this track conveys the pressured urgency of continually pushing forward to stay free and, more importantly, alive--while a ringing, almost shimmering solo guitar line conveys his loneliness as he plods across a bleak, sun-baked landscape that stretches to the horizon and offers no sanctuary. (The dub of "Admiration" features some nice cinematic touches: a sound clip of "From now on you oughta be lookin' behind you, 'cause one day you gonna get a bullet in your back!"--followed by a grandfather clock chiming the dread hour of five o'clock, and the odd ricocheting bullet.)

Hopefully, someday someone is going to combine the tracks on The Frightnrs' 12/21/12 with those from their equally fantastic six-track self-titled EP (read The Duff Guide to Ska review here) and put all of this out on vinyl and CD. Music of this quality deserves to be on something almost permanent, because--like me--you're going to want to keep coming back to these songs again and again for a long time to come. 

+ + + +

Here's a video that I shot of The Frightnr's performing "Admiration" at Electric Avenue on 10/13/12. The band is really hot live, so make a point to see them in person!




Monday, December 17, 2012

2012: The Year in Ska - Todd Fausnacht (The Snails)

Editor's Note: As the end of the calendar year sneaks up on me--as it always does, since the fall is always so damn busy!--I always scramble around to put together my "best of" lists of the ska singles, albums, reissues, books, etc. that I really enjoyed over the past year and want to highlight for all the ska fans out there. But I also thought it might be interesting to feature some other opinions, so I approached a diverse group of ska musicians, bloggers, DJs, and label heads to find out what their favorite ska things were in 2012. And thus the "2012: The Year in Ska" series was born! Thanks to everyone who is taking the time to participate--I really appreciate it!

Todd Fausnacht is the guitarist and singer for the Philly-based ska/early rock/soul outfit The Snails.

2012: The Year in Ska - Todd Fausnacht (The Snails)

Top 5 Favorite Ska Releases


1) 
The Aggrolites: Unleashed Live


2) The Caroloregians: Fat is Back

3) The Heavy Beat/The Snails Split
 EP

4) The Forthrights EP


5) Sammy Kay and The Fast Four: "Sweet Misery" single


Top 5 Ska Shows

1) The 
Aggrolites at the MilkBoy, Philadelphia, PA


2) The Aggrolites at The Blockley
, Philadelphia, PA

3) Skalapalooza 2012, Philadelphia, PA


4) Heavy Beat/The Snails split release party at the Funhouse, Bethlehem, PA


5) The Skatalites in NYC


Top Ska Merch

1) My Toots and the Maytals From the Roots record
.

2) My Bob Marley African Herbsman record.

3) My Techniques record.

4) My Slim Smith "Rougher Yet" single.

5) My Ken Boothe "Moving Away" single.


Top 5 Ska Regrets

Missing...

1) Jimmy Cliff at The Mann Center in Philadelphia, PA

2) Toots at The Blockley in Philadelphia, PA

3) Stranger Cole and Patsy backed by Crazy Balhead at The Bell House in Brooklyn, NY


4) 2012 London International Ska Festival

5) Jump Up Record's Chicago Reggae Oldies Weekend with Stranger Cole and Pat Kelly


Top Ska Wishes for 2013

1) I'm excited for the Version City tour--hope it goes well!


2) I hope that The Snails The River comes out on time! [It has!]

3) I hope that The Snails "Death Caught Me" single comes out soon!

4) I hope that our Rocksteady EP can go to press soon
.

5) I hope there is a rise in appreciation and support for everyone playing deep-rooted Jamaican music!



Thursday, December 13, 2012

2012: The Year in Ska - Sammy Kay (Sammy Kay and The Fast Four/The East Los 3)

Editor's Note: As the end of the calendar year sneaks up on me--as it always does, since the fall is always so damn busy!--I always scramble around to put together my "best of" lists of the ska singles, albums, reissues, books, etc. that I really enjoyed over the past year and want to highlight for all the ska fans out there. But I also thought it might be interesting to feature some other opinions, so I approached a diverse group of ska musicians, bloggers, DJs, and label heads to find out what their favorite ska things were in 2012. And thus the "2012: The Year in Ska" series was born! Thanks to everyone who is taking the time to participate--I really appreciate it!

I first became acquainted with Sammy Kay when he was a member of The Forthrights. Since then, he's struck out on his own with some help from The Fast Four, when he's in NYC and The East Los 3, when he's in LA. As anyone knows who's met him, he's a good guy (and a damned talented one, at that)!

2012: The Year in Ska - Sammy Kay/Sammy Kay and The Fast Four/The East Los 3

Top 5 Favorite Ska Releases

1) The Pinstripes: I - Not for nothin', this band rules, and this record is flawless.

2) The Bandulus: Times We Had - Jeremy and company are at it again, and just killing it, the ska, rocksteady, perfect, the soul, man, I wish I was in that band.

3) The Slackers: Radio - "The Letter" makes this record worth it, "Like a Virgin," "Attitude." It just shows that The Slackers are a force that will not be moved.

4) Maddie Ruthless and The Forthrights - Shocker. right? I play on this record, but I got to say, all things aside, this record is really great, and it really captures exactly where we all were at that time.

5) Taylor Swift: Red - Fuck the haters, this is my jam.

6) Uzimon: Pussyweapon - Again, fuck the haters! This is my jam!

7) The Snails/Heavy Beat Split EP - The Snails got a good year ahead of them, they listened to what the "elders" said, and worked hard to get real good. Looking foward to The River EP this month!


Top 5 Ska Shows

I did about seven months of touring this year, so this is kinda hard. I'll end up thinking of awesome nights that I forgot about, but here are the first five that come to mind.

1) The Slackers' Boat Show (both nights) - I had two days off of a tour I was on and ended up at both nights. Drunken debauchery and a great night.

2) The Aggrolites/Old Man Markley/Hub City Stompers: The Gaslamp, Des Moines, IA - Again, drunken debauchery, awesome club. Did three shows that tour with Aggro and OMM and this was definitely the most fun. My organ fried out, whatever. This and San Antonio were the highlights of that tour.

3) The Slackers/The Bandulus: The Maison, New Orleans, LA- The show ended early, we all went out to Molly's on Decatur... I remember the show being fun, but I think the night was more fun after. Does that count?

4) The Skatalites/The Delirians: Los Globos, Los Angeles, CA - I'm just listing this one show, but I did about 30 Skatalites gigs this year, and every one was just great. Every day I got a little story about Studio One, and the old singers, and sessions, and tunes. It was great time.

5) Any Uzimon show--anywhere. Anytime I've seen Uzimon, it's great. You're always smilin'.


Top Ska Merch

I went to Ska Brewing this year, got a bunch of shirts and beers that were awesome. The hangovers they gave me, not so awesome. I get a lot of shirts on tour, too many to consider. The Duppies gave me a beer cozy that I have in my backpack at all times. I got a new Green Room Rockers sweatshirt, which a pretty girl in Brooklyn traded me for a Bouncing Souls sweatshirt, that I wear just about every day. My favorite piece of merch that I got this year would have to be a t-shirt my friend Brian gave me right before I left on the first Sammy K tour I did. It's super arrogant, and just says "PMA ALL DAY." Definitely my favorite merch score this year.


Top 5 Ska Regrets

1) Regrets, I've had a few.

2) But then again, too few to mention.

3) I did what I had to do and saw it through without exemption.

4) I planned each charted course, each careful step along the byway.

5) And more, much more than this, I did it my way.


Top Ska Wishes for 2013

1) Personally, I want to go to Europe. I've never been and I hear it's fucking awesome.

2) That people dig the records I did that are coming out this year. A boy can dream, right?

3) People keep a cool head. Drama isn't needed. For me, 2012 was just drama.

4) KEEP THE FAITH. KEEP THAT PMA. 

5) Bands go on tour. The only way to get what you're doing out is tour. Show up, play. If there are only five people at the first show, there will be 10 the next time, then 20, then 30. Just go and turn heads. There are too many great bands that are just sitting and doing nothing. Buy a van, fix it up, go. Do it.



Tuesday, December 11, 2012

NYC Fall/Winter 2012 Ska/Reggae Calendar #5446


Saturday, December 15, 2012 @ 8:00 pm


The Brighton Bar
121 Brighton Avenue
Long Branch, NJ
18 to enter/21+ to drink
$10 in advance/$12 day of show

+ + + +

Wednesday, December 19, 2012 @ 8:00 pm


Bar New Haven
254 Crown Street
New Haven, CT
Free!

+ + + +

Friday, December 21, 2012 @ 8:00 pm


Bar Matchless
557 Manhattan Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 
$10/21+

+ + + +

Saturday, December 22, 2012 @ 6:00 pm

The Stone Pony
913 Ocean Avenue
Asbury Park, NJ
$10

+ + + +

Saturday, December 22, 2012 @ 8:00 pm

The Slackers Christmas Celebration with The Frightnrs, Sammy Kay, Caz and the Day Laborers (plus DJ 100dbs and DJ Small Change)

The Bell House
149 12th Street
Brooklyn, NY 
$15 advance/$17 day of show

+ + + +

Friday, December 28, 2012


Bushwick, NY
$7

+ + + +

Monday, December 31, 2012 @ 9:00 pm


The Tea Factory
175 Stockholm Street, Apt 111
Brooklyn, NY

Free before 10pm/$5 after
Cash bar
Formal attire!

+ + + +

Friday, January 25, 2013

Bigger Thomas

Hat City Kitchen
459 Valley Street
Orange, NJ

+ + + +

Thursday, January 31, 2012 (Doors at 6:30 pm/show at 7:00 pm)


The Studio at Webster Hall
125 East 11th Street
New York, NY
19+
$12 advance/$15 day of show

+ + + +

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Bigger Thomas, Inspecter 7

Court Tavern
124 Church Street
New Brunswick, NJ

+ + + +

Sunday, February 24, 2013 (Doors at 6pm/show at 8pm)


Brooklyn Bowl
61 Wythe Avenue
Brooklyn NY
21+
$10 in advance/$15 day of show

+ + + +

Thursday, February 28, 2013 (6:00 pm doors)


Stanhope House
45 Main Street
Stanhope, NJ

$12

2012: The Year in Ska - Joachim Uerschels (Reggae Steady Ska)

Editor's Note: As the end of the calendar year sneaks up on me--as it always does, since the fall is always so damn busy!--I always scramble around to put together my "best of" lists of the ska singles, albums, reissues, books, etc. that I really enjoyed over the past year and want to highlight for all the ska fans out there. But I also thought it might be interesting to feature some other opinions, so I approached a diverse group of ska musicians, bloggers, DJs, and label heads to find out what their favorite ska things were in 2012. And thus the "2012: The Year in Ska" series was born! Thanks to everyone who is taking the time to participate--I really appreciate it!

Longtime fans of ska may know Joachim Uerschels as the guitarist and singer for the German ska band The Braces (which was active in the last half of the 80s and first half of the 2000s). Recently, he is one of the people behind the superb ska website Reggae Steady Ska and he is working on an acoustic ska album project called Joe Scholes.

2012: The Year in Ska - Joachim Uerschels/Reggae Steady Ska/Joe Scholes

Top 5 Favorite Ska Releases

1) Jimmy Cliff, Rebirth

2) Dr. Ring Ding Ska-Vaganza, Piping Hot

3) Tommy Tornado, Cool Down

4) Babylove and The Van Dangos, Let It Come, Let It Go

5) Buster Shuffle, Do Nothing


Favorite Live Ska Shows

Buster Shuffle, Sonic Ballroom, Cologne

Madness, Stahlwerk, D├╝sseldorf


Favorite Ska Merch

I'm afraid there was nothing much new. 


Top 5 Ska Regrets

1) London International Ska Festival 

2) Every live show at the Reduit in Mainz, such a great venue

3) This Is Ska Festival in Rosslau (Lee Perry playing an old reggae set)

4) Dynamite Ska Festival, Leipzig w/Rude Rich and The High Notes

5) The Skatalites in Cologne


Top Ska Wishes for 2013

1) To see new 2 Tone-style pop bands.

2) To see Ernest Ranglin live.

3) To record a new acoustic ska album with Joe Scholes.

4) To hear more fresh ska from all around the world.


Monday, December 10, 2012

2012: The Year in Ska - Marc Wasserman (Bigger Thomas/Marco on the Bass)


Editor's Note: As the end of the calendar year sneaks up on me--as it always does, since the fall is always so damn busy!--I always scramble around to put together my "best of" lists of the ska singles, albums, reissues, books, etc. that I really enjoyed over the past year and want to highlight for all the ska fans out there. But I also thought it might be interesting to feature some other opinions, so I approached a diverse group of ska musicians, bloggers, DJs, and label heads to find out what their favorite ska things were in 2012. And thus the "2012: The Year in Ska" series was born! Thanks to everyone who is taking the time to participate--I really appreciate it!

My friend Marc Wasserman is the bass player and one of the songwriters for the 2 Tone-influenced NYC act Bigger Thomas (one of my favorite bands). He also is the man behind the excellent Marco on the Bass blog, which celebrates the 2 Tone era, as well as 80s ska bands in the USA--and he's my co-conspirator in booking and promoting our monthly Electric Avenue ska/reggae nights at Characters NYC.

2012: The Year in Ska - Marc Wasserman/Bigger Thomas/Marco on the Bass 

Top 5 Favorite Ska Releases


1) The UltraInfidels EP - Chris Dowd appears to be a man possessed with the musical spirit again. Nearly a decade out of the musical limelight, the ex-Fishbone singer, keyboardist, and trombonist is back with a new ska band, The UltraInfidels. The band's new six-song EP is dynamic, diverse (he has dubbed the band's sound as The Specials meets Yes and Metalica), thoughtful, intelligent, and incredibly danceable. Even better, Dowd isn't shying away from embracing his Fishbone roots or his love of ska. One song in particular, "Cubicle," could have come from Fishbone's frenetic first EP originally released in 1985. It chronicles Dowd's time when he had a straight, 9 to 5 job. It moves from hyper ska to a Beatles-like psychedelic bridge that reveals Dowd's self-awareness. The emotionally soulful "Time Ain't Long" (like many of the best tracks from Fishbone's classic Truth and Soul) celebrates life while noting its impermanence and the difficult but essential lessons it offers us as we travel from youth to middle age.

2) The Skints - The mean streets of London have proved to be a fertile breeding ground for gritty ska and reggae songs for many years. The Clash, Madness, The King Blues, and now The Skints have emerged from the city armed with bittersweet tales about surviving in the rough and tough neighborhoods across the English capital. While reminiscing about his roots in one of these neighborhoods on "Rise Up," vocalist Joshua Walters Rudge warns of the dangers of growing up there on "Live East Die Young." His lightning-quick cockney chat is complemented by the sublime vocals of Marcia Richards, particularly on the excellent "Ratatat." This is a modern-day dub, ska, reggae, and hip hop-inspired classic and The Skints could be the 21st century version of The Specials we have all been waiting for.

3) The Frightnrs EP - I found myself listening to this brilliant six-song EP of authentic rub-a-dub reggae from the Brooklyn-based band a lot this year. The songs have a timeless quality and the band have done a fantastic job of recreating the rockers phase of early 70's reggae to a 't,' drawing influences and inspiration from Alton Ellis, Horace Andy, and Sugar Minott. It's clear that the band members live, breathe, and love early dancehall, 70's reggae, and rocksteady. This devotion shines through, making this an absolute must listen for all fans of reggae and ska.

4) Tim Timebomb and Friends - Tim Armstrong from Rancid remains a musical force to be reckoned. I also love that he is a music fan at heart. His latest project is to record and post some of his favorite cover songs including an incredibly diverse mix of ska, country, rockabilly, and rock songs that have particular meaning for Armstrong. He took a crack a number of 2 Tone-era covers, but his best may be his acoustic cover of The Beat's "Save It For Later," which gets to core of the song's bittersweet center, and his emotional and moving rocksteady take on The Faces "Ohh La La" may one his best songs ever.

5) Phoenix City All-Stars Two Tone Gone Ska - This inspired and unbeatable collection of mostly instrumental versions of classic 2 Tone tracks that you know and love so well have been taken back to the future from whence they came -- namely 1960s Jamaica. Each song sounds like it was recorded in a small, 4-track circa 60s Kingston studio. The inclusion of legendary guest vocalists Dave Barker (the voice of Dave and Ansell Collins) on Elvis Costello's "I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down" and AJ Franklin (The Federals and The Chosen Few) on Smokey Robinson and The Miracles/The Beat's "Tears Of A Clown" complete the musical circle.


Top 5 Favorite Live Ska Shows

1) The Ultrainfidels - December 1st, Bordentown, NJ
2) Madness at Coachella - April 14th, Indio, CA (Live Coachella stream on YouTube)
3) Jimmy Cliff at Coachella - April 14th, Indio, CA (Live Coachella stream on YouTube)
4) Destroy Babylon/The Frightnrs - October 13th, New York, NY
5) The Beat Brigade - September 15th, New York, NY


Top 5 Favorite Ska Merch

I'm a t-shirt freak! So, I always try and pick up shirts for the many bands I see or my band Bigger Thomas plays with. It's also a great way to get some cash into the hands of bands who are getting paid a lot less than you think! I was finally able to grab a classic Beat Girl t-shirt at a show we played with The English Beat this summer which replaces the shredded original I had from 1982. I also got a classic Clash t-shirt (showing my age and roots here!).


Top 5 Ska Regrets

1) Missing the 2012 London International Ska Festival was a huge regret. My band Bigger Thomas was in the running for a fan vote to pick one band to perform at the festival. We finished in the top three, but we were disappointed to miss playing. I plan to attend the 2013 version as a fan!

2) For a lot of very personal and emotional reasons, I was very sad to miss the Rocks Off Halloween Boat Party with Mephiskapheles, Inspecter 7, and Step2Far at the end of October.

3) Hurricane Sandy ruined my debut as a DJ alongside DJ Duff at the The Toasters show at the Knitting Factory in early November. The good news was the show went on and Chuck Zilla and Maddie Ruthless filled in.

4) Missing Lee Perry's show at the Gramercy Theatre here in NYC, which is a short bus ride from my apartment. I'm kicking myself for not going to see a reggae legend. Still have to see him live.

5) Letting a little rain dissuade me from going to see Jimmy Cliff kick off his U.S. tour in Prospect Park in Brooklyn.


Top 5 Ska Wishes for 2013

1) I have high hopes for the Electric Avenue ska and reggae shows I co-book and co-promote with Steve Shafer of The Duff Guide To Ska. I think we are making progress on establishing a monthly destination in Manhattan for ska fans to come and check out the very best bands from all over the U.S.

2) My band Bigger Thomas is celebrating out 25th anniversary in 2013 and we are planning to release an EP of new music. I hope we can play out a lot more in 2013 to mark our 25 years of playing ska and that we can finally record more of the songs we have written.

3) To be part of the backing band for King Hammond on his U.S. tour in November 2013. It would be a real honor to learn some of my favorite King Hammond songs and to play live with him.

4) That The Specials come back to do a proper tour of the U.S. in 2013.

5) Go see more shows. Listen to more music. Play more music. Write more songs. Meet more ska-loving people!


Friday, December 7, 2012

2012: The Year in Ska - Michael Inumerable (2000 Tons of TNT)

Editor's Note: As the end of the calendar year sneaks up on me--as it always does, since the fall is always so damn busy!--I always scramble around to put together my "best of" lists of the ska singles, albums, reissues, books, etc. that I really enjoyed over the past year and want to highlight for all the ska fans out there. But I also thought it might be interesting to feature some other opinions, so I approached a diverse group of ska musicians, bloggers, DJs, and label heads to find out what their favorite ska things were in 2012. And thus the "2012: The Year in Ska" series was born! Thanks to everyone who is taking the time to participate--I really appreciate it!

Michael Inumerable is the guitarist and vocalist for the excellent San Diego, CA garage/early reggae act 2000 Tons of TNT.

2012: The Year in Ska - Michael Inumerable/2000 Tons of TNT

Top 5 Favorite Ska Releases

1) I have to say my favorite release of 2012 is Maddie Ruthless Featuring the Forthrights and Friends! I play it at least once a week and love every track. I think it's so classic sounding, but fresh at the same time. The songwriting, lyrics, playing, and production are all on point. Maddie's lyrics especially break my heart (which is not easily broken).

2) Going along with The Forthrights again, I real enjoyed their self-titled release this year, especially the opening track "Blinding Light." Very honest sounding band.

3)  I was really captivated by the new Frightnrs release not only because the artwork is beautiful, but the songs and production are great and they gave it away for free! Can't go wrong.

4) Moving away from the New York scene (which I am very inspired by, living so far away on the West Coast), I am really enjoying the lastest Bandulus record, which just came out just recently, The Times We Had. Met Jeremy a few years back and I really appreciate his take on old styles. Very soulful stuff!

5) The Amalgamated's Boss Universal album. These guys are our San Diegans, so it was really cool to see an album come out of San Diego and hear a bunch of dudes we know on a recording. They got this big-band meets Jamaican ska thing going on, so its a big sounding record!


Top 5 Favorite Live Ska Shows

1) Ken Boothe in San Diego! This is a show I never thought I would see. Backed by the Amalgamated. Probably the biggest ska show in San Diego in a few years. Packed house and played all the classics.

2) Pat Kelly and The Delirians in Riverside. This is a tie with the Ken Boothe show because the Delirians are just so tight and played all the tunes perfectly. They did a memorable version of "Whiter Shade of Pale" by Procol Harem. Just a surreal show (plus we played before The Delirians).

3) I got to see The Debonaires three times this year. Easily one of the best live ska/reggae bands in history. Did two dates with them in November.

4) The Revivers in Pomona (sorry another show we played). Members of The Debonaires, Skeletones, and few others doing covers from the early reggae period. Flawless covers...always a dance party.

5) Saw The Slackers vicariously through my brother (our lead guitarist)! I've seen 'em a couple times, not this year though. This is his pick!


Top 5 Favorite Ska Merch

1) We bought a Hammond Piper II organ! Does that count? Oh and I got a new guitar!

2) Didn't buy any records this year (shame). I got the digital copies of Maddie Ruthless and The Frightnrs. Would have loved to come up on some physical stuff from these people.

3) Boss Universal CD by The Amalgamated! The packaging was very attractive, I might add.

4) Ottly Mercer's promo CD they handed out at one of their shows earlier this year! This is a San Diego band working on their first official album, so look out!

5) I traded a copy of our CD for The Debonaires' Longshout album from a couple years back! Playing in my car on most days!


Top 5 Ska Regrets

1) Missed the DERRICK MORGAN SHOW IN SAN DIEGO! NOOOOO!

2) Really wanted to be picked to do The London International Ska Festival this year!

3) Didn't go to Europe! My favorite bands in the reggae revival scene all reside overseas (The Caroloregians, Granadians).

4) Didn't get out of town much with my band! We played a lot more out-of-town shows this year, but 2013 we out and about with a vengeance!

5) Probably not going to make to THE JAMAICANS show with The Delirians in San Francisco around New Year's! We were asked to do it, but something came up...go figure!


Top 5 Ska Wishes for 2013

1) I would really like all my favorite contemporary artists to put more material out (The Caroloregians, Granadians, Maddie Ruthless, Smooth Beans, etc.) .

2) I would like more Jamaican artists to make their way towards Southern California. We will be opening up for Keith and Tex in January, so things are looking good!

3) I would love to collaborate with different groups/scenes outside of the reggae/ska scene, especially all these gigging soul and soul/jazz groups that keep popping up in San Diego!

4) I would like to see more DJs that spin reggae, soul, rocksteady, and ska.

5) I want to get accepted to play the Victoria Ska Fest, plan a tour around, AND put out some new releases with 2000 Tons of TNT next year!


Thursday, December 6, 2012

2012: The Year in Ska - Keith Duncan (The Shifters/BluebeatDC)

Editor's Note: As the end of the calendar year sneaks up on me--as it always does, since the fall is always so damn busy!--I always scramble around to put together my "best of" lists of the ska singles, albums, reissues, books, etc. that I really enjoyed over the past year and want to highlight for all the ska fans out there. But I also thought it might be interesting to feature some other opinions, so I approached a diverse group of ska musicians, bloggers, DJs, and label heads to find out what their favorite ska things were in 2012. And thus the "2012: The Year in Ska" series was born! Thanks to everyone who is taking the time to participate--I really appreciate it!

Keith Duncan is the trombonist for the stellar Washington, DC ska/rocksteady outfit The Shifters. He's also one of the organizers/hosts of BluebeatDC, a monthly ska night in our fine nation's capital that puts on some amazing live shows. Since I always love his very opinionated thoughts about things ska and otherwise, I'm very happy to be presenting his entry in the 2012: The Year in Ska series!

2012: The Year in Ska - Keith Duncan/The Shifters/BluebeatDC

Top 5 Favorite Ska Releases

1) The Times We Had – The Bandulus. Easily the best thing I’ve heard this year. In fact, if you’re reading these words now, I’m sure you’ve read a lot of other people’s Top 5 lists and they probably don’t have this record listed. They’re wrong… Very wrong. So wrong they should have their listening rights revoked because they don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground.

This is the only record that matters for 2012.

2) I – The Pinstripes. Hint: it sounds better on vinyl. Also, best live ska/reggae band I’ve seen in this century.

3) The Radio – The Slackers. I have a feeling this is going to be on everyone’s list. Yeah, it’s a cover album and sometimes it’s hard to stomach buying a bunch of tunes you’ve heard a thousand times (in this lifetime and probably some previous). But y’know what? It’s pretty great and stands on its own as a Slackers release.

4) The Forthrights – The Forthrights. There’s an intangible greatness to this release. This CD has been permanently lodged in my car since September.

5) Monobound – Jorge and The Landladies. Maybe it’s just me, but I felt this album was sorely overlooked. Great songs. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G production. If you find yourself liking retro sounds, in general, you’ll be very happy purchasing this CD.

Honorable Mentions: The Pandemics, The UltraInfidels, and The Amalgamated.


Top 5 Favorite Live Ska Shows

1) Reggae Hit The Town featuring Greg Lee, Brian Dixon, and Teddy Boy Garcia – June 23rd, Mexico, DF. Suck it, haters. I was there and I got to play a few songs with Greg.

2) The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, The Have Nots, The Attack – August 9th, Washington DC.

3) Hub City Stompers, The UltraInfidels, Funkface – November 30th, Clarendon, VA.

4) The Pinstripes – May 25th, Rockville, MD.

5) Sammy Kay and The Snails – July 28th, Brooklyn, NY.


Top 5 Favorite Ska Merch

I don’t really buy a lot of stuff these days. Usually bands playing BlueBeat DC end up inadvertently deciding what t-shirts I’ll be wearing for the next 6 to 12 months. I’m always buying vinyl if that counts. I really like the Moondust seven inches that I’ve had people send me from back home… And from the Big Ska Gamble, The Georgetown Orbits release is really tight. Other than that, a lot of typical represses and some used stuff.

Top 5 Ska Regrets

Live life with no regrets.


Top 5 Ska Wishes for 2013

1) I'd like to see band reunions and reunion tours banned by law. I know this will offend some people, including friends of mine. Sorry, folks, I’m not nostalgic – I don’t need to relive 1989, 1999, or 2009. Band break-ups can be sad and painful to witness. However, what’s even more depressing is when most bands get back together they do it for only one reason: money. 2012 was riddled with this kind of activity. Please stop.

2) We need more clubs catering to all-aged events. People ask me sometimes, what’s the difference between Southern California and DC? Or, why is the ska and reggae vibe more prevalent in Southern California?

Simple answer: kids can go to shows. San Diego has at least five venues catering to all music genres, and ranging in sizes from small to gigantic. If you live in an area lacking a ska or reggae scene, I’m willing to bet your city doesn’t have many, if any, all-aged venues.

Face it – most of us learned about these kinds of sounds by going to a sweaty show surrounded by teenaged peers, and seeing 5-10 bands on any given weekend. Then we got excited and picked up instruments and tried to imitate what we saw on stage. It’s the circle of life, people. In our 20s, 30s, and beyond, we tend to forget where it all starts. This genre is banked on the live experience. If we live in a world where people have to wait until they’re 21 to witness this experience, it’s too little, too late.

3) I’d like to see DJ nights with less frequency. I find myself thoroughly annoyed with DJs who think they are somehow on equal footing with bands and musicians making music. I like DJs. I like hearing songs, song mixes, hidden gems, etc. And I think there’s room for a cooperative spirit, especially considering many venues who host DJs cannot support live music. However, in my travels, I find DJs are typically human iPods who have an expensive vinyl habit and incredible egos. Buying expensive recordings does not equal talent; it means you have more disposable income.

4) As a fan, you should be doing more. Yes, you, reading this right now.

You are lazy.

I’m calling you out because if people were proactive we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in now. Every year, it’s fewer bands. Every year, it’s fewer shows. Every year, it’s more of the same. This isn’t me declaring martyr status, by the way – I’m nobody and I’m perfectly fine with my nobody-status. Objectively speaking, too much is carried on the backs of too few.

“What can I do?” you may ask. The answer is anything because anything would be better. If you need suggestions, here’s a few: once a month, go see a show of a band you’ve never heard of before; buy a CD or record from a new band; start a band; if you’re already in a band, try to network with other bands; start a club night; offer to review shows for local print; start a podcast (if you have radio talent of some sort – actually, forget I mentioned the podcasting)…

Really, this isn’t rocket science. There are plenty of things to do. The problem is few are doing anything, or doing anything of significance with any amount of frequency. Stop being so damned cynical and DO SOMETHING. Oh, and by the way, logging into Facebook or jumping around blogs and social media websites doesn’t count.

5) I think 2013 could sneak up and surprise us. I’m really looking forward to output from Sammy Kay and The (fill in the blank), The Amalgamated, The Scotch Bonnets, The Delirians, The Pressure, The Evokatones, The Snails (WATCH THESE GUYS!), and whatever else is coming up around the bend. I think some of us on the East Coast need to take a good look at the 2012 All-Star shows on the West Coast and in Chicago and find inspiration. And of course, I hope to see all the veteran groups and artists around the US and beyond continue on and NOT FORGET DC IN THEIR TOUR PLANS.