Monday, December 5, 2016

Duff Guide to Ska Fast Takes: The Uptown Ska Collective "The Uptown EP"

(Review by Steve Shafer)

The Uptown Ska Collective The Uptown EP (six-track 10" vinyl EP/cassette, Foruli Limited Edition Books and Records, 2016): In addition to his recent performances with The Specials in various parts of the globe and creating his now trademark cassette paintings (like the one he did for Lynval Golding's Know Your Rights EP), The Specials' bass player Horace Panter is keeping busy with his other band--The Uptown Ska Collective--which is devoted to (and honors/celebrates) 60s-style ska and rocksteady made by the originators (with nary a trace of 2 Tone in sight!). The core of The Uptown Ska Collective is made up of The Specials' touring band's keyboardist (Nikolaj Torp Larsen) and horn section augmented by a few other musicians, including vocalist Jocelyn Harris of The Pressure Tenants (who backed Laurel Aitken for a spell), and the quality of their playing and musicianship is really top-notch, as would be expected. The Uptown EP kicks off with a great rendition of Don Drummond's "Occupation," followed by a cover of Booker T. and the M.G.s' "Heads or Tails" that would have made Jackie Mittoo mighty proud, and "Bushfire," an original instrumental by TUSC's Jon Read (trumpet, guitar) which could slip into The Skatalites' oeuvre unnoticed. Harris' lovely and winning alto dominates the vocal side of the EP, with its reverent versions of Phyllis Dillon's "Don't Stay Away," Marley's "Simmer Down," and soul singer Clarence Carter's "Slip Away" (his "Back Door Santa" was sampled by Run-D.M.C. for "Christmas in Hollis"). Not much new territory is trod here (it's not really the point), but The Uptown Ska Collective do what they do so well that you'll be more than happy to have this record in heavy rotation on your turnable.

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