Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Duff Guide to Ska Fast Takes: King Kong 4 "There's Not Much That You or I Can Do About It," Jackie Mittoo "Striker Showcase"

(Reviews by Steve Shafer)

King Kong 4 There's Not Much That You or I Can Do About It (Five-track digital EP, Winterbeard Records, 2017): I saw the harrowing movie version of Nevil Shute's post-World War III/doomsday novel "On the Beach" (where the last bits of humanity in Melbourne, Australia wait for the the nuclear fallout to reach and kill them--though most of the characters opt out via suicide pills, rather than suffering an agonizing death due to radiation poisoning) while in middle school at the end of the 1970s, when nuclear armageddon was a terrifyingly real possibility (and kept me up at nights). While King Kong 4's There's Not Much That You or I Can Do About It EP and its song titles are all taken from Shute's bleak novel (note the mushroom clouds in the EP cover art), all of their instrumental tracks are actually pleasantly bright and cheery. "Going a Bit Mad in Our Own Way" (with its incredible ice rink organ line), "To Lose Before You Start" (which features samples of President Harry Truman talking about bombing Hiroshima), and "Sitting Behind the Wheel of Her Car" (plus two dub versions) are fantastic spaghetti Western ska tracks (appropriate, given America's cowboy image/mythology and notoriety as the only country to have used nuclear weapons in war). One imagines the KK4 up in Toronto, watching in resigned horror as its destabilized and unpredictable superpower neighbor wreaks havoc on the world, but opting to keep on creating (life-affirming) music rather than giving into helplessness and despair.

Jackie Mittoo Striker Showcase (2xCD, 17 North Parade/VP Records, 2017): Back in the latter half of the 70s, producer Bunny "Striker" Lee arranged for Studio One's former musical director, arranger, and master keyboardist Jackie Mittoo (Skatalites, Soul Vendors/Brothers, Sound Dimension) to depart his adopted Toronto for the UK and JA to re-record/re-interpret many of his seminal ridders that he created for Coxsone Dodd in the 1960s ("Hot Milk," "Ram Jam," and dozens more) for a series of albums: The Keyboard King (1977), Hot Blood (1977), Showcase (1978), and In Cold Blood (1978). For these wonderfully loose, warm, and funky recordings, Mittoo was backed by a stellar band that included Sly Dunbar on drums, Robbie Shakespeare on bass, Winston Wright and Ansel Collins on piano, Earl "Chinna" Smith on guitar, and Tony Chin, Winston "Bo Pee" Bowen, Geoffrey Chung, and Carl Harvey on rhythm guitar--all providing Mittoo with the rock solid roots foundation for him to work his extraordinary keyboard magic. Even if you picked up Blood and Fire's Champion in the Arena, 1976-1977 back in 2003, which contains most of what's on the first half of this release, you'll want this comp for its second CD. You can never have enough Jackie Mittoo in your collection.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Duff Guide to Ska NYC Summer/Fall 2017 Ska Calendar #48

Photo by Janette Beckman
Friday, June 9, 2017 @ 7:00 pm

The Specials, The Far East

Brooklyn Steel
319 Frost Street
Brooklyn, NY
$50/16+

+ + + +

Saturday, June 10, 2017 @ 9:00 pm (2 sets!)

Larry McDonald's 80th Birthday Party w/Dave Hillyard and the Rocksteady 7, plus DJ One Hundred Decibels

Hank's Saloon
46 Third Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
$8

+ + + +

Saturday, June 10, 2017 @ 9:00 pm

Alla Spina, Beat Brigade, The Screw Ups, The Oneness

Legion Bar
790 Metropolitan Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
$5

+ + + +

Sunday, June 18, 2017 @ 8:00 pm

Protoje

Highline Ballroom
431 West 16th Street
New York, NY
$25-$28

+ + + +

Friday, June 23, 2017 @ 7:00 pm

The Slackers

Rocks Off Concert Cruise
The Liberty Belle
299 South Street
New York, NY
$30/21+

+ + + +

Friday, June 23, 2017 @ 7:00 pm

Hub City Stompers, 45 Adapters, Hardknocks, Vinny and the Hooligans

Cape House
2 Knickerbocker Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
$10/21+

+ + + +

Saturday, July 1, 2017 @ 1:00 pm

Reggay Lords

Riis Park Beach Bazaar
16702 Rockaway Beach Boulevard
Rockaway Park
Free!

+ + + +

Wednesday, July 4, 2017 @ 9:00 pm

The Wailing Souls

B.B. King's
237 West 42nd Street
New York, NY
$25 in advance/$30 day of show
All ages!

+ + + +

Saturday, July 8, 2017 @ 8:00 pm

Desorden Publico, Los Mesoneros

SOB's
204 Varick Street
New York, NY
$30-$35/21+

+ + + +

Thursday, July 13, 2017 @ 8:00 pm

The Dirty Notion, The Applecores, Barbicide, plus DJ Duff

Otto's Shrunken Head
538 East 14th Street (close to Avenue B)
New York, NY
No cover, but bring $ for when we pass the bucket.
21+

+ + + +

Thursday, July 13, 2017 @ 6:00 pm

Brown Rice Family, DJ Duct Tape

Archway Under the Manhattan Bridge
155 Water Street
Dumbo, Brooklyn
Free!

+ + + +

Saturday, July 15, 2017 @ 9:00 pm

Beres Hammond, Marcia Griffiths, Third World

Ford Amphitheater at the Coney Island Boardwalk
3052 West 21st Street
Brooklyn, NY
$108

+ + + +

Sunday, July 16, 2017 @ 4:00 pm

NYC Ska Orchestra

Queens Botanical Garden
43-50 Main Street
Queens, NY
FREE with Garden Admission: Adults – $6; Seniors (age 62+) – $4; Students with ID – $4; Children (ages 4 to 12) – $2; Children (3 and under) – FREE; Members – FREE.

+ + + +

Wednesday, July 19, 2017 @ 7:00 pm

The Aquabats

Highline Ballroom
431 West 16th Street
New York, NY
$25-$125

+ + + +

Tuesday, July 25, 2017 @ 8:00 pm

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones

Webster Hall
125 East 11th Street
New York, NY
$25.50-$35.00
18+

+ + + +

Saturday, July 29, 2017 @ 1:00 pm

Beat Brigade

Riis Park Beach Bazaar
16702 Rockaway Beach Boulevard
Rockaway Park
Free!

+ + + +

Wednesday, August 9, 2017 @ 7:30 pm

The Selecter, Rude Boy George, The Pandemics

Knitting Factory Brooklyn
361 Metropolitan Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
$30 in advance/$35 day of show
All ages!

+ + + +

Tuesday, October 3, 2017 @ 9:00 pm

Black Uhuru

B.B. King's
237 West 42nd Street,
New York, NY
$25 in advance/$30 day of show
All ages!

+ + + +

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Duff Guide to Ska Fast Takes: Hopeton Lewis "There She Goes" b/w Vin Gordon and The Supersonics "Reggay Trombone," Johnny Clarke and the Flying Vipers "Highest Region" b/w "Highest Version," Mungo's Hi Fi featuring Johnny Clarke "Rain Keeps Falling" b/w "Spring Shower Dub"

(Reviews by Steve Shafer)

Hopeton Lewis "There She Goes" b/w Vin Gordon and The Supersonics "Reggay Trombone" (heavyweight 7" vinyl single, Trojan Records, 2017): This limited edition Record Store Day 2017 release boasts two unreleased Duke Reid productions from Treasure Island's archives. As both cuts are fantastic, one wonders why they lay hidden until now (perhaps the almost ridiculous abundance of incredible music in JA at the time made it difficult to choose what to release?). Lewis' sprightly rocksteady track (love the combination of flute and sax here) masks the heartache of the lyrics: "There she goes/And I'm lonely once again/There she goes/And I don't know where she's going/But she's gone, gone, gone." "Reggay Trombone" spotlights Vin Gordon's t-bone chops as he's backed by Tommy McCook's Supersonics on this cheerful and lively early/skinhead reggae instrumental. (Copies are still out there to be had at reasonable prices.)

Johnny Clarke "Highest Region" b/w Flying Vipers "Highest Version" (green 7" vinyl single, Jump Up Records, 2017): Phenomenal roots singer Johnny Clarke is supported by Boston's reggae/dub masters Flying Vipers on this excellent single (unofficially titled Johnny Clarke Meets Flying Vipers). The atypical and unsettling beat and stripped-to-the-bone dubby instrumental backing on "Highest Region" provides a sharp contrast to Clarke's plaintive chant of "We want, we want, we want to go home/To Zion, away from Babylon" (the restlessness and unease in the music won't be calmed until there's deliverance from evil). Its dub "Highest Version" is even further deconstructed to great effect. This is definitely one of the more unusual dub releases you'll find this year and very much worth owning.

Mungo's Hi Fi featuring Johnny Clarke "Rain Keeps Falling" b/w "Spring Shower Dub" (7" vinyl single, Scotch Bonnet Records, 2017): For Record Store Day 2017, Glasgow-based Mungo's Hi Fi created a fantastically spare and seductive new roots riddim track for Johnny Clarke to sing his message of love over ("Rain keeps falling/And my body is calling/You're my one and only/I don't want to be lonely/You're my pride and joy/We were meant to be/Life is just for living/Love is what I'm giving"). Notably, this cut and its great dub version feature the "flying cymbals" that harken back to Clarke's first hit in 1974 with Bunny Lee, Earl Zero's "None Shall Escape the Judgement." As to be expected, Mungo's Hi Fi and Clarke deliver nothing short of the best.