Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Duff Review: The Selecter "Live at the Roadhouse"

DMF Records
CD+DVD/Double LP+DVD
2018

(Review by Steve Shafer)

Various incarnations of The Selecter have released live albums over their 38+ year existence (in particular, check out 1992's scorching Out On The Streets with Neol Davies, Pauline Black, Nick Welsh, and Martin Stewart--or 2015's positively amazing Access All Areas, which was recorded in 1980 with all of the original members of The Selecter--read our review of it here) and Live at the Roadhouse captures the current (and really great) iteration of the band in top form, performing stellar tracks from their last few albums (String Theory, Subculture, Daylight), as well as their old 2 Tone chart hits and fan favorites.

Live at the Roadhouse is a real treat to listen to and watch, as it was expertly recorded and videotaped in London on October 6, 2017 before a packed house during a co-headling tour of the UK with The Beat featuring Ranking Roger (they've also released an album/DVD from that night). The Selecter's live versions of "Frontline," "Breakdown," "Daylight," "Remember Me," "The Big Badoof," and "The Avengers Theme" (one of the best TV show themes of all time--and a terrific choice to cover) are of primary interest here, as the other cuts have been recorded live many times over the years. All, of course, sound fantastic. ("Breakdown" expresses outrage at the extrajudicial police killings in the US and UK of unarmed black people, which are a horrific symptom of entrenched racism, societal dysfunction, and purposeful neglect--and "Frontline" calls for everyone to disengage a bit from social media and reconnect with the world in order to take action against injustice; both are extraordinarily powerful and catchy protest songs for our increasingly troubled times.)

In addition to documenting the entire concert, the Live at the Roadhouse DVD features a nice, if a bit scattershot, interview with Pauline Black and Arthur "Gaps" Hendrickson that also manages to highlight their charming, decades-long friendship and easy rapport with each other (Pauline: "I'll always make music until I drop off my perch, I think." Gaps: "I'm in, oh yeah, I'm in. You know, I can't see me doing anything else. You know, here I am. I'm free!" Pauline: "We're too old to go back to our day jobs!").

Having seen The Selecter during their past few visits through NYC, I can certainly attest to their superb, spirited, and all-out fun live shows--and Live at the Roadhouse certainly reflects all of that and more. This one's a must for Selecter fans.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Desorden Publico US Tour!

If you're near Salt Lake City, Denver, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Orlando, Doral, or Boca Raton in the next few weeks, make sure to see Desorden Publico play live! (Their latest album Bailando Sobre Las Ruinas or Dancing on the Ruins is really fantastic--read The Duff Guide to Ska review of it here: https://duffguidetoska.blogspot.com/…/duff-guide-to-ska-fas….)

Monday, June 18, 2018

Duff Review: The English Beat "Here We Go Love!"

Here We Go/Megaforce Records
CD/LP/Digital
2018

(Review by Steve Shafer)

First off--to address the question foremost in fans' minds--Here We Go Love! is a terrific record, full of good-to-stellar original songs and strong performances throughout. Musically, the album picks up where Special Beat Service left off, at a point when the band already had moved far afield from the taut 2 Tone ska of their debut. There is, of course, a good amount of ska and reggae here to please the ska faithful, along with even more New Wave-y pop, rhythm and blues, and soul for the fans who came later. But it's not the styles, it's the songs the carry the day.

The passage of time and accumulated miles on the road haven't diminished Wakeling's considerable songwriting skills--several tracks were embedded in my head from the first listen and many of the songs on Here We Go Love! are worthy additions to his musical canon. The phenomenal Motown-ish "You Really Oughtta Know By Now" ("...but, oh no, you just don't do you") is probably the top cut on the album (and manages to sneak in a nice nod to "Tears of A Clown" while at it), while the sizzling, Stax-infused "Every Time You Told Me" (about knowing you're being played) is a close second. But it doesn't end there. The could be a pop/film soundtrack hit "The One and the Only" might be about Trump or any other supremely narcissistic and cruel person in your life ("Funny how hate can be/He won't hear your crying/Won't have the time of day/He just walks on by/And it's like he doesn't notice/Yeah right..."). Like the great single off this album "How Can You Stand There?," the ska track "Redemption Time" is about failing to stand up to fight injustice--in this case, opposing the status quo and actually doing something to slow down/halt climate change (and its title reminds one of Max Romeo's "Revelation Time" or Willie William's/The Clash's "Armagideon Time" in that all of us and our planet may be in the end times if we don't start changing our ways drastically and immediately...). The "I-can't-believe-how-stupid-it-is-that-we-have-to-still-protest-this-shit" anti-war song "If Killing Worked It Would Have Worked By Now" ("We're all grunts in the human army/Four million at war and one billion starving/Sick to death of those old boys' rules/We'll make our future or we'll die like fools") is brilliant for both its catchiness and humane logic.

It might have been preferable to bill this venture as "Dave Wakeling of The English Beat," as it's clearly his show (no other performers are listed in the CD credits, though they are on The English Beat website) and without the full participation of other members of The Beat in the band, it's not quite in the same vein as The Beat of old. Having said that, several Beat members and associates did have a part in this album (though you're mostly left wondering as to exactly where): Everett Morton is listed as playing congas; the dear, departed Saxa clearly helped with the sax lines for "If Killing Worked It Would Have Worked By Now"--unfortunately, an injury prevented him from actually playing on the album before his passing; and Andy Cox (!) made snipping sounds with garden shears on "You're Stuck" (also, The Specials' Roddy Radiation guested on guitar and The Aggrolites' Roger Rivas played some organ). Liner-notes obsessives will be interested to know that Bob Sargeant (who, of course, beautifully produced the first three Beat albums, as well as records for The Ruts, XTC, The Damned, Fine Young Cannibals, and many of John Peel's BBC sessions with post-punk bands like The Fall, Buzzcocks, Gary Numan, Gang of Four, as well as Madness and The Specials) was one of the executive producers of this album; and Hunt Emerson, who designed the iconic Beat Girl logo and striking cover artwork for I Just Can't Stop It and Wha'ppen?, has created fantastic artwork for this release!

Despite its prolonged gestation, Dave Wakeling deserves full credit for (finally!) moving ahead with excellent new material (like his peers in Madness, The Selecter, and Bodysnatchers who have released amazing records over the past few years) and not relying solely on nostalgia and former glories (and the first three Beat albums were glorious!) to keep on filling the venues while touring non-stop. Here's to hoping that Here We Go Love! marks the beginning of a new and prolific creative phase for Wakeling. He's still got the goods and then some...

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Thursday, June 14, 2018

Duff Guide to Ska Fast Takes: Matamoska!, Soul Radics!

(Reviews by Steve Shafer)

This excellent imported rocksteady single was released last fall to coincide with Soul Radics' European tour, though upon their return to Nashville, TN, the band announced that they were going on "an indefinite hiatus." So, if this turns out to be their swan song, it's a pretty damn good one. "Two Devils" b/w "Stormy Weather" (Clear vinyl, picture sleeve single, Grover Records, 2017) is available in limited quantities in the USA from Jump Up Records and definitely worth picking up. Interestingly, "Two Devils" (powered by Dani Casler's smoky alto voice and the fantastic Radics musicians) is not exactly about regret, because all that cheating still feels mighty right. But there's still the sense that life could be easier/better with an active moral compass ("I've got two devils on my shoulder...wish I had an angel"). The choice to version the 1933 torch song "Stormy Weather" (most notably sung by Ethel Waters, Lena Horne, Billie Holiday, and many others) on the flip side seems like an apt one, as it's all about abandonment, unfulfilled desire, and a joyless life on hold ("When he went away/The blues walked in and met me/Oh yeah, if he stays away/Old rocking chair's gonna get me/All I do is pray/The Lord will let me/Walk in the sun once more"). You've got everything if you're lucky enough to have love, commitment, and fidelity with the right person.

I'm generally not a ska-punk fan--and based on this single, I'm not sure that Matamoska! really falls in this self-selected category (is it because of Jose Padilla's gravelly voice?)--but their "Beer Goggles" b/w "Doom Boogie" (Vinyl, picture sleeve single, Steady Beat Recordings, 2018) is a fantastic modern/Third Wave ska single. Naturally, "Beer Googles" is an extended, mid-tempo ska take of sorts on the best Homer Simpson quote ever: “To alcohol! The cause of...and solution to...all of life’s problems” (Matamoska!: "I'm living like a rat/'Cause you left me on the street/I've got nothing else to give/You don't want my company/Because it's two o'clock in the morning/I got my beer googles on/I've left them on/I want you back again/'Cause I've got my beer goggles on... It's not summertime/'Cause the living's not easy/I know that you will never be/Coming back to me..."). "Doom Boogie" is a terrific horn-driven instrumental (shades of The Toasters, Mephiskapheles, or The Scofflaws) that must pack the dance floor every time it's played live. Like the world outside depicted on the sleeve, this one's on fire!

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Thursday, June 7, 2018

The Duff Guide to Ska NYC Spring/Summer 2018 Ska Calendar #6

The Selecter in LA, 1980
Friday, June 8, 2018 between 6:00 pm and 10:00 pm

100% Ska at Otto's Shrunken Head w/Selections by DJ Ryan Midnight

Otto's Shrunken Head
538 East 14th Street (between Avenues A and B)
New York, NY
(No cover!)

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Friday, June 8, 2018 @ 10:00 pm

Dubistry

Silvana
300 West 116th Street
New York, NY

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Saturday, June 9, 2018 @ 9:00 pm

Dance Inna Bushwick w/Top Shotta Band featuring Tonto Irie, The Far East, Boomshot!, and selections by Grace of Spades

1239 Dekalb Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
$10

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Friday, June 15, 2018 @ 7:00 pm

Reggay Lords, The Fuss, The Freecoasters, w/selections by Grace of Spades

El Cortez
17 Ingraham Street
Brooklyn, NY
$10/21+

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Friday, June 15, 2018 @ 10:00 pm

Caz Gardiner

Silvana
300 West 116th Street
New York, NY

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Saturday, June 16, 2018 @ 1:00 pm

Beat Brigade, Night of the Living Funk

Riis Park Beach Bazaar
16702 Rockaway Beach Boulevard
Queens, NY
Free!

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Sunday, June 24, 2018 @ 7:30 pm

The Toasters, Beat Brigade, Joker's Republic

Knitting Factory Brooklyn
361 Metropolitan Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
$15 in advance/$17 day of show
All ages

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Tuesday, June 26, 2018 @ 8:00 pm

NYC Ska Orchestra, Royal KhaoZ

Brooklyn Bowl
61 Wythe Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
$10/21+

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Thursday, July 12, 2018 @ 6:00 pm

Brown Rice Family

Live at the Dumbo Archway
155 Water Street
Brooklyn, NY
Free!

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Saturday, July 28, 2018 @ 1:00 pm

Reggay Lords

Riis Park Beach Bazaar
16702 Rockaway Beach Boulevard
Queens, NY
Free!

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Saturday, August 18, 2018 @ 6:30 pm

The Pietasters Booze Cruise

The Lucille
Board boat at East 23rd Street and FDR Drive in Manhattan
$37.50 in advance/$40 day of show
21+

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Friday, August 24, 2018 @ 8:00 pm

Fishbone ("Classic '80s/'90s line-up!), Oxymorrons

Brooklyn Bowl
61 Wythe Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
$25/21+

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Saturday, August 25, 2018 @ 6:00 pm

The Slackers Booze Cruise

The Liberty Belle
Board boat at Pier 36, 299 South Street in Manhattan
$30 in advance/$35 day of show
21+

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If you don't see a NYC ska show listed here, send us all of the details to duffguidetoska@gmail.com!
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Monday, June 4, 2018

Duff Guide to Ska Fast Takes: Pama International, Pama Intl v. Manasseh, Jackie Mittoo

(Reviews by Steve Shafer)

In case you missed it back in 2006--when they were the first band in 30 years (!) to sign to Trojan Records--Pama International has reissued the nothing-short-of-amazing Trojan Sessions LP, as well as the (mostly) new Trojan Sessions in Dub, a track-for-track companion album with dubs by Nick Manasseh, who co-produced the original Trojan Sessions with Sean Flowerdew (Heavyweight red and black vinyl LPs/CDs, Happy People Records, 2017 and 2018). Trojan Sessions features a mind-blowing roster of guest artists, including the late Rico Rodriguez, Dennis Alcapone, Dawn Penn, Dave and Ansel Collins, Derrick Morgan, and Winston Francis (and at this point Pama International included Specials Lynval Golding on guitar, and Horace Panter on bass) on a boss collection of original material. Between the host of 1960s JA superstars and various musical styles of these tracks, this record brilliantly honors the history and spirit of Trojan (and its artists), as well as serves as a primer of sorts of Jamaican music, circa 1965-1972. I love the album start to finish, but several highlights include Rico on The Skatalites'-sounding "Disobedient Children"; the early "Liquidator" reggae "Neither High Nor Dry" with Dennis Alcapone; a sublime Dawn Penn on the dubby "Betterment Blues"; Dave and Ansel Collins make it sound like '69 on "It Ain't Funny"; Pama's singer Finny shines on the funky reggae "I Got So Much to Shout About"  and rootsier "One Step"; and Winston Francis on the rock-solid rocksteady "Fisherman" (which has echoes of "You're Wondering Now" lurking within). Once you're familiar with the tunes onTrojan Sessions, listening to how they're deconstructed and reassembled by Manasseh on Trojan Sessions in Dub is a real pleasure. "Disobedient Dub" in particular is stellar (love all the outer space effects, use of Rico's voice, and placement of sounds within the mix to create all sorts of aural distance), with "One Step Dub" and "Fisherman Dub" hot on its tail.

I don't know why it was so hard to obtain (I finally ordered it directly from VP Records after two failed attempts elsewhere), but The Jackie Mittoo Showcase EP (Black vinyl picture sleeve single, 17 North Parade/VP Records, 2018) was completely worth the wait and effort. Essentially, this four-track release presents some of the greatest tracks off last year's excellent double-CD Striker Showcase (which The Duff Guide to Ska reviewed here). These 1977-1978 cuts are prime, moody rocksteady/reggae Mittoo material (with his phenomenal soulful/jazzy Hammond keyboard lines floating above it all) from three essential albums co-produced by Bunny "Striker" Lee: "Disco Jack" and "Brain Mark" are off Hot Blood; "Earthquake" is from In Cold Blood; while "Drum Song" is on the original Showcase album. One can't have enough Jackie Mittoo in their collection.

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