Sunday, April 28, 2019

Duff Guide to Ska Fast Takes: 2019 RSD Releases from Lee "Scratch" Perry, Madness, and The Specials

(Reviews by Steve Shafer)

Of course, the unexpected is what one should always expect from Lee "Scratch" Perry and his new 2019 Record Store Day single "Big Ben Rock (Woodie Taylor Remix)" (Translucent green 7" picture sleeve single, Where It's At Is Where You Are, 2019) proves that truism for the billionth time. Drummer-producer-reggae fan Woodie Taylor (Daleks, Meteors, Morrissey) had been invited by Mad Professor to play on a Lee Perry track he was recording at his Ariwa studio and when it became apparent that it wouldn't be completed, Taylor asked if he could have a go at it and this is the pretty spectacular result. Taylor enlisted guitarist/saxophonist Boz Boorer (Polecats, Morrissey), bassist Jonny Bridgwood (Marianne Faithful, Morrissey), and keyboardist Anthony Miller (Data, Friday Club--yes, the soul/jazz band that released one Jerry Dammers-produced single for 2 Tone) to create a phenomenally hard-driving, drag racing, proto-punk, rockabilly, spaghetti Western mash up with Perry exhorting the listener to "Rock, rock/Like a Big Ben clock," amongst other things. Actual Big Ben sounds included. The b side contains the electro-percussive-dub instrumental "Steady" and a deliciously raw cover of Jacques Dutronc's 1967 garage rock single "J'ai Tout Lu" ("I read everything/Saw everything/Drank everything"). This single is hard to find, but completely worth the effort (I ordered mine from a record shop in Italy).

Somehow, I was able to track down a list price copy of Madness' "One Step Beyond" shaped picture disc (Union Square Music/BMG, 2019) and avoid the outrageous second hand market, where copies of this were selling at two to three times its original price (only 1,500 copies were released worldwide for Record Store Day). Of course, I have this track in multiple formats already, but this really is a pretty cool 40th anniversary collector's item. It features the iconic photo of Madness doing their Nutty Train from the cover of their 1979 debut album--and there are four versions of this classic Prince Buster song: the 2009 remastered version, the 7" single cut, a version in Spanish, and another in Italian. Also, it's listed as a 7" single--but it's more the size of a 10" record. It goes without saying that the song sounds just as amazing today as it did when it was released all of those years ago.

Given the very pointed socio-political messages in their new album Encore (read The Duff Guide to Ska review of it), it's hard not to read into the choice of tracks for The Specials' powerful RSD single, "10 Commandments" featuring Saffiyah Khan b/w "You're Wondering Now" with Amy Winehouse, recorded live at the V Festival in 2009 (7" vinyl single, Island/Universal Music Group, 2019). Pairing Khan's fiercely feminist response to Prince Buster's wildly misogynistic original and the warning that retribution/punishment for your sins/offenses is forthcoming on the flip side ("You're wondering how you will pay/For the way you did behave") casts this single as a strong #MeToo movement statement. (It's fantastic how a song's meaning can shift/be open to multiple interpretations; for years, I've thought that the version of this cover on The Specials' debut was directed at British racists/fascists for their despicable abuse of and assaults on black Britons and immigrants from England's former colonies: "Knock, knock, knock/You can't come in.") Bootleg vinyl releases of The Specials/Amy Winehouse cut (and other Specials and Special AKA songs she's covered live) have been circulating for the past decade, so it's about time this received a proper release.

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Sunday, April 21, 2019

Duff Guide to Ska Fast Takes: Dennis Bovell, Daytoner, JonnyGo Figure, Prince Fatty and Earl 16

(Reviews by Steve Shafer)

Even though I saw "Babylon" weeks ago at its ridiculously long-delayed US premiere at BAM (the film was originally released in the UK in 1980, but not shown in America, presumably because its black protagonists sometimes respond to racial oppression/abuse from white people/institutions with violence), images and scenes from the movie continue to haunt me. While its plot is fairly straightforward ("Babylon" follows a group of working class black friends/musicians who run a sound system and are subjected to racist abuse from just about everyone--bosses, neighbors, and the police), it has a stark realism to it--between being shot on location in run-down Brixton (often in difficult-to-film low-lighting conditions, but somehow always maintaining visual crispness and its warm and vivid color tones); the depiction of the ubiquitous societal/institutional racism freely expressed toward black Britons circa '79/'80; great, funny dialogue (with lots of Jamaican slang--which was subtitled); and the spot-on, relaxed performances by all involved, it could almost be a documentary. And, of course, the film's hard-to-find soundtrack is outstanding (with Yabby U, I-Roy, Cassandra, Aswad, Vin Gordon, Michael Rose, Dennis Bovell, and more; also, the film's protagonist Blue is played by Aswad's Brinsley Forde and a rival sound system DJ is Jah Shaka). Before I caught the film, I tracked down a German copy of Babylon in decent shape that wasn't too costly. Side two, in particular is stellar and happens to contain the two Aswad and three Dennis Bovell cuts. But the official Babylon OST (vinyl LP, Chrysalis Records, 1980) doesn't contain all of Bovell's music for the film. So, in conjunction with the US premiere/release of the movie, Dennis Bovell issued the nine-track digital album Babylon: The Original Score (Old School, 2019) containing the entire score he wrote and recorded for this soundtrack (including six songs that did not appear on the 1980 Chrysalis LP). It goes without saying that all of these tracks are excellent and heard in snippets in the film (Bovell is a master of catchy melody and mixes/shifts between musical genres with ease), but I'm particularly grateful to have the ska cut "Runnin' Away" (featured during the dance scene at Lovers' engagement party in the church hall and sounding like one of the '50s rock/rhythm and blues-influenced tracks Laurel Aitken would have released in the early '60s); the funky, strutting "School Skanking" (check out that harmonica!); and the righteous roots reggae of "Living in Babylon" (a clear-eyed recounting of the brutal challenges of being black and poor in racist Ingland). Needless to say, this album is essential and absolutely deserving of being issued on vinyl someday (please!).

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Daytoner's terrific versions of Marcia Griffiths' "Feel Like Jumping" and Phyllis Dillon's "Perfidia," which they've retitled "Perfidious" (7" vinyl single, Friday's Funky 45/Cabin Pressure, 2019); I found a copy at Rock and Soul in Manhattan) inject just the right amount of early '90s hip hop/De La Soul-like beats and samples so as to give these ska and rocksteady classics new life. And they're sure to draw new fans to the dance floor without alienating the ska faithful.

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Brooklyn-based reggae singer/DJ JonnyGo Figure (who's also a member of Megative and has collaborated with The Frightnrs and Full Watts Band) has released an excellent EP of early '80s sounding roots reggae and dancehall (that one could imagine being issued on Greensleeves, circa 1982) called Crucial Showcase (12" vinyl/digital, Bent Backs Records, 2019). On the Yellowman-ish "Vinyl Lover," JonnyGo Figure speaks to his real-life obsession with records and how that came to be ("Mi love vinyl and mi play it fe fun/Mi love vinyl and I never have a gun"). The rootsy "Natty Take Over" is about discovering and embracing Rastafarianism ("Mr. Babylon to move over/This a Natty Dreadlocks take over/When I was a boy they used to say I'd amount to nothing/But now I'm a man they're starting to see that I am something/Look out, look out, Natty taking over..."). He's ready to join with his peers to fighting for a more equal and just society in "Revolutionary Youth": "I tell ya, stand up! Stand up!/Strap up on de Armagideon boot/The time now, we have to recruit/Come on, we chant it, chant it/Come on and let we seek de truth/If you ready, let me see you salute/I'm a revolutionist...Time to start a revolution, boy/'Cause that's the only solution, boy." And knowledge of one's own mortality looms large in "Jam It Up"--there's an expiration date on all of us, so it's best to live a righteous life full of joy in His music: "One day I'll die, no matter what me say/You know, say papa Jah, he the only way I say, so/Come on let me play a Jah Jah music/Let me jam it up..." There's much to ponder while grooving to JonnyGo Figure's seriously good music.

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Released for Record Store Day 2019, Prince Fatty and Earl 16's "Be Thankful for What You've Got" b/w "Be Thankful Dub" (7" vinyl single, Evergreen Records, 2019) is a cover of William DeVaughn's 1974 smash soul hit, which was also covered by Bunny Clarke in 1974, Winston Curtis in 1984, Massive Attack in 1993, as well as sampled by numerous hip hop artists. The song's brilliant lyrics have been perennially popular for their depiction of aspirational cool in the face of deprivation (and, no doubt, for evoking a particular era--I remember seeing this exact model of Cadillac in the Bronx in the '70s):

Just be thankful for what you've got
You may not have a great big Cadillac
Diamond in the back, sunroof top
Diggin' the scene
With a gangsta lean
Gangsta whitewalls
TV antennas in the back

You may not have a car at all
But remember brothers and sisters
You can still stand tall

Just be thankful for what you've got

This spectacular version features a bright and brisk reggae beat (plus a few laser effects) that contrasts wonderfully with Earl 16's beautiful but bittersweet vocals about proudly hanging tough in tough times. The harmonizing on the chorus is incredible, lightly conveying the sadness/loss in all that could have been if things only worked out another way. Apparently, the reason Prince Fatty and Earl 16 decided to record it was because they discovered it was a favorite of both of theirs--and it shows in this gorgeously constructed track and its fantastic companion dub.

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Saturday, April 13, 2019

Duff Review: Various Artists "Max's SKAnsas City"

Jungle Records/Max's Kansas City Records
Clear vinyl LP
2019

(Review by Steve Shafer)

Like CBGBs, Max's Kansas City--which was located at Park Avenue South between 17th and 18th Streets in Manhattan--was one of the key NYC venues that lent crucial support to the nascent mid-to-late '70s punk scene that spawned The Ramones, Talking Heads, Blondie, the Heartbreakers, Television, the Patti Smith Group, Suicide, and many more. From the mid-'60s through the early '70s, Max's had been the hip nightspot for artists (Robert Rauschenberg, Larry Rivers, Roy Lichtenstein, Dan Flavin, Richard Serra, Robert Mapplethorpe, and many more), writers (William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Patti Smith, Germaine Greer, etc.), Andy Warhol and anyone in his orbit (including The Velvet Underground), and musicians who liked to hang out and perform there--particularly those from the glam rock scene (Marc Bolan, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, the New York Dolls, Wayne County, and others). Notably, Bob Marley and the Wailers opened for Bruce Springsteen in 1973! However, by the end of 1974, the club had lost its cachet and closed. A renovated Max's Kansas City re-opened in 1975, with Peter Crowley, who had been poached from CBs, hired to book acts. Crowley continued to showcase the aforementioned punk bands that he featured at Hilly's club (Ramones, Talking Heads, Blondie, et al), as well as other acts like The B-52s, Devo, The Damned, The Runaways, Misfits, Cramps, even Sid Vicious, before it all ended badly for him and Nancy.

According to the terrific liner notes to Max's SKAnsas City by Marc Wasserman (Marco on the Bass blog, Ska Boom: An Oral History of the Birth of American Ska and Reggae), Crowley became a huge reggae fan after seeing the movie The Harder They Come and started booking a regular Sunday reggae night that attracted a solid following of mostly new wave fans. In 1978, he encountered The Terrorists, a ska/reggae band comprised of white, suburban kids from New Jersey who so impressed Crowley that they become a mainstay at Max's. Dro, The Terrorists' drummer, happened to be friends with Roland Alphonso's son Noel and met The Skatalite during one of Noel's band's rehearsals. Alphonso had suffered a stroke a few years previously, so hadn't been playing his sax, but later on Dro caught a recovered Alphonso performing onstage with his son's band Jah Malla (and no one in the crowd recognized who he was except for Dro) and asked him if he'd like to play with The Terrorists at Max's Kansas City.

In the spring of 1979, The Terrorists opened for Alphonso and backed him during his set. It all goes down so well that Crowley asked them if they'd like to record two 12" EPs (one for The Terrorists, the other Roland Alphonso backed by The Terrorists) for the Max's Kansas City record label. With Crowley producing, Alphonso with The Terrorists record five of The Skatalite's well-known originals and then The Terrorists record seven tracks, one original and several judicious covers.

By 1980, The Offs, who performed an almost unclassifiable mix of punk, ska/reggae, and no wave jazz and had released two singles in 1978, had begun splitting their time between their home-base of San Francisco and Soho in Manhattan. Of course, they performed at Max's Kansas City (Crowley was friends with The Offs' guitarist) and were invited by Crowley to record four tracks--two for a Max's Kansas City single and the others to be released by the band.

Later that year, Max's Kansas City Records released The Offs' "You Fascinate Me" b/w "My World" and Terrorists' "Riis Park" b/w "Justice" singles, but the label soon goes under--leaving the Alphonso and other Terrorist tracks on the shelf, unreleased. (The Terrorists go on to release a terrific 12" single in 1981 with Lee "Scratch" Perry: "Love Is Better Now" b/w "Guerrilla Priest"; and by 1983, The Offs have recorded their extraordinary debut album First Record, which is released the following year--read The Duff Guide to Ska review of it here).

Max's SKAnsas City collects all of the Roland Alphonso, Terrorist, and Offs recordings for the label (some never before released, like all of The Terrorists' covers, The Offs' "Easier Said Than Done," and a few of the Roland Alphonso tracks--several other Alphonso tracks here were also released on ROIR's Terrorist compilation Forces 1977-1982 in 2001). But it also provides the listener with a fascinating glimpse into the mini-ska/reggae scene in New York City that had developed organically with the same 1960s ska influences and roughly along the same time line as those in London, Coventry, and Birmingham (though those 2 Tone bands would have a much more significant impact).

The Alphonso/Terrorist tracks on Max's SKAnsas City are particularly striking--and one could credibly claim that they're amongst some of the best recordings of these tunes. Alphonso is in really fine form here, playing spritely riffs as he improvises on classic Skatalites tracks like "Sax Skandal" (AKA "Christine Keeler"), "Tear Up," "Musical Resurrection," and "Four Corners." Without any competing horns, it's a wonderful showcase of his considerable talents. The Terrorists' masterful backing is tight and lively (the rhythm section is amazing); they had the chops and then some! For someone who typically worked with punk bands, Crowley's production gives these recordings a wonderful warmth and immediacy; had these recordings not been shelved, I suspect he would have been much sought out by other ska and reggae acts.

The Terrorists on their own (with punk singer John Collins on vocals) preferred their recordings to a bit rougher and their ska-reggae sound/attitude adjusted slightly for the punk/new wave times. This comp features their great original track "Riis Park" (about the infamous and unsanctioned nude beach there) and excellent versions of The Tennors' "Pressure and Slide," Delroy Wilson's "I Want Justice," Hopeton Lewis' "Take It Easy," a haunting take of Junior Byles' "Fade Away, " as well as some ska covers of rhythm and blues hits, like Allen Toussaint's "Working in a Coalmine," and Roy Head's "Treat Her Right."

Of all the bands on the comp, The Offs receive relative short shrift here, due to how this all played out back in 1980. This early ska/funk version of "You Fascinate Me" (about watching young street hustlers ply their trade) pales in contrast with the second take of this cut on First Record, which is more ragged and demented and just plain better. "My World" is a solid punky ska cut, though the demo-sounding "Easier Said Than Done" would have been amazing in a more finished form. (According to the liner notes, Crowley and The Offs were pilloried by punks for making the band sound over-produced on their Max's Kansas City single--though Crowley said he faithfully captured the sound of the band as they were on stage.)

By the early 1980s, both The Offs and Terrorists had disbanded (The Offs' singer Don Vinyl overdosed in 1983), though Roland Alphonso would reunite occasionally with The Skatalites for the first half of the 1980s (like for the 1983 Reggae Sunsplash). A second generation of Big Apple ska bands would soon crop up--though these were primarily influenced by 2 Tone, not by what had come before on the NYC scene. UK ex-pat Rob "Bucket" Hingley formed The Toasters in 1981 and in the following years the NYC public high schools yielded a slew of dynamic new ska bands, including Beat Brigade, Urban Blight, the Second Step, City Beat, the A-Kings, and others. A more permanent reunion for Alphonso and his fellow Skatalites would come after Cedric "King" Bravo (another JA ex-pat, sometime record producer, Canal Street ska and reggae record vendor--where he first encounters The Toasters' Unity 2--and Skatalites associate) brought The Skatalites' Lloyd Knibb and Ken Stewart to see The Toasters play at CBGBs in 1986, which convinced them that it was viable to begin touring and recording again (and The Skatalites, of course, went on to have great success on the road and in the studio throughout the 1990s and 2000s).

Anyone interested in the origins and development of the U.S. ska scene will find Max's SKAnsas City to be an invaluable and essential part of their record collection.

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Sunday, April 7, 2019

Duff Review: UB40 "For the Many"

Shoestring Productions/Absolute/
Universal/Sony
CD/2xCD/LP
2019

(Review by Steve Shafer)

"Whatever Happened to UB40?" is one of the song names on UB40's stellar new album For the Many that immediately jumps out when you scan the album's tracklist--and for a band that's achieved such incredible success, only to go through what seemed like an ugly, slow-motion slide into oblivion, it's a vital question for the band to address. For those only casually following all the drama, a quick recap of the last decade's worth of messy band history is in order. Prior to the recording and release of their TwentyFourSeven album in 2008, singer Ali Campbell and keyboardist Mickey Virtue split with the band (toaster Astro joined them later), amidst accusations of all sorts of business/financial mismanagement (though for a period before to his departure, Ali apparently had convinced the band's financial manager to pay him more than the rest of the band, despite the band's long-standing agreement that they were all to be paid equally; when this came to light, Ali left UB40).

Unfortunately, there were some very real and dire money issues at UB40's label and management firm DEP International that were exacerbated by the band split and subsequent loss of income. Several, but not all, of the remaining members of UB40 were declared bankrupt in 2011 after DEP International failed; as a result, much of their back catalogue was sold off to pay off taxes owed to the government; notably, it was revealed a year later that Ali Campbell also had been declared bankrupt by the courts (an embarrassing revelation, as he had been pointing to his former bandmates' bankruptcy as proof of his wisdom to leave the band).

More recently, there have been two versions of the band touring and releasing more Labor of Love-type cover albums (which has led to lawsuits over who has rights to the band name). I've seen each permutation of UB40 and while both were quite good live, I was a bit disappointed that UB40 featuring Ali, Mickey, and Astro focused almost exclusively on their pop hit covers, while UB40 (with brother Duncan Campbell more than ably taking on vocals) performed a mix of their own fantastic songs along with some of their famous covers--and I much preferred the latter.

Fans who have been longing for more than "Red Red Wine" and "Cherry Oh Baby"-like mining of reggae's incredible canon--not that I'm knocking them, Labor of Love was my intro to the band back in 1983--(or their recent album of reggae country covers, Getting Over the Storm) will be thrilled to find that UB40's For the Many consists of almost exclusively new original material--all of it terrific--and is fully on par with their classic early-to-mid 1980s albums like Signing Off, Present Arms, and Rat in the Kitchen. The title of the album acknowledges their support of Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party, whose tag line is "For the many, not the few" (and brings to my mind Jamaica's motto of inclusion and solidarity: "Out of many, one people."), while the album artwork by saxophonist Brian Travers is a skyline full of Grenfell Towers, both in tribute to the 72 poor and non-white lives lost in that horrific fire and as criticism of conservative policies of "austerity, outsourcing, and deregulation" that have neglected the safety and essential needs of Britain's less well-off citizens in order to further reward corporations and the rich. All of this signals that UB40 have found their democratic socialist-leaning political voice again--and they deliver a set of powerful and pointed songs about inequality--whether it be class, racial, or economic--that hit all of their targets. In all, this is an effective bid for reclaiming their relevance, converting new fans, and is a real gift to the faithful who have stuck with UB40 through thick and thin.

The thread that runs through much of the album is how human and systemic greed corrupts, perverts, and destroys everything: Communities, nations, our shared notion of what is means to be a good and successful person, even the band itself (more on that later). The wonderfully laid-back "Gravy Train" is a dynamite update/response of sorts to Ken Boothe's hymn of deliverance, "Train Is Coming"--but this one is going pass the vast majority of people by, as it's about the yawning divide of income inequality and the rigged political and economic system the keeps on funneling wealth and opportunity to the rich at the expense of everyone else.

Another day, another dollar
Feels like every day's the same
And I've given it the best years of my life
For someone else to ride on that Gravy Train
And I say

Here comes the Gravy Train
You can hear that whistle blowing 'round the bend
You can hear the sound of laughing
As the Gravy Train is passing
But that Gravy Train, it won't be stopping here

They say we're all in this together
But it gets harder every day
And if I work for a hundred years or more
I still won't get my seat on that Gravy Train...

....Rich man living in his castle
Poor man begging at his gate
If we can only get up
And stand up for our rights
We can send them all to hell on that Gravy Train


In a similar vein, "I'm Alright Jack" is delivered from the point of view of a politician who's using their position as a public servant to gleefully line their own pockets, while knowingly forsaking the people they're supposed to help and represent.

Don't you give me your hard luck story
I don't care now you voted for me
I know austerity's breaking your back
But, I'm alright, Jack

Don't complain that there's no state housing
I've bought mine made a profit of thousands
There's not many left, but I can't help that
But, I'm alright, Jack


There's even commentary on how in our rapacious capitalist system someone who works hard, stays out of debt (earning a poor credit score in the process!), and doesn't exploit others is considered a "Poor Fool":

He's worked for minimum wage
Even survived the dole
But he doesn't owe a penny
To a living soul
Poor Fool

He doesn't drive a big car
Or wear designer clothes
He tries hard to save a little
But a little soon goes
Poor Fool

Any millionaire would tell him
He should forget his foolish pride
And take the whole world for a ride
But he's a fool (Poor fool)
He's a fool (Poor fool)


The flip side of having political systems focused enriching the already rich, connected, and powerful is that much is left unresolved in the world. In "All We Do Is Cry," our extraordinary technology connects and makes us witness to daily injustice and suffering worldwide, but there's little political will or courage to resolve some or all of it (since conflict elsewhere often serves nation's strategic interests and the arms manufacturers and exporters are making too much cash in the process; there's no money for them in peace).

We see mothers cry
As their children die
On our TV sets
While we sit and vent
But nothing gets done
As they pass one by one
All they do is die


During the sax solo there are vocalizations that sound like a muezzin's call to prayer, suggesting that this song may be about the war in Syria and all of the never-ending wars in the Middle East in general.

And, of course, the band is concerned with events across the pond--the United States' narcissistic, self-dealing, money grubbing, white supremacist, chaos president, who is called out in "Bulldozer":

Trumpy Trumpy said
Your head must a full up a bumpy
Him dome must crack cause him so crazy
Ya Twittering daily like a baby

Him bring in the Muslim ban what dastardly plan
What a vindictive old racist man
But him plan did back fire Ninth Circuit judges called him a liar
Him is a man who love to play with da fire
But too much brimstone gone haywire
Him and rocket boy coming like pariahs...


Speaking of pariahs, the dancehall-ish "What Happened to UB40?" answers that question in the form of a brutal, stinging recounting of what they see as the avarice and hubris behind Ali, Mikey, and Astro's split with/betrayal of the rest of the band.

Say what happened to UB40 now?
Some of them think dem bigger than Bob Marley, whoa!
Who's who in a the party now
Gould's lurking in the corner now

Some of dem flimsy, some of dem shallow, want dem money in a wheelbarrow
Dem mind is weak, dem mind it narrow, little after dat them get para
Three Yoko Ono's so craving, want new house new car and tings
Spangles and bangles and diamond rings, you can hear them coming dem a j'lingaling...

...One man try fe go solo, like the explorer Marco Polo
The attendance weak, de attendance low
Him have fe stop cause him woulda bruk fe sure...
Your best friend could be your worst enemy, him a backbiter turn spy turn thief
Him pride broke down, say him a creep creep
Oh gosh me bredrin you done know we have fe weep...


Suffice to say, this is a UB40 album proper, so there's also a great batch of mid-tempo love songs on For the Many, including "The Keeper" ("I will lift your spirit, whenever you are blue/I will be your constant, when no one else is true/I will always be the friend you need to get you through/And you will be the keeper of my heart), "Moonlight Lover" (a great Duke Reid track first recorded by Joya Landis that may have versioned a fair amount of the Jiving Juniors' doo wop single of the same name), and the emotionally shattered protagonist of "You Haven't Called."

Amazingly, this year marks UB40's 41st anniversary; For the Many is their 19th studio album; and the much of the founding core of the band is still together after all this time and tribulation: Robin Campbell (co-vocals/guitar), Brian Travers (saxophone/keyboards), Jimmy Brown (drums), Earl Falconer (bass/keyboards/vocals), and Norman Hassan (percussion/vocals)--augmented by long-time members Duncan Campbell (vocals), Martin Meredith (saxophone), Laurence Parry (trumpet) and Tony Mullings (keyboards). Plus, many of their guest toasters are repeat collaborators: both Pablo Rider (on "I’m Alright Jack") and Slinger (on "Gravy Train) appeared on the 1985 album Baggariddim, and Hunterz (on "All We Do Is Cry") previously co-wrote and sang on UB40’s single "Reasons" from 2005's Who You Fighting For?

UB40 is touring the UK this April and then hitting various spots in Europe in May and June. Then, in July and August, they'll be playing in venues across the US and Canada this July and August. It's been almost a decade since they've last been in North America and who knows when they'll make it back. So, you might want to make a point to see them, particularly since they'll be performing tracks from such a superb and compelling album.

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[Notes: There is deluxe, double CD version of For the Many that includes an entire album of dubs, which we've ordered, but didn't receive in time for this review. Also, UB40 saxophonist Brian Travers recently was diagnosed with a brain tumor and will not be participating on the current tour (we wish him a speedy treatment and full recovery).]

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Wednesday, April 3, 2019

The Duff Guide to Ska Spring/Summer 2019 NYC Ska Calendar #3

In the foreground, Dave Wakeling plays guitar and sings into a microphone, while a shirtless Ranking Roger holds a mic and dances next to him.
Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger of The Beat
(with David Steele and Blockhead in the background).
Saturday, April 13, 2019 @ 6:00 pm

Less Than Jake, MEST, Punchline

Rocks Off Concert Cruise
The Liberty Belle Riverboat
Boards Pier 36, 299 South Street
New York, NY
$39.99 in advance/$45 day of show
21+

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Sunday, April 14, 2019 @ 6:00 pm

Less Than Jake, MEST, Punchline

Rocks Off Concert Cruise
The Liberty Belle Riverboat
Boards Pier 36, 299 South Street
New York, NY
$39.99 in advance/$45 day of show
21+

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Sunday, April 14, 2019 @ 8:00 pm

NYC Ska Orchestra, Jah People

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

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Saturday, April 20, 2019 @ 6:00 pm

The Annual 420 Reggae Fiesta on the River
Dub is A Weapon, Crazy Baldhead Dub Apparatus, and more!

Rocks Off Concert Cruise
The Liberty Belle Riverboat
Boards Pier 36, 299 South Street
New York, NY
$35 in advance/$40 day of show
21+

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Saturday, April 20, 2019 @ 6:00 pm

420 Celebration w/Cannabis Cub Band, H.R., Dog, Rude Boy George

Sony Hall
235 West 46th Street
New York, NY
$20

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Friday, May 10, 2019 @ 7:00 pm

Mephiskapheles, The Press, The Take, Sewer Skrewer, Gilipollas

The Kingsland Bar and Grill
269 Norman Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
$15 in advance/$20 day of show
16+

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Friday, May 17, 2019 @ 7:00 pm

Slackfest: The Slackers play Big Tunes (potential set list includes "Married Girl," "Sarah," "Rude and Reckless," and more; go vote www.theslackers.com/polls) with The Hempsteadys, The Fad, DJ Rata

The Kingsland Bar and Grill
269 Norman Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
$20 in advance/$25 day of show (3-day passes available)
16+

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Saturday, May 18, 2019 @ 7:00 pm

Slackfest: The Slackers play Love and War (potential set list includes "Red Light," "Feed My Girl," "International War Criminal," and more; Go vote www.theslackers.com/polls) with Westbound Train, The Scotch Bonnets, DJ Miss Haps

The Kingsland Bar and Grill
269 Norman Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
$20 in advance/$25 day of show (3-day passes available)
16+

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Sunday, May 19, 2019 @ 7:00 pm

Slackfest: The Slackers play Deep Cuts (potential set list includes "Stars," "Sing Your Song," "Contemplation," and more; go vote www.theslackers.com/polls) with The Far East, Ensemble Calaveras, DJ One Hundred Decibels

The Kingsland Bar and Grill
269 Norman Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
$18 in advance/$22 day of show (3-day passes available)
16+

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Friday, May 31, 2019 @ 8:00 pm

Subway to Skaville Presents: The Pandemics, Sgt. Scagnetti, The Twilights, Fink's Constant w/DJ Ryan Midnight

Otto's Shrunken Head
538 East 14th Street (between Avenues A and B)
New York, NY
No cover (but bring cash for tip bucket!)/21+

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Saturday, June 8, 2019 @ 8:00 pm

The Bluebeats

Hank's Saloon
345 Adams Street
Brooklyn, NY
$10/21+

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Saturday, June 8, 2019 @ 6:00 pm

The Pietasters

Rock Off Concert Cruise
Aboard The Lucille
Boards at 23rd Street and the FDR Drive
Manhattan
$37.50 in advance/$40 day of show
21+

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Friday, June 14, 2019 @ 8:00 pm

The Specials

Brooklyn Steel
319 Frost Street
Brooklyn, NY
$45 in advance/$50 day of show
16+

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Tuesday, June 18 and Wednesday, June 19, 2019 @ 6:30 pm

Toots and the Maytals w/Selectress Iriela

Brooklyn Bowl
61 Wythe Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
$36-$129
21+

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Friday, July 19, 2019 @ 6:00 pm

Radicsfest #2 (In memory of Roy Radics of The Rudie Crew; a portion of the proceeds of the show will go to Roy's family.) w/Pilfers, Mephskapheles, Spring Heeled Jack, Hub City Stompers, Rude Boy George, Sgt. Scag.

Gramercy Theater
127 East 23rd Street
New York, NY
$25/16+

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Saturday, July 27, 2019 @ 8:00 pm

Long Beach Dub Allstars, The Aggrolites, Mike Pinto

Brooklyn Bowl
61 Wythe Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
$20/21+

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Friday, August 2, 2019 @ 7:00 pm

The Prizefighters

The Kingsland Bar and Grill
269 Norman Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
16+

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Friday, August 16, 2019 @ 6:00 pm

The Slackers

Rocks Off Concert Cruise
The Liberty Belle Riverboat
Boards Pier 36, 299 South Street
New York, NY
$35 in advance/$40 day of show
21+

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Wednesday, August 28, 2019 @ 8:00 pm

NY Ska Jazz Ensemble

Iridium Jazz Club
1650 Broadway
New York, NY
$25/all ages

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Friday, August 30, 2019 @ 8:00 pm

The Skapones (UK)

The Kingsland Bar and Grill
269 Norman Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
16+

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Wednesday, September 11, 2019 @ 7:00 pm

The Selecter w/special guest DJ Rhoda Dakar (Bodysnatchers/Special AKA)

Gramercy Theater
127 East 23rd Street
New York, NY
$29.50/16+

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Friday, September 20, 2019 @ 7:00 pm

The Toasters

The Kingsland Bar and Grill
269 Norman Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
16+

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Saturday, September 21, 2019 @ 8:00 pm

Lee Scratch Perry and Subatomic Sound System, The Far East, DJ 2Melo

Industry City Courtyard 1/2
(Food Hall Entrance)
238 36th Street,
Brooklyn, NY
$25 in advance/$32 day of show
21+

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