Monday, August 24, 2020

Duff Guide to Ska Bullet Points: Do the Dog Skazine, The Juks, and The Night Owls!

The cover features a 1960's-era photograph of the young Jamaican singer Millie Small smiling at the camera.(Reviews by Steve Shafer)
  • The August 2020 issue of Kevin Flowerdew's Do the Dog Skazine has graced my mailbox with the late and very much missed Millie Small on the cover (side note: there's a great entry for Small in Heather Augustyn's new book Women in Jamaican Music that fleshes out her life and career well beyond "My Boy Lollipop"). As always, Flowerdew's Do the Dog puts my blog to shame, in terms of how comprehensively he covers the worldwide ska scene (though I'm happy to note that there's a fair amount of overlap in this issue with what I've reviewed lately--but we, of course, each offer our own takes on things--including releases from Danny Rebel and the KGB, Megative, The Players Band, Victor Rice, Western Standard Time Ska Orchestra, Rude Boy George, The Officinalis, Steady Social Club, Erin Bardwell, Smiley and The Underclass, Rhoda Dakar and The Dub Pistols, The Skapones, Detroit Riddim Crew, Rudebeard, and The Equators). Kevin also has just released The Ska Librarian's 2 Tone Time Machine, which consists of four zines covering the pre-Rude skazine years between 1979 and 1988. Details for subscribing to the essential, print-only Do the Dog and purchasing The Ska Librarian's 2 Tone Time Machine are available at
  • I missed the release of The Juk's spectacular debut album Way Back (Vinyl LP/digital, J-Beat Record, 2020) earlier this spring (I was sick with what I think was the coronavirus, and NYC was entering its really unnerving lockdown phase, as we all tried our utmost to help stop the spread of this plague and slow down the awful number of deaths--it was a bleak time). This band, which features several powerhouse UK ska musicians including Lenny Bignell on guitar (Pama International, Phoenix City All-Stars, Rhoda Dakar, The Sidewalk Doctors), Louis Vause on keys (Lee Thompson Ska Orchestra, Rhoda Dakar), and Paul Tadman on bass (The Riffs, The Nutty Boys, Rhoda Dakar), creates gorgeously sophisticated, jazzy-rocksteady guitar-focused instrumentals like Lynn Taitt and Ernest Ranglin used to make 'em. The title track, "Gerry Baldly, "Blood Orange," and the fantastically titled "When I Woke...(I Was Still in South London)" are stratospheric highlights. I only wish that this album included a few vocal tracks--an all instrumental album can sometimes be a tougher sell, and this record should get into as many hands as possible.
    The image is of The Night Owls' 45 in a paper sleeve; the paper label is visible through a round hole.
  • Hot on the heels of The Lions' recent ace 45 "The Loser" comes this Lions-Aggrolites side hustle of sorts, the Night Owls. Like "The Loser," the new mind-bogglingly good Night Owls single "Gossip" b/w "Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get" (Vinyl/digital single, F-Spot Records, 2020) sports two soul classics done in a vintage JA style. The core of The Night Owls is three Lions (Dan Ubick on guitar, Blake Colie on drums, and Dave Wilder on bass) plus an Aggrolite (keyboardist Roger Rivas)--and there are even more Lions and Aggrolites when you include the vocalists. The Lion's Malik "The Freq" Moore knocks it out of the park on Cyril Neville backed by The Meters' 1969 magnificent soul/funk track "Gossip" (and the sitar echoing the original keeps everything grounded in the psychedelic side of the '60s), while Alex Désert (Hepcat/Lions) and Jesse Wagner (The Aggrolites) trade vocals on their amazing cover of The Dramatics' 1971 cut "Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get" ("Some people are made of plastic/And you know some people are made of wood/Some people have hearts of stone/Some people are up to no good...But baby I'm for real"). The selection of songs covered here is impeccable, and the performances outstanding.
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