Monday, September 28, 2020

Duff Guide to Ska Bullet Points: Top Shotta Band Featuring Screechy Dan, and The Return of Flying Vipers

The cover illustration features a Black couple riding a motorcycle with a cloud of smoke behind them.(Reviews by Steve Shafer)
  •  A mainstay of the Brooklyn ska and reggae scene, Top Shotta Band (led by ex-Slacker/Murphy's law trumpet man Mush1, and including Slacker Vic Ruggiero and The Far East's Maddie Ruthless) featuring Screechy Dan (Megative, Leon Dinero, Vital Crew, Big Yard, Shaggy Posse) have released their incredible second album Spread Love (LP, Liquidator Music, 2020), which is available in the US directly from the band (direct message them through their FB page) or through one of my fave BK shops, Record City. Striving for--and achieving--a vintage, live ska studio sound like those created by Coxsone Dodd, Prince Buster, and Justin Yap (all of whom worked with The Skatalites--they're the act Top Shotta Band channel and honor exceedingly well on this LP), Spread Love is--shocker!--filled with songs about romantic love, and love and respect for your fellow human beings and yourself. "Share My Love" (Screechy Dan's pitch for why he should be her man) and the awesome "Cool and Deadly" ("I'm a champion/I'm nobody you can stomp on/But you can keep your eyes on/A conqueror, that's what I am!") already have been spun off on a Liquidator 45. But there are loads of additional top-shelf tracks, including the encouraging wisdom shared in "No Complaints" ("So, live the life you love/And love the life you live/Don't worry about what could have been/Be thankful for what is"), the head over heels profession of love and devotion in "Coming Over," the rhythmically unusual "Johnny," the cool out son cut "Easy Yourself" ("The more you think you tough/The more you gonna suffer"), the killer dance floor filler "Ska Ska," and the wonderful duet in the anti-bad boy cut "Rude Boy" ("Boys and girls, this is my story/Make sure you have all of Jah glory/And no, don't you be a rude boy, I tell ya"). If traditional ska is your thing, this album is a must.
    The cover illustration features a volcano erupting, while in the foreground snakes slither through a jungle littered with skulls and bones.
  • Since Flying Vipers' incredible debut full-length record Cuttings is soon being released on plum-colored vinyl by Jump Up Records, it's worth revisiting my review of the digital version of this album from back in July:
"After releasing a series of superb cassettes (The Green TapeThe Copper Tape), and physical and digital singles ("Highest Region," "Nervous Breakdub (Pandemic Version)" b/w "PMA Calling") over the past few years, Flying Vipers have finally issued their first long-player Cuttings, which, as one would expect, is crammed with incredibly hooky, dubby roots reggae instrumentals reminiscent of Dennis Bovell's magnificent productions and Perry's recent and awesome collaborations with Adrian Sherwood and Daniel Boyle
Cuttings, of course, refers not only to the leaves that have been harvested from cannabis plants, but these musical fruits of the band's labors in the studio--and they have one bounteous crop here. Highlights include "Leaf Miner," which has a wonderful interplay between a rigid and relentless bass riff and a series of answering free flowing Rhodes piano lines; the prescient, apocalyptic "Two Twenties Clash" (and people thought things were bad back in '77!); the Bunny "Striker" Lee tribute "Flight of the Gorgon" with its majestic, panoramic horns; the bad-ass "Scorpio Son" and its version "Son of Scorpio"; and the supremely confident and untouchable "Puff Adder" (many of the cuts on this album are ripe for being versioned by deejays and singers--and becoming well-known riddims in their own right). 
Flying Vipers are comprised of the devastatingly good rhythm section of Marc and John Beaudette (Destroy BabylonThe Macrotones), the gifted Zack Brines (Pressure Cooker) on keys, and Jay Champany (10 Ft. Ganja Plant) on percussion and the master at the analogue controls (plus ace guests on horns, sax, flute, clarinet, and binghi). 
If you haven't been paying attention to this band, Cuttings is a brilliant introduction to the mighty Flying Vipers; and if you have, you're going to love this album!"
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