Monday, December 7, 2020

Duff Guide to Ska Bullet Points: The Big Sound "Have Mercy" b/w "Jerk Chicken Dub" and Roger Rivas "Heavier Rock" b/w "Cold Damage"

(Reviews by Steve Shafer)
The cover features a photo the band members leaning on the railing of a fence.
  • The Big Sound was a terrific rocksteady and reggae band out of LA and San Diego that formed in 2002--a particularly rough period for ska (and its related styles), when the genre wasn't exactly dead in the US, but had gone way back underground after the music industry had wrung what it could out of the ska scene in the late '90s (the band was popular on the West Coast, but I don't remember hearing about them on the other side of the continent back then). The Big Sound released their debut album Stand So Tall in 2004, and had intended to issue a follow-up in 2005, which was recorded but never put out, since the band called it a day in 2006. Flash forward almost 15 years and members of The Big Sound have finally decided to release two fantastic tracks from their unreleased sophomore album, "Have Mercy" b/w "Jerk Chicken Dub" (7" blue vinyl picture sleeve single, Smack It Flat, 2020). "Have Mercy" is a wonderfully bright and infectious rocksteady cut with lovely harmonizing (Hepcat fans will love it, and on a related and more somber note, the single is dedicated to the late Hepcat bassist David Fuentes, a friend of the band who died in 2007): "Run, come in the sun, sit with I/No more fighting and no more fuss/Come sit down with I, it's just us/We'd not argue any more/Come sit down with me, near the shore" (check out its cool music video--with Super 8 footage from 2005!). "Jerk Chicken Dub" is a great, breezy reggae instrumental mixed by Victor Rice, and featuring Boogie Jones' jazzy sax playing. Word is that this limited edition single is meant to whet fans' appetites in advance of the release of The Big Sound's second album. Here's hoping that comes to pass (and that the band does some reunion shows whenever that's possible again).
The vinyl single's paper art features the Happy People Records imprint name, and the artist and song title.
  • Many a ska and reggae fan is going to go broke trying to keep up with the ongoing series of extraordinary vinyl singles that Happy People Records has been issuing this year (see my recent reviews of sides from Joe Yorke & The Estonian Singers, Dreamlets, Capitol 1212 featuring Earl 16, Perkie & The Co-operators, and Pama International). One of the latest is from organist Roger Rivas (The Aggrolites, Night Owls, and The Bullets) featuring two incredible cuts (both from his 2014 debut album for Jump Up Records, Autumn Breeze): "Heavier Rock" b/w "Cold Damage" (7" vinyl single, Happy People Records, 2020). Rivas channels the funky early reggae of Jackie Mittoo in the devastatingly good "Heavier Rock," while the rootsier and dreader "Cold Damage," with its Far East-sounding melodica lines, is an amazing homage to Augustus Pablo. Happy People just announced the pre-order of yet another Roger Rivas single--this one sporting two rocksteady tracks from his sophomore album Last Goodbye. So, be prepared to keep on breaking into your dwindling piggy bank to keep sating your ska/rocksteady/reggae obsession...

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