Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Duff Guide to Ska Fast Takes: The Cascadians and Crazy Baldhead featuring Maddie Ruthless!

The cover features a large sedan from the 1970s.
(Reviews by Steve Shafer)

The Cascadians' super Windows Down (Digital, self-released, 2020) came out at the end of last year and was lost in my holiday craziness, so forgive this tardy write-up. The Cascadians have a striking and compelling sound going in Meg Nye's powerful, emotive soul singing that floats over the band's sharp '60s-style ska and rocksteady. The sultry lead and standout track "Windows Down" is about someone so knock-out gorgeous and magnetic that you'd be happy to sell your soul (and your grandma's, too) just to be in their presence: "I got the windows down/I'm driving my girl around town/I got the windows down/She said that she'd long to go dancing by now/How could I turn her down?/Oh, that girl is so cool...No one's even watching the band/They're under her spell, watching her dance...I got the windows down/I'm driving my girl back home right now...Her eyes say everything without making a sound/How can I turn her down?" It'll resonate deeply if you've ever had the good/bad luck to be in the singer's shoes. Ever get annoyed by how people talk over and ignore bands while they're playing? "Rudy Come Lately" is a somewhat subtle but increasingly pointed and frustrated jab--complete with all of crowd noise competing with the sounds coming from The Cascadians--at the people there solely for the scene ('cause it's cool, right?) and not the music and bands ("Rudy come lately/Rudy smoking a bud...But Rudy never come home...")--and "Old School" is a boss, dubby instrumental. Things then shift gears for a terrific, jazzy cover of Smokey Robinson's "Quiet Storm," and "Discover Me," a catchy AM-pop-soul-ska tune that's a "Tears of a Clown" plea for someone to see and love the person beneath the persona. And there are three great dubs--a more reggae take on "Quiet Storm," a mega-deconstructed "Old School," and the stellar "Two Face Dub," which I don't think is a version of anything on this album (and has these snippets of vocals: "Rude boy smashing up the town...My freedom is almost gone...No, I don't wanna go...I want another beer"). Highly recommended.

I'm slowly going broke keeping up with all of the extraordinarily good singles--thick as dinner plates--that are being issued these days from Happy People Records. (To be fair, the cost of the singles isn't this issue, it's the overseas shipping that's killing me.) The latest 45 to grace my mailbox and turntable features two killer productions from Crazy Baldhead (full disclosure: I actually pre-ordered a copy directly from Agent Jay and only paid domestic shipping!). The moody but deadly cool and defiant "Take a Lick" (7" vinyl single/digital, Happy People Records, 2021) features The Far East's Maddie Ruthless fiercely challenging the wicked who are tormenting her brother and sister and other good people to "take a lick [hit]...but we come down for more/More than you bargained for..." Her siren song-like vocals unwind over Crazy Baldhead's loping, King Kong-earth-shaking riddim that's bound to knock some plaster loose from your walls and ceiling if you play this loud. Its version "Take a Dub" is even heavier and ready-made for aspiring deejays' use. (Also, make sure to check out my review of The Far East's awesome Lover's rock EP New York is for Lovers; and my write ups of other Happy People Records singles from Capitol 1212 featuring Earl 16, Joe Yorke and The Eastonian Singers, Perkie and The Co-OperatorsRoger Rivas, Pama InternationalThe Caroloregians, The Dreamlets, Carroll ThompsonFlying VipersKitma, and more TK, as my pre-orders are fulfilled!)

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