Monday, September 20, 2021

Duff Review: John Bunkley "Sunshine and Chocolate"

The watercolor painting on the cover depicts Bunkley dancing face to face with a woman in a dress on the hood of a car.
Cover watercolor painting by John Bunkley
(Review by Steve Shafer)

Long-time ska fans will know John Bunkley as the lead singer from the fantastic late '80s/early '90s Detroit ska band Gangster Fun. Bunkley recorded two albums with that band--both essential first generation American ska records (Come See, Come Ska in 1989 and Time Flies When You're Gangster Fun in 1992; their ska "hits" were "Mario's Hideout," "I'd Buy a Gun," and "Fat Lady Skank")--and if you were into swing in the late '90s, he also was in The Atomic Fireballs (something I learned in Kenneth Partridge's Hell of a Hat: The Rise of '90s Ska and Swing). Bunkley is back in the ska fold with a magnificent new six-track EP of rocksteady songs "about people breaking up with me," as he commented during a recent show with Bim Skala Bim in Brooklyn. Co-produced and co-performed by Eric Mazurak (of The Tellways), Bunkley's Sunshine and Chocolate (Vinyl/digital, Paradise Valley Records, 2021) is a beautifully crafted collection of hook-packed love songs. And everything just works--the contrast of Bunkley's wonderfully gruff and expressive voice with the shimmering music; the many fantastic small details, like the deft touches of organ, percussion, and guitar licks, and how the back-up vocals (some by Rachel Stokes of The Tellways) provide just the right punctuation and bursts of emotion; and the confidently intentional and unfussy arrangements of each track.

In "Sunshine and Chocolate," love is chemical and triggers the pleasure zones in our brains that bring us immense joy and satisfaction. Bunkley sings: "You so, so high baby/That's how you make me feel/I know I'm not that crazy/I know this love is real/You know you've got me sweating/And working overtime/I'm spending all my spare change/My nickels and dimes/You're like sunshine and chocolate/Melting in my pocket..." Whereas, the super catchy "Addicted" posits that love is a drug to consume (and illicit at that): "This love has been tried and convicted/Arrest me, 'cause I so addicted/Don't want to be your defendant/I'm so addicted."

Sometimes, as in the upbeat "Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday," you have to work a long week for love (in a song that reminds me of XTC's "Earn Enough for Us" without the anxiety): "Monday, landlord says he needs the rent/Tuesday, work twelve hours, just have it spent/Wednesday, digging holes, long days in the ditch/Thursday, kisses from my love, now I feel rich!" Other times, you have to be optimistic and keep trying to find it; and occasionally you luck out, stumbling across it (as in "Once in a While I Find Love"): "The game begins when you throw the first pitch/And I'm begging you--please--with this/A prospector looks for gold until he's rich...I live my life on kisses and hugs/I'm high on this and you are my drug/I take my time with pushes and shoves/And once in a while, I find love." The EP closes with "Stars," a hopeful, but dark around the edges, lullaby of sorts for grown-ups: "And there are no monsters outside my door/'Cause the stars are shining on me."

Don't sleep on John Bunkley's Sunshine and Chocolate--it's one of the best records I've heard all year.

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Friday, September 17, 2021

Duff Gig Review: Bim Skala Bim featuring John Bunkley of Gangster Fun at Arrogant Swine, Brooklyn, NY (9/16/21)

(by Steve Shafer)

Last night, I was lucky to catch American ska trailblazers Bim Skala Bim in a rare NYC performance at Arrogant Swine in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The band is making its way down from Boston to the Supernova Ska Festival in Virginia this weekend--though without lead singer Dan Vitale, who, at the last minute, was unable to make the tour. Fortunately, John Bunkley of the late '80s/early '90s Detroit ska act Gangster Fun was able to sub on vocals (and he has an excellent new rocksteady EP titled Sunshine and Chocolate that I'll be reviewing shortly). Bim's fantastic set (which emphasized tracks from their first three albums, as well as their latest LP Sonic Tonic, which I reviewed here) included "Bangin'," "Digging a Hole," "Jah Laundromat," "Solitary Confinement," "Better Get Out," Marley's "Hypocrite," "Summer of Ska," "Go Back," "Lightning," a cover of Gangster Fun's 1989 breakout underground hit (from their debut LP Come See Come Ska) "Mario's Hideout," and much more. 

Below, you'll find videos I shot of the band playing "Lightning" and "Mario's Hideout." Bim and Bunkley play the Pie Shop in Washington, DC tonight (9/17) and Supernova on Saturday (9/18). 




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Monday, September 13, 2021

NYC Ska Calendar: This Week It's One-Two Punch of Ska with Bim's Boston Bluebeat vs. The Toasters' East Side Beat!

Let's just say that it's been a very long time since we've seen these two OG '80s American ska bands play NYC during the same week (plus old schoolers Beat Brigade!). So, if you're in the New York metro area, this is a good week to get out and see some great live ska music (and it's a bit of a consolation if you're not able to make it down to the Supernova Ska Festival). Details are below (and don't forget to bring proof of vaccination!)

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Mephiskapheles, Bim Skala Bim, The Hempsteadys PLUS the NYC premiere of the New England Ska Summit documentary film
Arrogant Swine (they have AMAZING BBQ here)
173 Morgan Avenue
Brooklyn, NY

6:00 pm: Doors open
7:00 pm: NYC premiere of the documentary New England Ska Summit
9:00 pm The Hempsteadys
10:00 pm Bim Skala Bim w/John Bunkley (of Gangster Fun)
11:20 pm Mephiskapheles
Tix: $25 in advance/$30 day of show
18+

Friday, September 17, 2021 @ 6:00 pm

The Toasters, Beat Brigade, The Rudie Crew, The Lousekateers, The Monkeychunks
Kingsland
269 Norman Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
Tix: $17.95
16+

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Friday, September 10, 2021

Duff Review: Kenneth Partridge "Hell of a Hat: The Rise of '90s Ska and Swing"

The book cover features various ska bands performing or posing for promotional photos.(Review by Steve Shafer)

[Full disclosure: I was interviewed for and am quoted in this book, since I was Moon Records' director of promotions, marketing, and production from 1991-1999.]

I'm really of two minds regarding Ken Partridge's Hell of a Hat: The Rise of '90s Ska and Swing (Hardcover, Penn State University Press, 2021). On one hand, it's a very good and engaging read, providing an excellent and oftentimes insightful overview of the bigger, mostly ska-punk, ska-pop, and swing bands that made it relatively big in the 1990s. In doing so, Hell of a Hat focuses on the rise and inevitable fall of acts that made it to major or major-label backed labels and flirted with or achieved stardom, such as the Bosstones, Sublime, No Doubt, Rancid, Reel Big Fish, Save Ferris, Goldfinger, Dance Hall Crashers, Voodoo Glow Skulls, Less Than Jake, Suicide Machines, Buck-O-Nine, MU330, Mustard Plug, Stubborn All-Stars, Hepcat, Pietasters, Slackers, Spring Heeled Jack, The Brian Setzer Orchestra, Royal Crown Review, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Cherry Poppin' Daddies, and Squirrel Nut Zippers. During that decade, I was so immersed in all things ska that I knew practically zilch about the swing scene beyond that when ska was declared dead in 1998, swing was the music industry's next shiny thing, and that one of the former members of The NY Citizens was in the local swing band Dem Brooklyn Bums (Chris "Kid Coconuts" Acosta told me about 'em). So, I learned a fair amount from this book--in particular, the Royal Crown Revue's story is pretty compelling, and I had no idea that Gangster Fun's John Bunkley was in Detroit swing band The Atomic Fireballs.

On the other hand, as someone who was directly involved in promoting the ska scene, it's a bit maddening to read a history of this era of American ska and find that Moon Records is depicted as a minor player, almost a footnote, really. The chapter on Moon starts 174 pages in and is done ten pages later, and much of it is devoted to certain bands bellyaching that the label didn't do enough to make them stars, even though nothing of the sort was ever proffered. Though, to be fair, he does mention Moon on page four and describes the label as "a major driver in the ’90s ska explosion." (And I have to admit to being disappointed that Partridge didn't include my tale of how The Slackers' manager at the time allegedly stole Moon's promo list from my apartment office and brought it to Epitaph, where she was made head of Hellcat; we realized the theft/betrayal had gone down when a Hellcat promo mailer was sent to one of our dummy addresses--a fake name, but using Moon's post office box!--that we used to check that our promo mailings went out.) Moon was an indie ska label with a punk rock attitude, just like Lookout or Dischord, and it sometimes managed to punch above its weight--but we never sold ourselves as anything otherwise. Having said that, Moon built the foundation for much of what transpired in ska during the '90s and helped promote/establish dozens of well-known acts when they were in their infancy. No one was championing ska music like Moon was--particularly in the first half of the '90s. I'd wager that if Moon hadn't been around, that decade's ska boom would never have happened. 

While there are several key traditional and modern ska bands mentioned in the periphery of Hell of a Hat (who did quite well for indie-label acts), the premise of the book seems to be that only the bands who made it to the cusp of fame or superstardom should make up the story of that era. It's a capitalist's version of the history of American ska, based on record sales and Billboard charts, and it's incomplete (particularly since the music industry really only knew how to market ska that was more punk or pop--and the more mainstream music audiences were only into those kinds of sounds, not 2 Tone-influenced or traditional ska).

Having said all that, if you're a ska-punk and/or ska-pop fan, you absolutely will enjoy Hell of a Hat--it covers that aspect of '90s ska very well and is a valuable addition to the growing library of books on American ska.

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If you're in the NYC area on Tuesday, September 28, there is a Hell of a Hat book launch party at Mama Tried in Brooklyn from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm with DJ Ryan Midnight playing '90s classics.

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Thursday, September 2, 2021

Duff Guide to Ska Fast Takes: The Articles "Action Claw vs. Gorilla Grip"

The illustration features two robot-like creatures facing off; one has claws for hands, while the other has oversize gorilla paws.
(Review by Steve Shafer)

Detroit's mid-to-late '90s ska-jazz greats The Articles--who were often favorably compared to The Skatalites, Jump With Joey, and NY Ska Jazz Ensemble--released their debut album Flip F'Real in 1997 on Moon Ska, which was produced by Victor Rice and featured a mix of fantastic original instrumentals and covers of tunes by Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Joe Henderson, Laurel Aitken, and The Skatalites. [Full disclosure: I had the great pleasure of working with The Articles when I was at Moon.] Tower Records Pulse! reviewer Norman Weinstein gave it four and a half stars and ranked it as the #1 reggae release of '97. While the band appeared on many comps (including Skarmageddon 3, Love and Affection, and the Bang movie soundtrack--all on Moon), they didn't get a chance to release a follow-up album before the bottom fell out on the US ska scene and Moon shuttered its doors at the end of that wild decade.

Unbeknownst to many, The Articles recorded their sophomore album in 2001 with Joe Ferry (he produced two mid-'90s albums for The Skatalites: Hi-Bop Ska and Greetings from Skamania), but the project was mysteriously shelved after completion. That is, until now. After 20 long years, The Articles have liberated their second album from the archives and unleashed the extraordinary Action Claw vs. Gorilla Grip (digital, self-released; limited-edition cassette, Jump Up Records, 2021) on an unsuspecting world. Action Claw vs. Gorilla Grip is full of superb originals and impeccable performances all around, though it's heavily tilted toward the jazz side of the ska-jazz equation (and may remind one of when Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra is in their big band/AM pop radio mode). Having said that, there are a good number of ska-ish songs, including the magnificent "Sophist" (which has a great liturgical-sounding organ intro), "Frantic," the slinky, reggae-ish "Jetta Girl,""Hand Me Down" (so cheery as it struts its stuff), "Hard To Get," and the wonderfully epic (and slightly menacing) "Slip'n'Slide." All in all, a wildly impressive album (which would be great to have on vinyl some day...).

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Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Lee "Scratch" Perry RIP

Perry sits on a throne with a crown on his head and holds a globe and a scepter in his hands.
The Upsetter
As others have commented, Lee "Scratch" Perry was so full of life and boundless, crazy genius-level creativity and talent that it seemed like he would be walking this Earth forever. So his death on Sunday, August 29, 2021 at 85 feels like a sucker punch to the head (forgive us for taking you for granted, "Scratch").

His musical legacy as producer, songwriter, dub master, and performer is almost unparalleled in the history of reggae music. And the vast body of work he leaves in his wake--surely a daunting endeavor to consume in its entirety--is a magnificent gift that will keep on giving to anyone exploring or rediscovering his music for eons to come (the 1997 3xCD compilation Arkology, which collects the top cuts he recorded at his Black Ark studio, is an amazing place to start).

I'm certainly not alone in thinking that Perry's greatest productions were The Congos' Heart of the Congos ("Children Crying" is one of the most brilliant reggae cuts ever recorded) and Max Romeo's War Ina Babylon (ditto for the title track). I'm also partial to The Upsetters' Super Ape (1976), Perry's Roast Fish, Collie Weed & Corn Bread (1978), and his collaboration with Adrian Sherwood and the Dub Syndicate Time Boom X De Devil Dead (1987).

I reviewed a fair number of Scratch's recent releases and reissues for this blog, which are linked below. While his output in his later years may not have matched the heights of the Black Ark years, it was still incredibly good and often extraordinary. All of these releases are worth checking out.

Lee "Scratch" Perry: Heavy Rain LP (2020)

Various Artists Black Ark Days: Play On Mr. Music LP (2020)

Max Romeo Revelation Time reissue (2020)

The Upsetters with Vin Gordon Musical Bones reissue (2020)

Lee "Scratch" Perry: Rainford LP (2019)

Lee "Scratch" Perry with Peaking Lights and Ivan Lee Life of the Plants EP (2019)

Lee "Scratch" Perry: "Big Ben Rock" 7" (2019)

Lee "Scratch" Perry: The Black Album LP (2018)

Lee "Scratch" Perry: Game of the Throne EP (2018)

Lee "Scratch" Perry and Subatomic Sound System: Super Ape Returns to Conquer LP (2017)

Various Artists: Sound System Scratch: Lee Perry's Dub Plate Mixes 1973-1979 LP (2010)

If you need a refresher on Perry's life and musical career, make sure to read the excellent Perry obituaries in The Guardian by Peter Mason and New York Times by Jon Pareles.

Play on, Mr. Music!

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Wednesday, August 18, 2021

NYC Ska Calendar #4/Summer & Fall 2021

Vivien Goldman
Sunday, August 22, 2021 @ 4:00 pm & 7:00 pm (doors half an hour before each set)

Vivien Goldman w/Dunia & Aram, DJ Misbehaviour
IRL Gallery
80 Franklin Street
Brooklyn, NY
Tix: $15 in advance/$20 day of show

Friday, August 27, 2021 @ 7:00 pm-12:30 am

DJ Ryan Midnight Spins an All-Vinyl Ska Set
Otto's Shrunken Head
538 East 14th Street (between Avenues A & B)
New York, NY
No cover
21+

Saturday, August 28, 2021 @ 7:00 pm

Hub City Stompers, The Take, Murderer's Row, Violent Way
Kingsland
269 Norman Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
$15/All ages, 21 w/ID to drink
21+

Saturday, September 11, 2021 @ 7:00 pm

Sgt. Scag, Raise the Kicks, Eye Defy, Dubcorps
Bushwick Public House
1288 Myrtle Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
Tix: $10 in advance/$12 day of show
21+

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Bim Skala Bim PLUS the NJ premiere of the "New England Ska Summit documentary film
Randy Now's Man Cave
134 Farnsworth Avenue
Bordentown, NJ

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Bim Skala Bim & Mephiskapheles PLUS the NYC premiere of the "New England Ska Summit documentary film
Arrogant Swine
173 Morgan Avenue
Brooklyn, NY

Friday, September 17, 2021 @ 6:00 pm

The Toasters, Beat Brigade, The Rudie Crew, The Lousekateers, The Monkeychunks
Kingsland
269 Norman Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
$17.95/16+
16+

Saturday, October 16, 2021

The Pietasters Booze Cruise
The Lucille--Rocks Off Concert Cruise
23rd Street and the FDR Drive
Manhattan, NY
$45/21+
Doors at 6:00 pm, boat departs at 7:00 pm

Saturday, December 18, 2021

The Slackers and The Aggrolites
Irving Plaza
17 Irving Place
Manhattan, NY
$22.50/16+
Doors open at 7:00 pm

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Saturday, June 4, 2022

Madness and The English Beat
Manhattan Center--Hammerstein Ballroom
311 West 34th Street
Manhattan, NY
$55 and up
Doors at 8:00 pm

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Sunday, August 15, 2021

The Specials to Release "Protest Songs 1924-2012" on September 24, 2021

The CD cover is solid red with the band's name and album title printed over it.
The Specials (Terry Hall, Lynval Golding, and Horace Panter, plus collaborators) have announced that they are releasing their follow-up to 2019's Encore (read my review) on September 24. The album is called Protest Songs 1924-2012 (Island Records/UMG) and, as its title indicates, it consists entirely of covers of powerful and still relevant folk, blues, spiritual, soul, rock, reggae, and new wave/post punk protest songs. Unless you're well-versed in this genre of music, particularly anti-war and civil rights songs, you may not recognize many of these amazing tracks apart from Bob Marley's "Get Up, Stand Up," and Talking Heads' "Listening Wind" (for a great overview of this history of protest music, check out Dorian Lynskey's 33 Revolutions Per Minute). 

The tracklist for Protest Songs 1924-2012 is as follows (with links to the original songwriter/performer's recording in parentheses):

1. "Freedom Highway" (The Staple Singers)
2. "Everybody Knows" (Leonard Cohen)
3. "I Don't Mind Failing In This World" (Malvina Reynolds)
4. "Black, Brown And White" (Big Bill Broonzy)
5. "Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Us Around" (The Freedom Singers)
6. "Fuck All The Perfect People" (Chip Taylor & the New Ukrainians)
7. "My Next Door Neighbour" (Jerry McCain)
8. "Trouble Every Day" (Frank Zappa with the Mothers of Invention)
9. "Listening Wind" (Talking Heads)
10. "Soldiers Who Want To Be Heroes" (Rod McKuen)
11. "I Live in a City" (Malvina Reynolds)
12. "Get Up, Stand Up" (Bob Marley)

The Specials have a short snippet of their cover of The Staple Singers' "Freedom Highway" up on their Facebook page (and it sounds quite good). 

And you can pre-order the CD now from the Universal Music store (no word on when the LP can be ordered). 

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Duff Review: Danny Rebel & the KGB: "Toss It Up"

The cover painting features a large statue of a lion between two apartment buildings. Lasers shoot out from its eyes across a churning river toward the title of the album.
Limited edition LP/digital
Stomp Records
2021

(Review by Steve Shafer)

It might be a bit grandiose and/or passé to call Danny Rebel a Renaissance man, but he's such a gifted singer, songwriter, musician, performer, and painter (who the cap fit...). His latest album with the KGB, Toss It Up, doesn't disappoint. It features five new super-catchy, funky-reggae-rock (and rocking!) songs about love, lust, and lust for life, and a corresponding number of dubs--all of them spectacular--by Victor Rice.

Everything opens with the wickedly dangerous title track (what a heavy groove!) that's part throw down ("Been waiting here too long and I’m about to grab the mic/Got to lick the spoon clean always put up a fight"), part mission statement (you'll never make anything of your short time on Earth if you don't at least keep hammering away at whatever it is that you love doing).

Imma start this off with a blank fuckin’ canvas
Rip that shit toss it different colors by the masses
If you don’t do anything brother nothin’ will happen
Eat the paint daily to keep from being distracted


The plaintive but resolute "Move" is about being completely fine with leaving a bad relationship and all of its baggage behind ("Time to walk on from you/You’ve been a dark cloud on me"), and while "Ugly" is not a Fishbone cover, it concerns a similar hideousness/nastiness hidden from the world inside one's heart.

"Crossfader" is soulful and sincere love song that pledges love and fidelity, with some self-aggrandizing lyrics thrown in so she knows what she's got (and to warn off any contenders for the throne):

Musical sound’s called crossfader
My guitar is my Deathstar and I’m the lyrical Darth Vader
Riddim maker, KGB-wise
Watch the fire burning through my eyes
If one and one makes two, then I will never make you blue
And baby don’t you know that I will never turn my back on you
This old heart of mine, don’t need no riddim or no rhyme
Will be with you as long as I live, yeah I know I will never leave you alone
Even if you don’t answer your phone, I will be there


Released as a single earlier this year and employing a term for female genitalia that I've never encountered before, "Whispering Eye" is unapologetic in its direct and unadorned expression of lust ("We don’t need this love (I’ll save you the pain)...You don’t have to call (just call out my name)...All I really want is your whispering eye"). As one wry FB commenter replied to Danny about his new song at the time: "rent a room!"

Danny Rebel & the KGB's Toss It Up is on my list of top 2021 ska releases--and should be on yours, too. 

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Want more? Read my reviews of Danny Rebel & the KGB's Lovehaus, For Babylon's Head, and Spacebound.

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Thursday, August 12, 2021

Duff Review: Aggrobeat Single Reissues from Laurel Aitken, The Freedom Singers, The Gladiators, The Royals, Tiger, The Versatiles, and Winston Groovy

The paper label features the artist's name and the song's title.(Review by Steve Shafer)

Since 2020 and continuing through this year, Aggrobeat Records in the Netherlands has been reissuing a series of fantastic skinhead reggae vinyl singles both from and written/produced by the incomparable Laurel Aitken--all of which fans of this era of reggae music will desperately want safely nestled in their 45 box(es). (Disclaimer: The Aggrobeat shop is carrying copies of my book The Duff Guide to 2 Tone.) 

Laurel Aitken (who was then based in the UK) was particularly prolific from 1969 through 1971 (see the truly extraordinary 5xCD compilation Skinhead Train Pressure Drop/Cherry Red released in 2020 containing every Aitken cut and production he released in 1969 and 1970--138 songs in total!). During this time, Aitken issued dozen upon dozens of singles for Pama and its imprints Nu Beat/New Beat, as well as the Trojan subsidiary Doctor Bird (some of my faves from this period include his essential High Priest of Reggae LP and some of his greatest singles: "Heile Heile (The Lion)," "Fire in Mi Wire," "Skinhead Train," "Rise & Fall," "It's Too Late," and the sublime "Reggae Prayer,"--the perfect fusion of the sacred and the profane--which will be played, appropriately enough, when I slip this mortal coil decades from now).

Aggrobeat's reissue series features Aitken's 1969 blank label/promo single for Nu Beat "Benwood Dick" b/w "Apollo 12." The A side is a hilariously rude--but never explicit--cut about "a man with a long, long cukumaka stick" (though Pama got cold feet, benched this single, and instead issued the less overtly rude, but still slightly naughty, "Mr. Popcorn": "Some like it hot/I like it warm/That's why they call me Mr. Popcorn!"), while the flip is his moon stomping classic "Apollo 12" (one of several skinhead reggae sides inspired by the first lunar landing, including Derrick Morgan's "Moon Hop"), which sets another goal for humanity (which we haven't quite achieved): "Skinhead moon invasion/Leaving from shantytown, Brixton/It's not black/It's not white/It's what's right/Everything will be alright/If we just unite!" (Back in 2011, Jason Lawless (RIP) also licensed "Apollo 12" for his excellent Moondust series of singles, though the flip was "Moon Rock.")

Originally released as a blank label through the Trojan imprint Ackee in 1969, the Winston Groovy "Skinhead Wreck the Town" b/w Laurel Aitken's "Moon Rock" single features two great tracks written and produced by Aitken. Winston Groovy (whose most famous song is probably "Please Don't Make Me Cry," which was famously covered by UB40 on their first and best Labour of Love LP) decries skinhead thuggishness on this anti-rude boy violence cut that borrows a bit of Desmond Dekker's "007" (see the Trojan compilation Rudies All Round for more "rude boy records"). "Moon Rock" continues the late '60s pop-culture fascination with the moon landing with Aitken's offbeat imagining of what one would do with one ("When you smoke the moon rock/You say, "Sistah, I am your mister!...Why, what a ting, like this moon rock/Strong like a lion/Make you feel to go back/To Mt. Zion!"). Aitken's friend Rico Rodriguez contributes a lovely trombone solo, too.

The Versatiles "Pick My Pocket" b/w The Freedom Singers "Freedom" 45 was released in 1970 on Nu Beat and features more amazing Laurel Aitken compositions/productions. "Pick My Pocket" is a supremely catchy tune warning all who can hear about being taken in by a pretty girl whose sole intention was to rip him off (and the song briefly and deftly quotes Toots and the Maytals' "54-46 (Was My Number)"). The almost hypnotic "Freedom" is simultaneously about deliverance from slavery/Babylon and repatriation ("I wanna go back") to Zion.

Another "rude record" featuring Aitken compositions/productions, The Versatiles "Give It To Me" b/w Tiger & The Versatiles "Hot" issued on New Beat in 1971 is full of suggestive lyrics to titillate. "Give It To Me" is exactly what you think it's about ("You say you want it now/Well, I'm gonna push it up!"), while "Hot" is more boastful than bad: "My love is like quicksand/The more you're in it/The deeper you'll sink!" (Later that year, Tiger had a hit with the Aiken production "Guilty," which UB40 also covered on Labour of Love.)

The two non-Aitken produced singles in the Aggrobeat series (so far!) are The Gladiators' rocksteady tracks "Socking Good Time" b/w "I'll Take You To the Movies" issued by WIRL in 1968 with a blank label (the latter has some sweet harmonizing), and The Royals "Pick Out Me Eye" b/w "Think You Too Bad (AKA Mind Yourself)" released on Trojan in 1969 (the latter is a version of The Pioneers' "Jackpot," which, of course, was covered by The Beat).

Each limited-edition single was pressed on recycled vinyl at a green powered pressing plant (!) and includes terrific, lengthy, and incisive liner notes by Aggrobeat label-owner Paul Benschop. 

This is an incredible opportunity to obtain some high-quality vinyl reissues of some rare and wonderful skinhead reggae music. Don't let it pass you by.

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