Saturday, February 28, 2009

Madness Tribute Album

JP Boutellier, the man behind the long-running Ska News zine and the French Madness Fan Club FRENCH-MIS, has just announced the band/track list for the upcoming 30th Anniversary Madness Tribute Album, which is as follows:
Backy Skank: "In The Rain"
Boy In The Boat: "Day On The Town"
Dr Ring Ding and The Senior Allstars: "Madness"
Ejectés: "The Prince"
Freddy Loco feat "Rocksteady" Freddie of NYSJE: "Return of the los Palmas 7"
Gordon: "Michael Caine"
Indeed: "The Sun And The Rain"
Inspector: "Our House"
JAG: "You Said"
Jah On Slide: "Bed and Breakfast Man"
JNEB: "In The City"
King Django: "Nakht Shifl Ken Kayro (Night Boat To Cairo)"
Les Touffes Krétiennes: "On The Beat Pete"
MOT: "Sign Of The Times"
NAT & Black Sifichi: "Never Ask Twice"
Niko Costello: "Drip Fed Fred"
Statuto: "Un Fiore Nel Cemento (Johnny The Horse)"
The Chancers: "Deceive The Eye"
The Inflatables: "One Better Day"
The Opium Eaters: "The Opium Eaters"

Bonus tracks:
Elastik featuring Malika: "Magic Carpet"
Iky: "She's Gone"
The compilation will be released in May 2009 on Big 8 Records.

Friday, February 27, 2009

New Nick Welsh and Rhoda Dakar Album, plus Third Skaville UK Record in the Works!

Nick Welsh (Skaville UK, ex-Bad Manners, Selecter, etc.) was kind enough to send me a preview track from his upcoming album with Rhoda Dakar (ex-Bodysnatchers and Special AKA), Back to the Garage. As the title might suggest, this is an all out rock 'n' roll record and from the cut I heard, "New York Doll," it's going to be fantastic.

Yes, there will be no off-beats here, but Nick's got the knack for writing incredible songs and Rhoda's voice is richer than ever. I think I'd follow them if they took up some obsure form of Ukranian folk music--down the musical rabbit hole, so to speak--they're that talented and clearly collaborate so well. Check out their respective MySpace pages (linked above) for a few more samples of their kick-ass garage rock! And stay tuned for more details.

Nick also reports that work has begun on the third Skaville UK record, which will feature horns and include a bonus CD of acoustic tracks. If you haven't already picked up their other excellent records, 1973 and Decadent (which also include guest vocals from Rhoda), what are you waiting for?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Duff Thoughts: File Sharing Killed the Record Store

Popmatters' has an interesting article on how "Brick-and-Mortar Record Stores Are Trying to Get Their Groove Back," as they are being battered by the recession-depression-whatever you want to call it and continue to be shunned by a generation of kids (and ethically-challenged adults) who believe they're entitled to music (or movies) for free via illegal file sharing.

The drop in CD sales, which has been bemoaned since the rise of Napster in the late 90s, still has the power to shock when you look at the numbers:
"The music business is in a free fall. Sales of new albums have dropped more than 45 percent the last eight years. In 2000 consumers in the United States bought 785 million albums. In 2008 they bought 428 million.

In 2000 the 10 best-selling albums sold 60 million units. In 2008 that figure was 18.8 million."
Hmm...people still like music and everybody in the Western world seems to be walking around with an iPod. Have they simply stopped buying and listening to new music? Of course not, a few people buy the CDs and put them up on the file sharing sites for hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of other people to download for free.

(Perhaps we could somehow make it a patriotic duty for people to stop their habit of illegal file sharing and actually buy CDs again, so CD pressing plants, distributors, music publicists, and record stores, etc. could expand their payrolls and hire more people--kind of like a pop culture stimulus plan? Whaddaya think, President Obama?)

There is one tiny spot of sunshine in this music industry death watch:
"According to Nielsen SoundScan, sales of vinyl records nearly doubled nationwide in 2008, from just less than 1 million in 2007 to almost 1.9 million. More vinyl records were sold last year than in any year since SoundScan started tracking music sales in 1991.

That 1.9 million represents less than half of 1 percent of all the albums sold in 2008, but these days any upward trend in sales is going to be noticed and explored by both labels and record stores."
In the last two years, I've probably bought more vinyl than in the previous eight--largely because there is more of it being released, plus I'm from a generation of music fans that actually grew up with records (and cassettes!). Whatever the reasons are behind this micro-trend, I hope it continues and helps to save indie labels and mom-and-pop record stores from oblivion.

+ + + +

Here is another interesting piece about the resurgence of vinyl and its impact on NYC record stores from AM New York.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Moon Ska Records Vinyl Discography

Yours truly recently received a request for a complete Moon Records vinyl discography to help him out with tracking down some of the label's releases. Fortunately, I was able to pull a complete Moon discography with notes out of my archives (I don't have this electronically, just a paper copy--otherwise I would be tempted to post the whole thing).

Please note that the first eight releases on Moon have two TOAST matrix numbers, rather than one MR (Moon Records) release number. This was due to the fact that these were all released on vinyl and each side needed its own number at the pressing plant (in those glorious analog days). In addition, since Moon was originally established in the early 80s as a label to release The Toasters' recordings (in true DIY fashion), it made sense to have such a reference. However, as the label and scene grew, it became a matter of pride to change the release numbers to MR.

Needless to say, since many of these vinyl releases had limited print runs, some of them are very hard, if not impossible, to find.

The Toasters
"The Beat" b/w "Brixton Beat"
Technically, this release is on Ice Bear Records--in deference to a band member's father who fronted the money for the single. Only 1,000 were pressed. I've never seen a copy of the single (I have the picture sleeve), though you can hear the tracks on the 1995 expanded CD re-release of Thrill Me Up.

East of Eden
"Mystic Mood" b/w "Sea of Happiness"
The first release with a proper Moon paper label, but it's not a ska record (d'oh!). East of Eden's sound was a downtown 80s blend of funk/disco/reggae/rock.

The Toasters
Recriminations EP
"Recriminations"/"Razor Cut" b/w "Run Rudy Run"/"Radiation Skank"
Also re-released in 1988 with new cover (not the one with cartoon versions of the band members in front of CBGBs) as MR005.

Kill Me
Funk rock band comprised of Buck's friends from Forbidden Planet, as well as a few of The Toasters.

Various Artists
NY Beat: Hit & Run

East of Eden

The Toasters/Beat Brigade
"Talk is Cheap" b/w "Try and Try"
split 7"

Legal Gender/The Scene
"Overcast" b/w "Bruise Me"
split 7"
Legal Gender changed their name to The NY Citizens soon after this single was released.

Second Step
"Do You Know This Man?" b/w "2 Men in Suits"
TOAST 17 b/w TOAST 18

The Toasters
Not a Moon Records release--at the time, the label didn't have the funds to press it--so Skaboom was picked up and released by Moving Target, a subsidiary of Celluloid.

The NY Citizens
On the Move

The Boilers
Tap It
Tap It never saw the light of day in the US, as the masters were lost when Ska Records (UK), which licensed and released Tap It as Rockin' Steady in England, went belly up.

Various Artists
Ska Face: An All American Ska Compilation

The Toasters
Thrill Me Up
This is another non-Moon release that is vital to the Moon discography. For Thrill Me Up, Celluloid created a new ska imprint titled "Skaloid," which also released the first volume of Unicorn's Skankin' Around the World ska compilations.

Various Artists
NYC Ska Live

The Toasters
This Gun for Hire

The Fiascos/Otis Reem
"Goodfellas" b/w "The Sophomore"
split 7"

The Scofflaws
"Spider on My Bed" and "Parish" b/w "Nude Beach Version"
Issued on blue vinyl at 33 1/3 rpm.

NY Ska Jazz Ensemble
"Jive Samba" b/w "Blow Wind Blow"

The Toasters
"Chuck Berry" b/w "Maxwell Smart"

The Bluebeats
"Hardest Working Man" b/w "Why Not?"

The Slackers
"Tonight" b/w "2-Face"

Let's Go Bowling
"You Take Me" b/w "Uncomfortable Sidekick"

The Pietasters
"Ocean" b/w "Crazy Monkey Lady"

Inspecter 7
"Agent 86" b/w "See Ya!"

Buford O'Sullivan
"I Can't Decide" b/w "I'll Do It Someday" and "Decade Revival Song"
7" EP (33 1/3 rpm not 45!)

"Now" b/w "Jason"

Skavoovie & The Epitones
"Riverboat" b/w "Beardman Ska"

Dr. Ring Ding & The Senior Allstars
"No Reason for Season" b/w "Your Sympathy"

If you have anything to add or correct, please let me know...

* * * *

Jeremy Patton at Megalith has a fairly complete Moon Records discography that may be found here.

(Thanks for sharing this Jeremy!)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

RiceRokit Gig with The English Beat

It seems like it's time for another RiceRokit fix for the masses...

Kendo from RiceRokit was kind enough to forward the poster to the right for his band's upcoming show with The English Beat (at the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach, CA on February 27). If you are in the area--see the band!

An interesting bit of ska trivia to wow yer friends with: Tiki Thomas Fernandez at Screaming Tiki Graphix, who designed this poster, appears on RiceRokit's forthcoming second album (Pidgin English) playing the theremin (!) on a ska cover of Bauhaus' "Bela Lugosi's Dead." (I've heard it--the track is awesome!)*

[*Small correction from Kendo: Tiki Thomas (frontman for local SD ska combo 'Dr. Skavra') plays the theremin LIVE with RiceRokit, on the Bauhaus cover.

Kendo actually played the "electro-theremin" (of Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations" fame), on the CD version of "Bela Lugosi."]

Lastly, below you'll find a few pictures from RiceRokit's performance at the recent 3 Floors of Ska show at the Knitting Factory in LA...

Bucket says buy the RiceRokit album already, dammit!

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Toasters at the Highline Ballroom in NYC this Sunday

Here's a nice preview for The Toasters gig at the Highline Ballroom this Sunday (February 22) in The New Yorker, of all places:
Though the local group the Toasters never scored any major hits, they were a major influence on the American ska scene during the eighties, inspiring later successful acts like the Mighty Mighty Bosstones and No Doubt. The brainchild of the Brit expat vocalist Rob (Bucket) Hingley, the Toasters imbued their hiccupy Two Tone-inspired music with a distinctive New York sensibility. The ska-revival trend has long since moved on, but Hingley—he’s the band’s only remaining original member—and the Toasters still attract a loyal following.
This all-ages show, billed as "Ska Splash," starts at 6:30 pm and also features the NY Ska Jazz Ensemble, the Hub City Stompers, Westbound Train, and Across the Aisle.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Pepper Pots First US Tour and New Album!

Apart from their SxSW appearance and West Coast tour (in support of "Shake It" on Megalith), the word from Bucket is that The Pepper Pots are working on their new album "NOW!" with producer Binky Griptite (Sharon Jones, Amy Winehouse). "NOW!" is being recorded at Musiclan (Catalonia) and Dubway Studios (Manhattan), and will be mixed on analog equipment in Brooklyn and mastered at Trutone Mastering Labs in Manhattan.

The real question is if there will be a New York City Pepper Pots show at some point in the near future. We're between Cali and Spain after all...

Just sayin'.

+ + + +

Oh, and Happy Valentine's Day, y'all!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Ska News from Around the World: Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra, The English Beat, The Toasters, Nick Welsh and Rhoda Dakar

The Japan Times reviews the Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra's 14th (!) album, Paradise Blue. If you are in the US, you're going to have to import it--CD Japan has it in stock for about $32 plus shipping (which at its cheapest and slowest will run you close to $40!).

* * * *

The Boston Music Spotlight has a quite good Dave Wakeling interview done by a writer who seems to be actually knowledgeable about the band and music. There are some interesting personal tidbits in there (that you are just going to have to read the article to find out...).

Boston Music Spotlight: How did the ska and reggae aspects of your music find its way to England and into The Beat way back when music wasn't nearly as accessible [via the internet]?

Dave Wakeling: We were very lucky in England, because there wasn't much radio. There was Radio 1 and there were a couple smaller stations. Unsanctioned stations. Anyway, Radio 1 used to play everything in the Top 20, and England really adored Motown, I mean we really adored it. Diana Ross tops all of them; she had a lot of hits in England.

So we grew up listening to the radio, and you'd have the Stones, followed by The Kinks, Herman's Hermits, Gladys Knight…and we figured there was no difference growing up.

It wasn't until we first came to America and driving around in a van when we got confused and the music was all white. "You play any soul," we would ask. "You gotta tune into the black station for that," they'd say.

We quickly learned that music in America had been compartmentalized, to an extent. When we played our cover of [Smokey Robinson's] "Tears Of A Clown", people thought it was an original song. In fact, one girl said "You know, somebody's already gone and covered your song, but it's really slow and you can't dance to it."

I hate to admit it, but I was a senior in high school, visiting a college down in Memphis when I heard Smokey Robinson's "Tears of A Clown" on the radio and finally figured out that The Beat had covered his song (d'oh!). And here I was this kid who was growing up in the NYC area, listening to ska, reggae, early hip hop, and all sorts of new wave (on the radio!) , but I still had enormous gaps in my musical knowledge (being a brash young man, I disdained the "oldies" radio station, though it would have given me a much better understanding of the music I was digging then). And you couldn't just look up bands on-line then (obviously), so you gleaned what you could from album liner notes, and Trouser Press, and whatever info your buddy claimed was true about a band...

Here's a bit I like from the interview (particularly as I'm growing older and feeling more and more out of place at shows...):

BMS: How have the fans changed [over the past 30 years]?

DW: The fans are a beautiful combination of people aged sixteen to sixty from all various waves of ska. Sometimes the older ones will be jealous – "I liked them for 30 years, come on" - but after three or four songs, people start to fall into step, and one of the things really lovely to watch is the fact that there aren't many things people sixteen and sixty can do together that makes them all comfortable. It reaches a point where they don't notice, and all that disappears into the song and the celebration of it, and that's ultimately satisfying. We started by bringing all the races together, but now we're bringing all the ages together! When you look more deeply, people exaggerate the situation, and we're all the same underneath it all.

* * * *

It depresses me that this video is being tagged as 'vintage' by (BTW, I'm Buck's stand-in, running around Hoboken.)

* * * *

Lastly, here is a nice preview for a show in the UK with Nick Welsh and Rhoda Dakar, doing their ska thing unplugged. (And I have a review of Nick's amazing acoustic ska album, The Soho Sessions, coming out of the pipeline any moment now, I swear!)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Prince Buster Hits Camden Town!

According to an ad in the April 2009 issue of Mojo, Prince Buster will be performing at Camden Centre in London on September 5, 2009. I wonder if this means that the new album (titled "Subliminal Reaction"?) he is rumored to have been working on is going to see the light of day soon. With 2009 marking the 30th anniversary of all things 2 Tone, and versions of The Specials, The Beat, The Selecter, and Madness all roaming the British countryside now and in the near future, it would seem like an optimal time for The King of Ska to drop some musical manna upon us, right?

(It would be incredible if Prince Buster would do a New York gig, but I suspect that the promoters here don't believe he'd be that big of a draw and probably would refuse to meet his asking price to perform... They'd be wrong, of course.)

Also at the Camden Centre, on Saturday, July 18, is a bill celebrating "30 Years of 2 Tone" featuring The Beat (Ranking Roger's UK edition), the Neville Staple Band ("playing the music of The Specials"), and Pauline Black (obviously of The Selecter).

Here's a reminder that Madness' new album The Liberty of Norton Folgate will be released in the UK on March 2, and the band will be playing dates in Australia and England this spring and summer.

And speaking of The Prince...

"The Prince"

Sunday, February 8, 2009

English Beat & Bad Manners NYC Show Review

I couldn't make The English Beat/Bad Manners gig at Irving Plaza on February 6th, but Bryan Kremkau from ReadJunk was the man on the scene. Read his review here and make sure to check out his amazing pix from the night...

BTW, Fatty recently had some sort of gastric surgery where they stapled or removed some of his stomach so he could slim down and avoid an early death (he just turned 50!). He really does look terrific, don't you think? God bless that fat bastard!

(Thanks to Bryan for letting me borrow the photo.)

Friday, February 6, 2009

Specials Re-load: Dawning of a New Era

As many of you are aware, July 28, 2009 marks the 30th anniversary of the release of The Specials' debut single "Gangsters" (actually the title of the single was "The Special AKA Gangsters vs. The Selecter" with "Gangsters" on side A and "The Selecter" by The Selecter, really guitarist Neol Davis, trombonist Barry Jones, and Specials drummer John Bradbury, on the flip side)--a momentous date in history for any fan of 2 Tone, third, or fourth wave ska.

Duff Guide to Ska reader John V. was kind and cool enough to forward the following press clippings from back in the day, including a feature piece in Time Magazine from April 1980, a review of "Gangsters" from Melody Maker published in May 1979, and an ad for band ties that ran in the NME. Do you think I can still order ones from The Clash and The Specials? I'm always a sucker for band merchandise. (Click on the articles for larger images.)

Don't forget to check out their live performance of "Gangsters" on SNL at the bottom. It's smokin'!

The Specials appeared on Saturday Night Live on April 19, 1980 (in addition to "Gangsters," they performed "Too Much Too Young").

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The NY Citizens' Discography

I had a request for The NY Citizens' discography, so here's what I was able to piece together by combing through my collection...

- "On the Move" LP, Moon Records, 1988 (also released in the UK as "Pounding the Pavement" LP on Ska Records, 1988)

- V/A "Ska Face: An All American Ska Compilation" LP, track: "D.A.N.C.E."; Moon Records, 1988 (also released in the UK as "Ska-ville USA, volume 3" CD on Skank Records/Dojo Records, 1995)

- V/A "Mashin' Up the Nation" LP, track: "Rude Girls"; Razorbeat Records, 1989 (also released in the UK on "Skaville USA (Volume 4)" LP, Ska Records, 1989)

- "Stranger Things Have Happened" cassette, Moon Records, 1989 (also released as a 12" vinyl EP in the UK, Revolver, 1990)

- V/A "The Rude Awakening" LP, track: "Rude Girls"; Beechwood Music, 1989, UK

- V/A "The Rude Awakening 2" LP, track: "Boxer Shorts"; Beechwood Music, 1990, UK

- V/A "NYC Ska Live" LP, track: "National Front"; Moon Records, 1990

- "Brooklyn's on Fire b/w "The Room Next Door" vinyl single, 1993, Nosho Records (same PO Box as Moon...)

- "The Truth About...The NY Citizens" CD, Moon Ska Records, 1995 (note: this compilation contains eight unreleased cuts; the majority of the "Stranger Things Have Happened" EP; a few alternate versions of some of their more popular tracks; too little of "On the Move"; and here's a big sticking point: the track listing is messed up!)

- V/A "Oi!/Skampilation, Volume 1" CD, live tracks: "Intro/Theme from the Palace Hotel" and "Boxer Shorts"; Radical Records, 1995

- V/A "Spawn of Skarmageddon" 2xCD, track: "Irish Opera Singer of Albee Square"; Moon Records, 1996

Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments section...

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The NY Citizens in "Zoot"

Over the weekend, I picked up a second copy of The NY Citizens' On the Move LP on eBay for about $11 (hey, I need a back-up in case something happens to my old one, you know they're not making these anymore)--this is not a release that you see too often for sale anywhere (the UK version of this album on Ska Records, Pounding the Pavement, is going for close to $120 on GEMM right now). This reminded me to exhume my "Zoot" skazines (put together by George Marshall who went on to publish "Skinhead Times") from the late 80s and early 90s, one of which contains one of the few articles on the NYCs that I've ever come across (click on the image at right to read George's piece on the band from "Zoot").

I actually reviewed On the Move for my college newspaper back in 1989 (gotta dig that out and post it here) and was surprised/thrilled to receive a letter of thanks from the band's guitarist (Dan Marotta), who happened to be going to my university's law school and caught the glowing review. At some point, I ran into him on campus and sheepishly introduced myself. Later that spring (May '89), The NY Citizens and Scofflaws (this was before their debut album was released--the only recording they had out was "Rudy's Back" on the Ska Face comp) played a gig with the Grip Weeds (power pop that didn't go over too well) at The Pyramid--an amazing show. Both The Citizens and The Scofflaws were on fire that afternoon--some of the best performances I've seen by either band. To give you a taste of what the NYC scene was back then, my friend and I were the only non-skinheads at the show (him in a boiler suit, me in a Toasters shirt and black jeans). Needless to say, we kept a low profile.

When the Citizens started playing, my friend and I worked our way up to just in front of the stage (a lot of the skins had come to see The Scofflaws that day and their ranks had thinned a bit by then). Sadly, I can remember skanking hard right in front of the guitarist, looking up trying to catch his eye--kind of a completely pathetic look-at-me-you-know-me-I'm-a-big-fan-of-the-band-you're-the-greatest moment. He must have thought I was a complete freak (sorry, man) and a little part of me dies every time I think about it. Definitely a low point in my ska fan boy-dom.

English Beat/Bad Manners '09 US Tour

I'm still trying to figure out if I'm going to try to catch the English Beat/Bad Manners show at Irving Plaza this coming Friday (I may have a family event that evening which will make the whole matter moot). Neither of them is touring in support of a new release, so they're working the nostalgia tip, which certainly isn't the worst thing in the world (but it's nice to see bands continue to move forward musically, i.e.: write and record some new material!). And I've seen excellent shows by past incarnations of each of these acts.

Having said all that, a review like this in the Miami New Times makes me want to go...

(Side rant: I've seen a fair amount of press for the "Ska is Dead" and English Beat/Bad Manners tours and it depresses me how many mainstream music writers still feel the need to define ska and its history. Ska became big enough in the US in the late 90s--even if the ska label was incorrectly associated with bands like Sugar Ray or Smashmouth--that we shouldn't have to rehash the ska-came-before-reggae-Skatalites-Prince Buster-2 Tone-Specials-Madness-Selecter-English Beat thing...I know Americans can be slow on the cultural uptake, but this is ridiculous. Don't spoon feed them--make 'em work for it! If they don't know what something is, they should freaking look it up on the web or in a book! Knowledge is power!)