Saturday, January 30, 2010

Music Piracy Funnies

Thanks to John at Hoi Polloi Skazine for directing me to this hilarious parody about people who engage in music piracy (from the Stuff White People Like blog). It's funny as hell, but not because it's so outrageous and far-fetched. You know dozens of people like this (aka "expert level white people") and heard these exact same arguments! Laugh, so you don't cry!

The photo of John Cusak from "High Fidelity" (he wears the classic Steve Hex NYC SKA t-shirt in this movie, right?) looks a little like me back in late 80s/early 90s, when I wore my hair longer (okay, I'm nowhere as good looking as he is, but if I showed you a picture from that time you'd see the resemblance, dude!). And look at all that vinyl! Hmmm...vinyl....(drool, slobber, Homer Simpson food/beer lust noises)...

Friday, January 29, 2010

Megalith Records Sale, Plus New Releases in 2010

I meant to post this some time ago, but you should know that if you've been meaning to buy any of the great CDs released on Megalith Records, ALL OF THEM are on sale for $6.00 each on their website (marked down from their regular--and quite reasonable--price of $8.99). This sale is over at the end of January, so you need to place your order this weekend!

If you've never picked up RiceRokit's Hang Loose (which I highly recommend--check out The Duff Guide to Ska review here) or want to check out the new Royal City Riot Coast to Coast album, now is the time do it!

New releases coming down the Megalith pipeline in 2010 include albums from Carlos Dingo, The Authentics, and my pal Buford O'Sullivan; the sophomore RiceRokit album Pidgin English; The Toasters' 2 Tone Army re-issue (aka Hard Band for Dead), and many more!

Megalith will also be issuing a stack of new vinyl this year: several LP-only releases (like the N.Y. Beat 3 compilation, which I am helping to put together), and other essential Mega albums that have never before been pressed on wax. Good stuff.

Whap'pen, Specials?

US ska fans, particularly those in the New York City area, are wondering why Ticketmaster no longer lists The Specials' show at Terminal 5 that is/was scheduled to take place on April 21. Tickets were supposed to go on sale today, and many of us were ready to punch in our credit card numbers for a chance to see the band. What gives?

Are they still planning to play a gig in NYC?

There is no information on The Specials site or anywhere on the web as to whether or not this show is still on or if it will be rescheduled (and it makes you wonder if they are still headed to Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival on April 16).

C'mon, Specials, the fans deserve better than this!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

N.Y. Beat 25th Anniversary Reunion on 4/10/10

It's hard to believe, but a quarter of a century has passed since the first-ever US ska compilation was released on Moon Records in 1985 (I was a senior in high school and remember picking up a copy of N.Y. Beat: Hit & Run at Sounds on St. Mark's, not quite sure what it would contain--but knowing that I liked ska, The Specials, Fishbone, and this band called The Toasters).

To celebrate this milestone in the history of NYC/American ska music, Marc Wasserman of Bigger Thomas (and the 2 Tone/80s ska blog Marco on the Bass) has organized a N.Y.Beat: Hit & Run reunion for Saturday April 10, 2010 at 8:00 pm at the Dusk Lounge in New York City (co-owned by A-Kings/Thick As Thieves bass player Sid Reitzfeld). Members from almost all of the 13 bands featured on the album are expected to attend--and fans, family, and friends are all encouraged to come. (If it makes a difference, I'm also deejaying the event with an offbeat mix of vintage, 2 Tone, and modern ska.)

For more info about this extraordinary event, check out the Marco on the Bass blog and the Celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Ska Compilation N.Y. Beat: Hit & Run Facebook page.

If you are anywhere near the NYC area, I hope to see you there...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Hard Times To Play Benefit for Haitian Orphanages

NYC ska/reggae outfit The Hard Times is performing at the Kids 4 Kids/Artists 4 Haiti charity event organized to benefit the victims of the Haiti earthquake, which is taking place at the Bowery Poetry Club this Sunday, January 31st, from 1:00-6:00 pm.

For the Artists 4 Haiti portion of this event, The Hard Times will play their own short set of ska and reggae rhythms, accompanied by some of NYC's most prominent world music percussionists. Following that, the band will serve as the house band for the rest of the event, backing notable New York poets and spoken word artists.


Fundraiser for the Children of Haiti
$5 minimum suggested donation
100% goes directly to orphanages in Haiti

1:00-4:00 pm
Family/Kids Programming: Hayes Greenfield & Jazz-A-Ma-Tazz, Niall O'Leary Dancers, Louise Rogers Band & children's chorus

4:00–6:00 pm
The New York Neo-Futurists Theater ensemble: this award-winning independent theater ensemble has performed hundreds of plays for downtown audiences such as "Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind"--visceral and experimental, embracing chance, change, and chaos!

Music: reggae house band The Hard Times with a collection of amazing and eclectic musical talent sitting in, including Salieu Suso and Papa Suso on kora, and Frank Marino on percussion.

Poetry Producers Round: hosts and producers of some of the most popular NYC poetry series bring their poetic energy and voices to the stage for what will surely be an electric experience with the spoken word. Poets include Bob Holman, Nick Power (NYC College Slam), Evie Ivy (Green Pavilion), Angelo Verga (Cornelia Street Café), George Wallace (The Beat Series) Lee Kostrinsky (Smalls Jazz Club), Mike Graves and Susan Scutti (New Phoenix), Kyle Spencer

Featured New Phoenix poets include Michael Graves, who received a grant from the Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation for 2004 and is the author of "Adam and Cain" (Black Buzzard 2006); Sally-Ann Hard, whose work has been published in places like "The Gwendolyn Brooks Journal of Black Thought & Literature," "Turning Wheel," and "Salamander"; and Joe Fritsch, who explores the etymological sense of poet as "maker."

For more information on the benefit: Christine Timm, or Bob Timm/The Hard Times,

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If you need more Hard Times (and who doesn't?), after the Haiti benefit they move uptown to Harlem to play a set at Shrine at 9:00 pm...

More Specials (US Tour Info)

According to this pretty decent article in Reuters, The Specials' mini US tour in April will commence with an appearance on NBC's "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" on April 13. In addition to their performances at the Coachella Festival on April 16 and Terminal 5 in NYC on April 21, The Specials will be playing two more North American gigs yet to be announced--and a full U.S. tour may be in the offering later in 2010!

The Reuters' piece provides a pretty good summary of The Specials' career (and the Jerry Dammers situation), but weirdly claims that the band inspired the Go-Go's! (There is certainly a connection between the bands: some of the Go-Go's were back-up singers on The Specials' debut album and More Specials, but the Go-Go's roots were in the LA punk rock scene and they formed not too long after The Specials did...and they sure ain't ska).

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Lionel Bernard, Ex-Member of Unity 2 and Toasters Escapes Haiti

Lionel Bernard, formerly of the Unity 2 with Sean Dinsmore (which was part of the Skaboom/Thrill Me Up-era Toasters before they split off in 1989 for their reggae/hip hop major label release, What is it Yo?!), was recently interviewed on MSNBC, after being evacuated out of earthquake-devastated Haiti on a US military flight.

Here is the video--Lionel appears at around 1:45 and talks about the desperate conditions in Haiti:

We're glad to know that Lionel made it back safely to his family in the US.

I've heard that there is at least one ska benefit for Haiti being planned in NYC for early February (stay tuned for details). Meanwhile, Bigger Thomas have already set up a Haiti fundraiser in the Philly area on January 31st at the Sellersville Theatre (where 100% of the ticket price will be donated directly to the International Red Cross).

(Hat tip to Celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Ska Compilation "N.Y. Beat: Hit & Run" for the link to the Lionel Bernard news footage.)

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On a much lighter and happier note, here is the Unity 2's 1989 music video for their hit, "Shirlee," which was directed by Matt Dillon and features model Veronica Webb:

Friday, January 22, 2010

Lynn Taitt Dies of Cancer at 75

Ska/rocksteady guitarist, band leader, session man, and arranger Lynn Taitt passed away on January 20, 2010 in Montreal, Canada, after a battle with cancer. Here is his obituary in the Jamaica Gleaner.

Lynn Taitt and his band The Jets appeared on hundreds of recordings in the 1960s--and he worked with all of the major players on the Jamaican music scene, including producers Bunny Lee, Duke Reid, Joe Gibbs, Coxsone Dodd, and Sonia Pottinger, and artists such as The Skatalites, Derrick Morgan, Alton Ellis, Desmond Dekker, Lee Perry, Ken Boothe, Johnny Nash, Bob Marley, and Joe Higgs.

Read recent tributes to Mr. Taitt here, here, here,here, and here.

The Reunited Specials Play a Gig in NYC!

Breaking news: The Specials (minus Jerry Dammers, one assumes) are scheduled to play an all-ages show at Terminal 5 in Manhattan on Wednesday, April 21. Tickets are $30 in advance (they go on sale Friday, January 29 at noon), $35 day of the show.

(Hat tip to Bryan Kremkau at ReadJunk for the heads up!)

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Urgh! Of course, I have a work-related event that I am running that very same night, so I'm going to miss this show...maybe someone could buy me a t-shirt or badge?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Jump Up CD and LP of the Month Clubs

Here's a plug for my friend Chuck Wren at Jump Up Records who is offering these cool ska CD and LP of the Month Clubs. Chuck probably knows more about the global ska scene--and all of the ska releases out there--than anyone else around. So who better to chose the ska CDs and/or LPs that show up at your door each month? (And if you do the math, these clubs are really inexpensive, too!) If you're interested, space is limited, so sign up now!

Get hard-to-find imports selected for you by Jump Up Records! 14 CDs for $100 (price includes shipping to the USA and Canada)!

Here are the first six CDs that will be sent out to you in 2010:

(Rude Rich sax genius, featuring Ernest Ranglin, Rico Rodriguez, Winston Francis, Dennis Alcapone & more!)

JAMAICA 69: "Como En Los Viejos Tiempos" CD
(Amazing skinhead/early reggae sounds from Mexico City! A must for Aggrolites fans!)

UPSESSIONS: "Beat You Reggae" CD
(Superb skinhead and early reggae from Holland-one of Europe's top acts!)

(Superstar UK act's latest album, featuring Lynval Golding of the Specials!)

(Awesome skinhead reggae from Portugal? You get cha!)

TOP CATS: "Mr Donkey Paradise" CD
(Natty Bo's first scorching 60's ska band before SKA CUBANO! Warehouse find!)

Get hard-to-find domestic and import pressings, as well as fan club editions handpicked by Jump Up Records. 12 LPs for $120 (includes shipping to the US and Canada)!

Here is the first batch of Wax Club offerings:

(Rude Rich sax genius, featuring Ernest Ranglin, Rico Rodriguez, Winston Francis, Dennis Alcapone & more!)

MJ A ROCKER: The Drastics vs Michael Jackson LP
(The internet free download sensation on wax. Chicago's Drastics take MJ accapellas and re-create vintage Jamaican ska/reggae music behind them! Killer jams!)

RICO RODRIGUEZ: "Ghetto Rockers" LP
("Man From Warieka" dubs originally released in 1978 on white label. An amazing reissue that was long overdue!)

(Superstar UK act's latest album, feat Lynval Golding of the Specials!)

NO DOUBT: "The Ska EP" 7"
(Colored vinyl fan club pressing. Live versions of "Guns of Navarone," "Racist Friend," "Ghost Town" and two lost studio ska tracks!)

(Two new tracks to celebrate a recent European tour! Colored vinyl and cool picture sleeve!)

If all this isn't enough, both clubs include a bonus pack of 12 vintage LP cover buttons--and the CD club lets you pick two recent Jump UP CD releases for free!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Reunited Specials To Play Coachella Festival in April

Variety reports that The Specials are on the bill for this year's Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival--they are scheduled to play on Friday, April 16! Tickets go on sale January 22nd.

The Specials' website makes no mention of their appearance at Coachella or of any other US dates, but it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility that they will play additional gigs (and there better be one in NYC!). Stay tuned for details.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Duff Review: The Amphetameanies - "Good One Go" b/w "Nothing's Ok"

7" single/iTunes download
F&J Records/Ratrace Records

Forgive me for writing about The Amphetameanies like they are newcomers to the scene (they've been dispensing their sharp brand of 2 Tone ska out of Glasgow, Scotland for over 13 years with two albums, an EP, and a host of singles to speak of). I'd first heard of the band (and remember that there was some sort of Belle and Sebastian connection that might have thrown me off their trail--ska and chamber pop?) toward the end of the US ska boom of the late 90s, just before it all crashed, when it was a daunting task just to keep up with the sheer number of acts coming out of the woodwork. (As a mainstay of the Glasgow music scene, The Amphetameanies have links to several Scottish alternative acts: members of the band were once part of the now defunct Bis and the aforementioned Belle and Sebastian--plus even Franz Ferdinand frontman Alex Kapranos was in the 'Meanies for a spell back in the day.)

After listening to their excellent new single, "Good One Go" b/w "Nothing's Ok," I wished someone had turned me on to The Amphetameanies long ago--because I'm certainly the poorer for not making their acquaintance earlier.

Propelled by its menacing guitar lick, the blistering, minor-key "Good One Go" is the cautionary tale about a guy who ploughs through a long line of women, desiring all he sees, but completely oblivious to what he's had and lost:
You got the good one
You let the good one go
For every one you want
You lose a better one
You let the good one go
On the flip side of this double A single, the loping reggae of "Nothing's Ok" (which is transformed into a manic ska romp toward the end) belies the frustration and loneliness that results whenever love is essentially turned into a game of hide and seek:
You're lost in a crowd, with your heart unfurled
You fly a flag that says come back to me
Love the Jerry Dammers-ish "ice palace" organ touches in there, too!

All in all, this is a superb single from a top-notch band--and very much worth tracking down.

The Duff Guide to Ska Grade: A

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Barney Bubbles Shoots The Specials

As I was flipping through my recently acquired copy of "Reasons to Be Cheerful: The Life and Work of Barney Bubbles," I was surprised to find that this extraordinary graphic designer had a major ska connection: he directed The Specials' "Ghost Town" music video (and after their break-up, Fun Boy Three's "The Lunatics (Have Taken Over the Asylum")).

You may not be familiar with the name Barney Bubbles (nee Colin Fulcher), but you know his work. Dig out any number of LPs and singles by Ian Dury & the Blockheads, Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, and The Damned from amongst other Stiff, Radar, F-Beat, Demon, and Chiswick artists from around 1977 through 1983 and you've seen his often uncredited work. (As always, it's distressing to find that the artwork for so many of these releases was altered for the American market...)

To say that Barney Bubbles single-handedly created the iconic "look" of British new wave and post-punk is to sell him short. To label him as brilliant is hardly praise enough. Make sure to check out and/or pick up this book the next time you're in a well-stocked book store.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Coming Down the Ska Pipeline: New Bigger Thomas Album Pure

Over the weekend, I met up with Marc Wasserman, bass player for Bigger Thomas (and 2 Tone/80s ska-obsessed blogger Marco on the Bass), at Dusk--a bar in Chelsea with a ska connection: one of its owners used to be in the A-Kings (hear them on the original 1985 New York Beat Moon comp) and Thick As Thieves (featured on Ska Face and the Francis Ford Coppola-directed segment of the 1989 movie "New York Stories"). Marc and I were discussing an upcoming ska event that will be announced via both our blogs in the near future--and he was nice enough to hook me up with a three track preview CD of Bigger Thomas' new album, Pure.

Produced and mixed by King Django at Version City Studios (he's putting the final touches on it right now), this 10-track album, which has been gestating for a few years, features guest appearances by Roy Radics from The Rudie Crew (chats/toasts); Django (melodica and chats); and Dave Barry of The Toasters (organ/keyboards, of course!). Plans are to have the album art designed by John 'Teflon' Sims, who created an extraordinary number of iconic images for all of the bands signed to 2 Tone Records when he worked in the Chrysalis Records art department.

Bigger Thomas are contemplating releasing Pure on-line as a pay-what-you-wish digital download (a la Radiohead) via Marc's blog, as well as through iTunes, eMusic, CD Baby, etc. The band also intends to release either the full album on vinyl or a few of its cuts on a 7" single through their own Exclamation Point Records (the vinyl will be pressed in Jamaica through Django's contacts there).

The three Pure tracks that I've previewed sound terrific. "Crown Victoria" is a tongue-in-cheek, laid-back ska ode to trombonist Chris Malone's late model American car that, despite the connotations of its name, is not a mode of luxurious transportation back and forth to gigs ("The Crown Victoria/You are my joy and pride/The longer the trip, the rougher the ride/Is that smoke beneath the hood?/You know that can't be good...). "Permanent Error" is a soulful reggae-ish lament (warning?) about e-mailing under the influence. "Kings of the Klub" is a battle between Roger Apollon, Jr. and Roy Radics for toasting and boasting supremacy that reminds one of The English Beat ("Pato and Roger a Go Talk"), The Untouchables, and even a little Fishbone--and is thoroughly enjoyable.

All of these cuts bode really well for Pure, which promises to be a smash ska release for 2010...

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Duff Review: Resolution 242 - Resolution 242

Do the Dog Music

Compared to the UK ska bands on some of the scorchingly political Do the Dog CDs that have been finding their way into my mailbox lately, a lot of American ska acts come off as shallow, 24-hour party people oblivious to the suffering and injustice around them--happy to make the obligatory shout out for "unity" here and there, but not really advocating or agitating for social and/or political change. (Obviously, I'm using a very broad brush here to make my point; there are definitely lots of exceptions to this gross generalization, and there is nothing wrong with simply making music for people to dance and enjoy themselves.)

While I certainly don't believe that all ska musicians should be forced to take on the anti-racist/social justice mantle that The Specials and 2 Tone espoused, it seems that not enough US ska bands have continued with this long and proud tradition (dig through the deep catalogue of songs by Jamaican musicians from the ska, rocksteady, and roots reggae eras and you'll be reminded how they were very outspoken about decrying injustice--chant down Babylon, indeed).

For Pete's sake, here in the US we're still engaged in two almost decade-long wars (one launched on fear, lies, and propaganda); the torture of prisoners and the suspension of habeus corpus have become widely accepted governmental practices (despite their complete illegality); our country is experiencing massive unemployment and the shredding of the social safety net (nearly six million Americans, including two million children, have no income other than food stamps!); our society suffers from extreme economic inequality (but the masses won't revolt against the rich because their lifestyle is the American dream that just might be possible if you shut up and work hard enough and make all the right investments in real estate or stocks--yeah right; that worked out real well, didn't it--or score your own freakish reality TV show); corporations (which may soon have the same rights as individuals) and their lobbyists oftentimes write our nation's legislation (see the giveaways to the health insurers and pharmaceuticals in the current "health reform" bill--which really should be about providing universal health insurance for all Americans, not lining the pockets of CEOs). Should I go on? There's no shortage of topics to raise the alarm about here as we endure the ugly, messy decline of the American Empire. Things are bad all over.

Resolution 242--named after the U.N. Resolution created after the 1967 Arab-Israeli Six Day War that essentially calls for Israel to withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza, and for the Arab nations surrounding Israel to recognize her sovereignty/right to exist and live in peace--have recorded a short album jammed full of urgently compelling ska, reggae, and acoustic punk rock (kind of like when The Clash did Dylan on "Groovy Times"). Lyrically, Resolution 242, demand that the listener not only recognize the injustice that so many of our fellow human beings endure due to their race, religion, class, or nationality, but fiercely insist that you do something to counter these wrongs.

The lead track, "Bullets in the Ground," opens with a quote from the Indian philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti (who essentially thought that positive societal change was only possible through a "revolution" in each person's psyche, not through external organized social or political movements): "We were saying how very important it is to bring about in the human mind a radical revolution." Essentially, this is Resolution 242's call to action, their manifesto--individuals need to "Rise up! Rise up! Take your head from your hands/The streets will be a better place when we start making demands." Resolution 242 doesn't necessarily claim to have the answers--but they want you to use your own power and abilities and ideas to effect change in any way you can.

On "IMF," Resolution 242 call for the dismantling (well, actually torching--"If only concrete burnt like straw") of the institutions and policies of our current economic system that fuel and reap profits from wars; encourage greed and the exploitation of others; and permit widespread poverty. "British Nasty Politics" rails against the xenophobic, racist, anti-immigrant British National Party ("We're in the presence of people who want to divide/they're wrapping flags around their eyes to cover apartheid/With truth and trouble lying hand in hand/There's never been a better time to make a stand"). "Gaza Dub" calls for the Israelis to withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza. "Pigs" slams corporate and media self-interest and avarice, while they distract us from the real issues with bread and circuses. "The Solution?" despairs over the maddening senselessness of armed conflict as a means of resolving anything ("Send in the jackals, then send in the troops/This is economic warfare, gotta poison the roots/I'll kick up the dust in this empire's ash/In the streets of the city they couldn't smash!/'Cuz I'm so sick of watching other people die/Makes me wanna drift off in the devil's lullaby...")

Perhaps the most stunning and desperately heartbreaking song on this album is "Poet's Town" (which might refer to John G. Neihardt's poem of the same name, which is about how small, rural communities dismiss, shun, and smother creative individuals): "Man, I sold it to myself/This town's got rot in its foundations/So, I'll beat the shackles that hold me down/and I'll raise my fist at every frown/For every deadbeat there's a gravestone!/We're all going down in this fuckin' poet's town/'Cuz no one out there told me about us!"

You might be led to think that this album is a major downer--Resolution 242's view of the world can be kind of bleak--but they channel all of their anger and frustration into some extraordinary songs full of life, hope, and stubborn defiance with great sing-along choruses that give you something to think about, if not act upon...

The Duff Guide to Ska Grade: A

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Toasters Western US Tour 2010

Yo, ska fans living in the western half of the US of A, The Toasters are headed your way in February and March...

Tues 9th Tulsa, OK: The Marquee
Wed 10th Springfield, IL: Black Sheep
Thurs 11th DeKalb, IL: Otto's Nightclub
Fri 12th Lincoln, NE: Knickerbocker's
Sat 13th Colorado Springs, CO: The Black Sheep
Sun 14th Denver, CO: Marquis Theater
Mon 15th Casper, WY: Downtown Grill & Venue
Tues 16th Salt Lake City, UT: Burt's Tiki Lounge
Wed 17th Boise, ID: Gusto
Thurs 18th Portland, OR: Satyricon
Fri 19th Bend, OR: Mountain's Edge Bar
Sat 20th Redmond, OR: Timber's Bar
Sun 21st Eugene, OR: The Wetlands Bar
Mon 22nd Seattle, WA: Studio 7
Tues 23rd Medford, OR: MusicHead
Wed 24th Arcata, CA: Arcata Theater
Thurs 25th San Francisco, CA: Red Devil Lounge
Fri 26th Canoga Park, CA: Cobalt Cafe
Sat 27th San Diego, CA: SOMA
Sun 28th Victorville, CA: Karma

Mon 1st Scottsdale, AZ: Martini Ranch
Tues 2nd TBA
Wed 3rd Albuquerue, NM: Launchpad
Thurs 4th Lubbock, TX: Jake's Back Room
Fri 5th Dallas, TX: Fat Daddy's Sound Shack
Sat 6th Ardmore, OK: Tivoli Theater
Sun 7th Oklahoma City, OK: The Conservatory

Even though Bucket is only a bit over a decade older than I am, he's probably spent more time on the road than I've been alive! If The Toasters are coming near where you live on this tour, make sure to catch their show--they are always worth seeing!

The Death of Everything (or The Music Industry Deathwatch, episode 3,421)

Don't want to get into recriminations and spats over whether or not the music industry deserves to die, or whether or not file sharing is the "new model" that we all just have to accept because that's what everyone is doing. Yes, many mistakes were made, major labels were extraordinarily greedy, stupid, sleazy, and vile, etc., but when I read an article like this, I can't help but be depressed. I like music and bands and LPs and CDs and record stores and music magazines and gigs and radio...

From The Times article:
For the year that ended on Sunday, a total of 373.9 million albums were sold in the United States, according to data from Nielsen SoundScan. That is a 12.7 percent drop from 2008, and a 52 percent fall since 2000, as consumers have continued to turn from CDs to less profitable — and often illegal — forms of digital music.
“We keep introducing new models that provide less revenue and profit than the ones they are replacing,” said Russ Crupnick, an analyst with the marketing research company NPD Group. “One of the things we’re seeing as people start using Pandora, MySpace Music and other access models is that there is a clear cannibalistic effect on how many tracks they purchase on iTunes. They go to iTunes, find the Pandora app, and then buy a third less songs.”
“Sales are one thing, but music usage is through the roof,” Mr. Corson [general manager of the RCA Music Group] said. “So our challenge is to monetize that and turn it into some kind of legitimate business, rather than file-sharing, burning, etc. We do worry that we’ve lost a generation of consumers who are used to content for free, but there are lots of promising signs.”
One kinda bright spot:
One growth area for record labels and retailers alike is vinyl albums, which after nearly two decades of invisibility at major stores are now often featured as premium-price collectibles. Last year 2.5 million albums were sold on vinyl, up 33 percent from 2008. That is the most for vinyl since SoundScan began tracking retail sales in 1991, but vinyl remains less than 1 percent of all album sales.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Free Madness Cover Track; New Madness Single

To help promote the excellent Madness 30th Anniversary Tribute compilation (and functioning as a now belated Xmas present to the ska world and Madness fans in particular), the good folks over at French-MIS (Madness Information Service) and Big 8 Records are offering a free digital download of the unreleased version of the French band Indeed's cover of "The Sun and the Rain" (another cut of this song is included on the tribute album). So, to kick off the New Year, enjoy a guilt-free file sharing, kids!

Oh, and the guys at the French-MIS would probably be pissed at me if I didn't mention that the next single off of Madness' The Liberty of Norton Folgate, the bittersweet "Forever Young," is being released on January 18th through the Madshop, and will be available in various mixes on multiple formats (7" vinyl, CD, digital downloads).

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Duff Review: The Forthrights "Other People" b/w King Django & The Forthrights "Anywhere I Roam"

7" single
Stubborn Records

If you're not already familiar with them, The Forthrights are vintage-sounding rocksteady crew based in Brooklyn with a laid-back, soulful sound that is in a similar vein to acts like The Bluebeats, The Slackers, and The Insteps (remember them?). I picked up this single after catching their terrific set at a Knitting Factory Brooklyn gig, and after hearing it, can say that this recording accurately captures the vibe and essence of their live performance (which is no small feat, since something is usually lost in the transition from stage to studio).

Expertly produced by King Django at his Jersey Version City, The Forthrights' "Other People" may be wrapped in an almost cheery--and definitely catchy--melody (singer/keyboardist Jack Wright can compose a really sweet tune), but it doesn't bury the heartache of rejection in the lyrics: "There are other people in world for you and I, yeah/You can get what you want, but what you want is to be free/I know you're no longer infatuated with Cincinnati/Yeah, I know that my soul will always rest in her..." Django steps up to the mic on the flip side, a version of "Other People" titled "Anywhere I Roam," where he playfully boasts like Prince Buster about his mad lyrical and musical skills, while slyly celebrating his sexual and emotional freedom: "Anywhere I roam/That's where I make my home/So mind where you lay up your britches/A home is where you can scratch where it itches!"

This single is an instant classic. Get it!

The Duff Guide to Ska Grade: A

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Duff Guide to Ska Best of 2009

Several Duff Guide to Ska readers have asked for me to come up with a summary of the "best ska releases for 2009," so please find my highly subjective list below. Please note that this is by no means comprehensive, as I'm sure there were ska albums and singles released last year that I never had a chance to hear. Having said that, everything on this list should be in your collection...

Duff Guide to Ska Fave New Releases in 2009

Across the Aisle: Change Nothing! EP (self-released)
The Amphetameanies: "Good One Go" b/w "Nothing's OK" 7" single (F&J Records/Rat Race Records)
The Bakesys: Return to the Planet of the Bakesys (Do the Dog)
Captain Black No Stars versus Rasta4Eyes: Boss Sounds of the Boom and Bust (Do the Dog)
Dendrites: Mountain Standard Time (Megalith Records)
The Drastics versus Michael Jackson: MJ A Rocker LP (bootleg)
The Forthrights/King Django: "Other People" b/w "Anywhere I Roam" 7" single (Stubborn Records)
Inspector: Inspector (Fonarte Latino)
Kid British: It Was This or Football (First Half) (Mercury Records)
Madness: The Liberty of Norton Folgate (Lucky Seven Records)
Rebelation: The Berlin Sessions (Do the Dog)
Resolution 242: Resolution 242 (Do the Dog)
Skaville UK: Devil Beat (N.1 Records)
The Stress: Muk! Muk! (Community Records)
Various Artists: 30 Years of Madness: A 30th Anniversary Tribute (Big 8 Records)

Duff Guide to Ska Fave 2009 Reissues

Jimmy Radway & The Fe Me Time All Stars: Dub I (Pressure Sounds)
King Tubby & The Clancy Eccles All Stars: Sound System International Dub (Pressure Sounds)
Laurel Aitken: The High Priest of Reggae (Cherry Red)
Laurel Aitken: Ska with Laurel (Cherry Red)
Laurel Aitken: Says Fire (Cherry Red)
Madness: One Step Beyond...(Salvo/Union Square Music)
Madness: Total Madness (Union Square Music)
Prince Buster: Sings His Hit Song "Ten Commandments" (Reel Music/Sony)
Various Artists: Every Mouth Must Be Fed, 1973 to 1976 (Pressure Sounds)

Duff Guide To Ska Fave 2009 Book

Terry Edwards: "One Step Beyond" (33 1/3 Series/Continuum Books)

Duff Guide to Ska Fave 2009 DVD

The Porkers: "Persistence is Futile" (Sound System)

Pick up all this stuff with your unused holiday gift cards!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Who Shot Ska?

One of my few excursions over the Xmas holiday break--since I started to feel kind of human again a day or two ago--was a trip to the Brooklyn Museum with the kids and their cousins to see "Who Shot Rock and Roll: A Photographic History, 1955 to the Present." (Music critic Tony Fletcher has a good overview of the exhibit on his iJamming site; and here is a review of the show from The New York Times.)

Since this exhibtion is generally focused on both iconic and lesser-known photos of rock 'n' roll royalty and (now mainstreamed) '77 punks and new wave/post-punkers, it was a nice surprise to come across a picture of The Specials by Adrian Boot. His 1981 photo captured a moment from a live gig at the Top Rank Theatre in Brighton when the stage had been completely overrun by a writhing mass of fans--the only members of the band visible are John Bradbury behind his drum kit and Jerry Dammers at his Hammond--and both are in the background of the shot. The picture conveys the manic energy of youth (and The Specials' shows); the intentional lack of barriers between The Specials and their followers (who exactly are the rock stars here?); and even a bit of mystery (what the hell is going on--is Terry Hall buried under the crowd?).

While "Who Shot Rock and Roll" isn't particularly cohesive or illuminating, many of the photographs are fascinating and I was thrilled to have a chance to see them up close. I particularly appreciated the photos of The Clash, Ramones, Joy Division, Pretenders, Richard Hell, Debbie Harry, The B-52s, John Lennon, New York Dolls, Grace Jones, and Bunny Wailer (above, in 1976, by Kate Simon). But, as The Times reviewer points out, it's more about what the viewer brings to these images (if you don't know the bands, their sound, and place in music history, this will be one boring-ass show; context and background are everything here). Are all of the photos great works of art? Many are--but some are important just for the moment they've captured in the rise of the superstar (like the Polaroid of Courtney Love taken during the recording session of Live Through This, just before Kurt killed himself, and another of Madonna sucking down a martini at Danceteria in the early 80s). And for someone like myself in sagging middle-age, it's a bit of a kick in the head to see how impossibly young and beautiful all of these musicians were when they made it big time.

If you are in the New York area, the show is definitely worth seeing--it's up until the end of January. After that, the exhibit is slated to travel to:

Worcester Art Museum, Massachusetts
March 5th - May 30th 2010

Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Tennessee
June 26th - September 26th 2010

Akron Art Museum, Ohio
October 23rd 2010 - January 23rd 2011

Columbia Museum of Art, South Carolina
February 24th - May 22nd 2011