Monday, June 7, 2010

Duff Review: King Django Quintet Brooklyn Hangover

Stubborn Records

If it weren't for the inter-song banter, you'd be hard-pressed to discern that the superb new King Django Quintet album, Brooklyn Hangover, was recorded live at Southpaw in 2007--the sound is so full, warm, and well-balanced, and the performances are so dead-on perfect. The Quintet--Justin Rothberg on guitar, Jess DeBellis on keyboards, Ira Heaps on bass guitar and Gregg Mervine on drums--are really terrific. (Apparently, it was recorded the night after a friend's bachelor's party, so Django was suffering from the Irish flu, so to speak, though you'd never suspect it from listening to his singing or ukulele, harmonica, melodica, and trombone playing.) Generally, ska is best heard live, but the experience is often difficult to capture on tape--something is usually lost in the translation--but not here.

In addition to documenting the band's formidable musical prowess, Brooklyn Hangover serves as an excellent (though not comprehensive) retrospective of King Django's pretty amazing body of work (with cuts from his days in Skinnerbox, Stubborn All-Stars, etc.) and at 18 tracks, at least a few of your favorite tunes will be represented here (mine are "Does He Love You," "Tired of Struggling," "Move Like Ya Gone," "Avenue A," "Not Like a Star," "Trying to Be Something," "Nex Finga," and "Jump Dung"). One track that I initially thought was new was actually from the Stubborn All-Stars' Nex Music (1999): the significantly tightened-up "Take Your Chances" (which Jeff wrote in tribute to Prince Buster). I love the optimism of its verses ("Every conflict is a chance to understand") and chorus ("Free will is what it means to be a man"). Glad I had the chance to re-discover this gem of a tune.

As far as live ska recordings go, Brooklyn Hangover may have set a new standard--and the bar is now very high.

Duff Guide to Ska Grade: A


Kames Jelly said...

I couldn't agree more with your review. This is one of the best live ska/reggae albums I've ever heard (up there with Scofflaws Live Volume 1 and Bad Manners- Feel Like Jumping). You really can't go wrong with Django.

Steve from Moon said...

Thanks, KJ! It really is a shockingly good live ska album--one of the best I've ever heard.

Kames Jelly said...

It even lived up to the hype for me, because all I heard for a LOOOOONG time was Django would tell me how he was spending hours and hours every night workin on the recordings to make them sound as good as he possibly could. After hearing about how hard he was working on it throughout the entire process and knowing it was gonna be great, it still blew me away the first time I heard it.

by the way, it was nice seeing you again at the VC Party. It was a bummer we didn't get to talk more since my feet were firmly planted behind that merch table for most of the night.

Steve from Moon said...


Django really pulled out all the stops on this one...he is now THE guy to go to for mixing live ska and reggae recordings...

Sorry I didn't make it over to talk to you again at the Moon Invaders/Caroloregians show...too busy grooving and shooting videos!

See you soon, though!