Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Jolly Boys Review in The NY Times

There is a terrific review of The Jolly Boys' recent NYC performance in The New York Times by Jon Pareles (read it here).

Here's the money quote:
The Jolly Boys returned to New York City for their first public show here in decades like a Model T with a new CD player in the dashboard.
(Pareles is referring to the fact that the band was covering New Wave and rock hits--by New Order, Iggy Pop, The Stranglers, Blondie, The Door, Lou Reed, Steely Dan, etc.--inna mento style.)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Jolly Boys On My Radio--Plus NYC Ska Shows This Weekend!

If you're kicking around Manhattan this Friday, February 25, 2011, you could find worse ways to spend an hour than seeing The Jolly Boys live on the radio (plus, for fans of New Wave, Thomas Dolby also will be on hand to perform new material!). After their gig at the Hiro Ballroom the night before, The Jolly Boys will be on WNYC's "Soundcheck Live," which is broadcast from the Jerome L. Greene Performance Space (44 Charlton Street at Varick). Tickets are $10 (and can be purchased here)--the show starts at 2:00 pm and lasts for an hour. (Support Public Radio, y'all!) If you can't make it to the Greene Space, listen to it live over the airwaves or via WNYC's website...

(On a related note, to read The Duff Guide to Ska interview with The Jolly Boys' collaborator and ex-Skavoovie Dan Neely, click here.)

Here is a video of The Jolly Boys covering Iggy Pop's "The Passenger":

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Also on tap this weekend is the Dirty Reggae Party 8 on Friday night (2/25/11) at The Lake in Bushwick (with Kofre, The Hard Times, Jah Love and the Valentinians, and The Rudie Crew!). All the details can be found here.

Then on Saturday night (2/26/11), catch Across the Aisle is playing The Trash Bar in Williamburg. Doors are at 8:00 pm, $10 gets you in, and there is an open bar from 8-9pm (for Lyzfest II/Lyz's birthday party)!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Rocking Steady Skazine

As with many printed publications, the skazines that connected and informed the fans during much of the late 80s and throughout the 90s were decimated by the rise of the internet [insert ominous sounding music here]. And, really, why should the skazine editors go to the trouble and expense of laying out, printing / copying, and distributing a tangible publication (and no doubt lose money doing so), when it suddenly became way easier and cheaper to set up a website or a blog to serve the same function and potentially reach ska fans around the globe? (Having said that, I miss them--will there ever be a new edition of Hoi Polloi again?!--and I greedily treasure the ones that I have in my possession, particularly my old copies of "Zoot!")

Unfortunately, there is the downside to every technological development, and for our little discussion today, that is music file sharing (read my general thoughts on why music file sharing is flat-out wrong and killing the music we love here and here). In regards to the subject of skazines, it seems like far too many ska blogs lazily exist simply to post links to file sharing sites where people can illegally download ska and reggae albums for free. They don't bother to actually review the music, interview the bands, or promote their gigs (and if you want to make it so people can hear a band's music, why not use a free application like Div Share, so fans can stream a song, but not download it?).

Apart from Kevin Flowerdew's awesome "Do the Dog Skazine," few current skazines come to mind. But now we have the ambitious Rocking Steady Skazine out of Germany, which is both a website and e-zine. The Rocking Steady e-zine is already up to issue #2 (find the PDF here)--featuring nice interviews with Vin Gordon, Rico Rodriguez, and Mr. T-bone (do you sense a theme here?); a focus on still active 80s/90s-era bands like Mr. Review, The Busters, and Bluekilla; an article on ska graphic designer Jada Leblanc--and a slew of record reviews (Roy Ellis, Hotknives, Resignators, Mr. T-Bone, and many more). While, at times, it seems like some things are lost in translation (the results of Google Translate often make for rough reading), there are many great things going on here. Do yourself a favor--bookmark Rocking Steady and visit it frequently!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Duff Guide MOJO Watch: Glen Adams, Caribou Ska, Two Sevens Clash, and Laurel Aitken

The March 2011 issue of MOJO with Nirvana on the cover (hard to believe that all that grunge hoopla was 20 years ago--I was a young man with no big plans back then) has several items that will be of interest to ska and reggae fans.

Keyboardist Glen Adams' passing is noted in a detailed obituary by reggae expert Dave Katz (for instance, I now know that Adams worked with Jump with Joey, something that I don't think ever registered in my mind). Katz also reviews and raves about the latest re-issue compilation from Rock-A-Shacka, You'll Never Know: 18 Caribou Ska Selections (featuring early 60s ska cuts by Laurel Aitken, Rico, Lord Tanamo, Don Drummond and more, produced by Indian-Jamaican businessman Dada Tewari and released on his Caribou label).

Also in this issue, Ian Harrison brings our attention to the re-issue of Culture's apocalyptic Two Sevens Clash on vinyl (from VP Records), while the Laurel Aitken Everybody Ska! Rudi Got Married, 1980-1992 comp (Pressure Drop) receives a one-paragraph mention in the "Reissues Extra" section (though we think it deserves much more--check out the extensive Duff Guide to Ska review of Laurel's 2 Tone and early 3rd wave output here).

Monday, February 21, 2011

Free Download from Kofre!

In advance of their upcoming performance at the Dirty Reggae Party 8 (on February 25, 2011 at The Lake in Bushwick), Latin ska band Kofre are offering a free download of their new single "El Tinku."

I was lucky to catch Kofre's excellent set at the New York Ska Festival last April--which featured a mix of Anglo / African-American and Latin ska acts (read The Duff Guide to Ska review of the show here)--and am definitely looking forward to seeing what they've got in store this time around...

The Toasters: "House of Soul" Live

Here's a recent video of The Toasters' working it in the heartland! Buck & Co. appeared on a local afternoon news show on KPLR (ignore the fact that they are a Fox News affiliate) on February 18, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri in support of their gig that night at the Firebird.

Two notable things about this video are that The Toasters are captured performing a new tune, "House of Soul"--which Bucket says they are releasing on 7" vinyl at some point soon--and that you see a bottle of The Toasters 30th Anniversary IPA that Ska Brewing in Durango, Colorado has concocted and unleashed upon the beer drinking world (unfortunately, this ale can only be found in Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, North Carolina, and New Mexico).


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Duff Review: The Aggrolites "Dreaming on Erie" b/w "Eye of Obarbas" and "Trial and Error" b/w "Enemy Dub"

Young Cub Records
7" vinyl singles

In advance of their forthcoming fifth (!) album Rugged Road, dirty/skinhead reggae virtuosos The Aggrolites have dropped two superb vinyl singles that, interestingly enough, comprise the first four cuts of their new record.

On the yellow label 45, "Dreaming on Erie" is a warm, shimmering guitar-focused instrumental that strikes one as being more about a pined for or lost love than the Emerald Isle (but then again, I've never had the pleasure of traveling there). While on its face, the mysteriously titled "Eye of Orbaras" might suggest a "Far East," melodica-driven sound, it actually sports a jaunty ice rink organ on this Upsetters-ish cut.

Switching over to the red label single, "Trial and Error" is a lover's rock versioning of the Lee "Scratch" Perry/Junior Murvin classic "Police and Thieves" (complete with falsetto vocals and awesome Black Ark growling effects!) that offers some reassuring support: "At times you may have your doubts/But through trial and error/You'll found a way to work things out." "Enemy Dub" is wonderfully smooth roots reggae that conjures up images of a night trek across the Sahara or Sinai desert--and opens with vocals beseeching God/Jah (shades of Moses here) for guidance through the wilderness and protection from foes.

If you'll forgive me for trading on the Old Testament theme, these two singles should be received like manna from heaven by the ska and reggae faithful trying to survive in a pop music wasteland. It's tasty and sustaining music, indeed.

The Duff Guide to Ska Grade (for both 45s): A

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The Aggrolites' Rugged Road LP will be released on February 22, 2011, while the CD will see light of day on March 22, 2011 (both are available directly from Young Cub Records).

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Laurel Aitken Inside Out

Here's a fantastic piece on Laurel "the Godfather of Ska" Aitken from the BBC's "Inside Out" TV program (which must have aired in fall 2010) that provides a good overview of his career--and features interviews with Buster Bloodvessel (Bad Manners), Charley Anderson (The Selecter), Roy Ellis (Symarip), Neville Staple and Lynval Golding (The Specials), Mark Wyeth (Club Ska), and Sandra Aitken (his wife) all commenting on Laurel's life, his extraordinary impact on ska music, and his many musical achievements.

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Hat tip to John of Hoi Polloi Skazine for pointing out this nugget.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Interview with Laurence Cane-Honeysett of Pressure Drop

Seems like we've been on a bit of "man behind the label" kick lately. So, we're going to direct you to a good interview with Laurence Cane-Honeysett, who has been "curating" the ska and reggae releases for Pressure Drop (which is a subsidiary of Cherry Red Records, a punk rock/alternative re-issue label). Originally a music journalist specializing in Jamaican music, since the early 90s, Cane-Honeysett has also been a producer for Trojan Records, overseeing all of their reissues.

Within the last two years or so, Pressure Drop has released an extraordinary array of Laurel Aitken re-issues and compilations (read The Duff Guide to Ska review of the LA comp Everybody Ska! Rudi Got Married, 1980 to 1992 here)--and now they are in the midst of re-issuing Bad Manners' tasty early 80s output for Magnet Records (Ska 'n' B, Loonee Tunes!, Gosh It's...Bad Manners, and Forging Ahead).

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Interview with Masaya Hayashi of Drum and Bass Records and Rock A Shacka!

There is a fantastic interview with Masaya Hayashi, the founder and owner of Japan's Drum & Bass Records (quite possibly the premier source for vintage Jamaican vinyl in the world) and the Rock A Shacka re-issue label, on (a Jamaican entertainment scene blog). This is a must-read for anyone interested in the origins of this store and label--and/or wants some insight into the Japanese ska and reggae scene.

In 2003, I was lucky to pick up an import copy of Prince of Peace, the live CD featuring Prince Buster and The Determinations, as well as several other subsequent Rock A Shacka compilations of rare Prince Buster singles and productions (Voice of the People and Dance Cleopatra)--but these are hard to come by now.

Several recent Rock A Shacka releases (such as Orange Street Special, Fabulous Songs of Miss Sonia E. Pottinger Volume 2 and Alton Ellis Soul Train is Coming) have been available through Amazon and Dusty Groove America in the US, and Copasetic Mailorder in Germany. I haven't heard it yet, but Rock A Shacka just released Rock A Shacka Volume 19: You'll Never Know: Caribou Ska Selection, that contains some rare early ska from Laurel Aitken, Don Drummond, Rico, The Mighty Vikings, Lord Tanamo, and more.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

NYC Ska/Reggae/Punk Gig Alert: This Thursday Night (2/10/11) with The Facts, The Frighteners, and Jesse Litwa

NYC Champion Reggae/Move Your Mule!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Jesse Litwa solo (Royal City Riot frontman) 9:00 pm
The Frighteners (reggae) 10:00 pm
The Facts (punk) 11:00 pm

Plus: the usual Crazy Baldhead cast of ne'er-do-well's spinning reggae, ska & soul all night!

Otto's Shrunken Head
538 East 14th Street (between Avenues A and B)
Manhattan, NY

No cover!

New Vinyl EP from King Hammond: Mr. DJ!

Ever since I've been doing the odd DJ gig (as DJ Duff Guide, natch), I've been compulsively tracking down both old and new ska and reggae 7" singles to spin (and my collection has exploded as of late!). So you know I'm psyched at the prospect of a new vinyl release from one of my fave (and fantastically workaholic) artists, the undeniable master of skinhead reggae, King Hammond!

Later this month, King Hammond is releasing a new four-track, 7" vinyl EP titled Mr. DJ, which features the new title track, plus "Bongo Ska Fever," "The Loop (Mayfair'68 Mix)," and "Dub Movement #1." This EP can be ordered directly from King Hammond here.

For a preview of all the cuts on this extended player, catch the video below (which features awesomely campy images from yesteryear!):

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On a related note, The Duff Guide to Ska has reviewed King Hammond's The King and I album (read the review here) and Riot in London Town EP (read the review here)--and we'll have the write-up of his most recent album, Jacuzzi, up on this here blog shortly (I promise!).

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Another Reason Why Moon Ska Records Rocked...

...Moon paid for my baby.

Okay, I need to do some explaining here. My son was born thirteen years ago today. At the time, I was working full-time at Moon and was fortunate to have health insurance through the company (an independent record label, I'd like to point out). So Moon didn't exactly buy my baby, but the label's health insurance coverage for f/t employees paid for all the doctor's and hospital fees relating to his birth.

Even back in 1998, it was a considerable business expense for Moon to offer health coverage to its employees, but Buck thought it was the decent and right thing to do--and I sensed that he was quite proud that the label had grown to such a degree that something like offering health insurance was even possible.

And for this, I'm forever grateful.

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I guess I should also mention that the one condition of receiving health insurance coverage through Moon was that employees' first born children be "marked" in some way. So, if you manage to comb through my son's thick head of hair and find just the right spot on his scalp, you'll find a small Moon Dog tattooed there...(just kidding!).

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Ska is Dead Young Guns 2011 Tour with We are the Union, The Forthrights, and more!

The latest project from the decaying minds of the Ska is Dead peeps comes this spring (if winter ever ends, that is) with The Young Guns 2011 Tour--featuring some of the best, new(ish) American ska bands on the scene--with Detroit’s We Are the Union and New York City’s The Forthrights as co-headliners. Supporting bands along the way include Nashville's Stuck Lucky (4/15-4/22), Boston's Brunt of It (4/23-4/28), Long Island’s The Fad (4/19-4/27), and Indiana's Green Room Rockers (4/13 & 5/1) among others.

The Young Guns 2011 Tour Dates

Wed. April 13 – Indianapolis, IN – The Hoosier Dome
Thurs. April 14 – Cincinnati, OH - TBA
Fri. April 15 – Nashville, TN – The Muse
Sat. April 16 – New Orleans, LA – Block Party 2011
Sun. April 17 – Atlanta, GA – The Masquerade
Mon. April 18 – Columbia, SC – New Brooklyn Tavern
Tues. April 19 – Norfolk, VA – Jewish Mother Backstage
Wed. April 20 – Richmond, VA – The Canal Club
Thurs. April 21 – Philadelphia, PA – The Ox
Fri. April 22 – Garden City, NY – Ethical Humanist Center
Sat. April 23 (1pm) – Boston, MA – Middle East
Sat. April 23 (6pm) – Hamden, CT – The Space
Tues. April 26 – Bethpage, NY – Mr. Beery’s
Weds. April 27 – Asbury Park, NJ – Asbury Lanes
Thurs. April 28 – Syracuse, NY – Funk N’ Waffles
Fri. April 29 – Cleveland, OH – TBA
Sat. April 30 – Lansing, MI – Mac’s Bar
Sun. May 1 – Chicago, IL – TBA

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On a selfish note, I'm a bit bummed that this tour doesn't actually hit any of New York City's five boroughs...I gotta go to the 'burbs?!? I spent the first 18 years of my life trying to escape them!

A Brief History of Reggae in the UK

As sort of a preview to the BBC4's airing of the documentary "Reggae Britannia," the Guardian (UK) has published an excellent article by Neil Spencer titled, "Reggae: the Sound that Revolutionised Britain," which provides a pretty comprehensive and insightful overview of the history of reggae in the UK. It's definitely worth a read. Here are the first few introductory paragraphs to lure you in:
It was punk's "summer of hate", 1977, and the required pose was a sneer, a leather jacket and something hacked about – a spiky haircut, a ripped T-shirt, a sawn-off school tie. And, of course, no flares, the despised flag of hippiedom. But at the cold, concrete roots of Britain a very different aesthetic was also in the ascendant, one calling for an oversized tam, dreadlocks and a display of "the red, gold and green", the colours of Rastafari. Flares? Fine!

The two looks represented the different worlds inhabited by young white and black Britain, worlds which a year previously had been remote from each other but which by the summer of 1977 were unexpectedly and often uncomfortably rubbing shoulders. At Hackney town hall, under portraits of whiskery Victorian aldermen, I watched the Cimarons chant down Babylon while Generation X snarled their way through "Wild Youth". In Brixton, I gaped as the Slits, the acme of unruliness, shared a stage with Birmingham's Steel Pulse, the most militant of Britain's proliferating reggae bands.

More than just the "Punky Reggae Party" Bob Marley had playfully celebrated on disc that summer, these were gigs that signalled the birth of a new Britain, one in which the neofascist National Front was consigned to the margins and musical cross-pollination became the norm. Rock-reggae bands such as the Police, ska revivalists such as the Specials and home-grown reggae acts such as Janet Kay would soon occupy the charts. Further down the line would come UB40, Culture Club, Soul II Soul and then the current era in which, to quote Soul II Soul singer Caron Wheeler: "You can't distinguish between colour any more – it's just people."

These days, punk is to be found in the cultural academy, in lecture halls, art galleries and fashion history books. By contrast, British reggae remains half-forgotten and little praised, represented mainly by the Specials' "Ghost Town" as the default tune for any retrospective on the bleak, Thatcherite early 80s.
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Here's the BBC4 trailer for "Reggae Britannia":

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Duff Review: Ska is Dead 7" of the Month Club -- Mustard Plug/The Beatdown and Big D and the Kids Table/Brunt of It

Vinyl rules! Rebelling against the unfortunate dominance of easily disposable-erasable-pirated (and somehow soulless) digitally downloaded music, the fantastic Ska is Dead 7" of the Month Club has been issuing a series of limited edition split vinyl singles (on seriously thick black and white wax with cool, printed outer sleeves--love the tattered Walt Jabsco zombie!) from top shelf ska bands of all stripes (i.e.: vintage ska, 2 Tone, ska-punk, etc.). All of the featured cuts by these bands are new or unreleased--and this is the only place to find 'em, as they will not be released in any other form! (The Ska is Dead 7″ Club is a joint effort between Dave Kirchgessner of Mustard Plug and his Ska is Dead tour company, Asbestos Records and Underground Communique Records, that combines their collective obsession with dead genres and dead formats.)

Here's The Duff Guide to Ska review of the October and November 2010 batch of Ska is Dead singles:

Mustard Plug "Aye Aye Aye" b/w The Beatdown "Piece of Mind" (white vinyl)

On the debut Ska is Dead single, Mustard Plug completely mash it up with "Aye Aye Aye," a classic, super-charged third wave/modern ska song (as patented by bands like The Busters or El Bosso und die Ping Pongs--super melodic, maniacally upbeat, heavily guitar driven, mega-powered horn lines, etc.)--as opposed to some of the Plug's more (and equally great) ska'n'roll offerings. Singer Dave Kirchgessner professes to keep the faith (in ska, one might presume) no matter what goes down: "Aye aye aye/I never let it go/Though you tell me so/'Cause you know we believe/I believe!" Seriously, with Mustard Plug for us, who can be against us?

If you've been lucky enough to hear The Beatdown's debut, self-titled album (read The Duff Guide to Ska review of it here), then you'll know what I'm saying when I opine that "Piece of Mind" sounds like a single spun off that stellar album. This groovin', laid-back rocksteady/skinhead reggae cut is about the seeking the chunk of knowledge that will bring one solace (the double meaning in the phonetic relationship of piece/peace): "I haven't slept in a long, long time/Searching for a piece of mind/What I'm looking for, well I can't find/Walking on a very thin line/All over the city people think I'm crazy/I'm running blind, running blind for a piece of mind." Sure, I hope they find what they're looking for, but I feel privileged just to be along for the ride.

Big D & the Kids Table "Not Our Fault" and "Lash Out" b/w Brunt of It "Nah Nah Nah Nah" and "Art School Dropout" (33 1/3 rpm black vinyl 45)

Big D and the Kids Table turn in two crash'n'burn cuts for their Ska is Dead single. "Not Our Fault" is the ska-punk love story/cautionary tale of two busted juvenile delinquents who fall in love at the police station (shades of "Ferris Bueller")--but who fail to realize that they're responsible for their own stupid choices ("Take a look/ Open your eyes/Yeah, everybody's not the same/See, some of us got to do things right/that to some might seem insane"). "Lash Out" is a fierce hardcore workout that does just what it says.

I've caught Brunt of It live in action--essentially a sustained jet blast of hardcore--so it's kind of nice to be able to find the ska band within, and discern the melodies and musicianship that are clearly at work here. "Nah Nah Nah Nah" is a bitter post-mortem of a relationship gone bad: "Can't you see what you meant to me?/Forgiving me is an impossibility..." "Art School Drop Out" is about a femme fatale who has reeled in her patsy in this film noir-ish tale (imagine "Double Indemnity" re-done by Quentin Tarantino): "Everyone gives her the second look/"The Stranger" is her favorite book/A psycho secretary is how she dresses/Clunky shoes, librarian glasses/Our love is deranged/A dangerous game/I'm under your spell/Lead me to hell!" These tracks are intense and brutal, but one hundred percent compelling.

The Duff Guide to Ska Grade (for all of these singles): A

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Read The Duff Guide to Ska review of the December 2010 Ska is Dead releases from Sonic Boom Six/The Nix 86 and Vic Ruggiero & Maddie Ruthless/The Forthrights here.

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If you're interested in subscribing to this limited edition 7" record club (there are only 550 copies of each single printed--there are no digital downloads, so break out yer luddite relative's turntable!), visit

Upcoming Ska is Dead releases: Reel Big Fish, Tip the Van, The Slackers, Bomb the Music Industry