Saturday, July 28, 2012

Electric Avenue Update: King Django and The Snails to Headline First Show!

Breaking news: The Hard Times unexpectedly had to withdraw from playing the debut Electric Avenue gig coming up on Saturday, August 4, 2012 at Characters NYC in midtown Manhattan, but the amazing King Django has graciously stepped in to perform! (Don't worry, we'll feature The Hard Times at a future Electric Avenue show in the fall or winter...)

For this gig, King Django will be backed by The Snails (from Philly who also are playing the own set of terrific ska/rocksteady/soul originals)--and I'm spinning some great ska and reggay wax before and after each set. For a taste of things to come, check out the video of King Django with The Snails (playing some of my fave KD cuts, like "Avenue A" and "Does He Love You?") below the updated Electric Avenue flyer.

If you're in the NYC area, be sure to make this show!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Electric Avenue Presents: The Hard Times and The Snails on 8/4/12 at Characters NYC

+   +   +   +

(Marco on the Bass and The Duff Guide to Ska are teaming up to present monthly ska and reggae shows at Characters NYC, a midtown Manhattan Irish pub with a big back room ideally suited for live music. We're doing this as a non-profit venture--all of the cover is split between the bands, we don't make anything, nor does the venue--in order to have some fun and help support the scene.)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Duff Review: 2012 LISF Singles from Neol Davies, The Dualers, Phoenix City All-Stars with Dave Barker

London International Ska Festival
7" vinyl singles

(Review by Steve Shafer)

These two limited edition singles were released by the organizers of the 2012 London International Ska Festival (led by a certain ska musician/fanatic by the name of Sean Flowerdew) to help promote/commemorate this event, as well as celebrate several of the headlining artists who performed earlier this year. If you couldn't have been there (like poor old me!), they're at least a taste of all the ska and reggae goodness there was to be had...

Single 1: Neol Davies "Dolla Fe Dolla" b/w The Dualers "Nothing Takes the Place of You"

While Pauline Black will forever be known as the extraordinary voice of The Selecter (and is currently helming her own version of the band), Neol Davies, as all good students of 2 Tone know, is the songwriter (and guitarist) behind such fantastic Selecter cuts as "The Selecter," "Three Minute Hero," "Street Feeling,""Missing Words," "Too Much Pressure," "On My Radio," "Celebrate the Bullet," and more. Davies proves himself once again to be an ace ska composer with the hard-hitting and extremely (or it is eternally) topical anti-greed/corruption salvo "Dolla Fe Dolla": "You try and ask your MP/Where's all the security?/He's banking it all offshore/and he's coming right back for more...Another catastrophe/they want to blame it on you me/So long before things could change/You'd better stay out of range!" Essential listening (with a great, immediately identifiable Selecterized guitar bridge) for the people expected to pick up the tab for/suffer the consequences of the big banks' outrageously risky and often rigged--see Libor--schemes (and the politicians failure to uphold laws/adequately regulate the financial system). And a damned good ska song, to boot. I want much more of this, Mr. Davies (please!).

The Dualers' thoroughly heartfelt/melancholy cover of Prince Buster's cover of Toussaint McCall's 1967 hit soul ballad "Nothing Takes the Place of You" (from their fine Prince Buster Shakedown album--read The Duff Guide to Ska review here) is a spot-on tribute to The Prince--and if you get a chance to compare Buster's cover to the original recording, you'll find that PB's arrangement of the song is vastly superior to the source material.

Single 2: Phoenix City All-Stars featuring Dave Barker "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" b/w "The Selecter"

Dave Barker and the Phoenix City All-Stars' sweet vintage ska version of The Shirelles' pre-coital 1960 R&B hit "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" (penned by Gerry Goffin and Carole King) seems to have been transported straight from 1964 Kingston, JA. Even more striking is the Phoenix City All-Stars' version of Neol Davies' foundational cut "The Selecter," which was kind of a shock at first listen. I fully expected to hear an approximation of the hot summery insect buzz of the percussion, the crisp ska rhythm guitar, and then the lazy and haunting trombone line. Instead, one is hit with a very brisk, old-school Skatalites rendition of this track. Then you're immediately cognizant of the fact that it's a brave and brilliant re-imagining of a song that is deeply entrenched in the minds and beloved in the hearts of countless 2 Tone ska fans--and to not pull off a radical versioning of the song would have been disastrous (it should be very interesting to hear the other 2 Tone tracks that are re-created as 60s ska cuts on their upcoming Two Tone Gone Ska album).

Friday, July 13, 2012

New Beatdown Album "Walkin' Proud"

Seems like we're on a Canadian ska/skinhead reggae kick right now, 'cause we're psyched that the new Beatdown album is slated for release on August 28th, 2012. It's titled Walkin' Proud and will be released on the great Stomp Records. Here's the promo video:

The Beatdown's s/t debut album is also definitely worth purchasing--read The Duff Guide to Ska review of it here.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

New Prince Perry "Bee on the Bus" Remix/Free Download

Whether you're a long-standing Prince Perry fan or completely unfamiliar with the band, here's a chance to check out/legally download a free remix of "Bee on the Bus" (off their fantastic Love at the End of the Century album--read The Duff Guide to Ska review here.)

And while we're on the subject of Prince Perry, check out one of my favorite tracks from Love at the End of the Century...(and if you dig this track, listen to an equally cool alternate version from Prince Perry band member Mitch "King Kong" Girio--who wrote this song--from his King Kong Girio 1 EP).

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Toasters "House of Soul" Update/July Tour of the UK

For some time now, fans of The Toasters have been eagerly awaiting the band's new single, which has been delayed, no doubt, by their almost non-stop touring schedule. So, I'm thrilled to report that The Toasters stellar "House of Soul" b/w the equally excellent "Going Home" will finally be released this fall, in time for the band's next batch of USA dates. 

The "House of Soul" single (with picture sleeve by Serbian painter/Toasters fan Slavko Krunic) will be pressed on see-through green or blue vinyl (just like the old Moon 7" singles) and is the first 45" from The Toasters next album, tentatively titled Life is a Party. (Buck says he's going to be reverting to a sixties model: releasing a series of singles over time, which will then be compiled with some extra cuts to form an album proper.)

Buck was kind enough to let me preview the rough mixes of these tracks -- and they both have that classic Toasters Dub 56/Hard Band for Dead-era sound and vibe. In short, this single is going to be big and the next album is sure to be a winner. (Truth be told, I'm jonesing for a new Toasters record--remember the golden years when the band would release an album every 12 months?)

The "House of Soul" single features the following personnel:

Buck - guitar, vocals

Nathan Sabanyagam - drums

Thaddeus Meritt - bass

Dave Barry - keys

Logan Labarbera - tbone

Neil Johnson - sax

The Toasters are gearing up for a "Far East" tour of Australia, China, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, and (hopefully) Japan. (If I didn't have a job, family, and responsibilities, I'd volunteer as a roadie!)

But first The Toasters are playing some dates in the UK this July:

Friday, July 13: London, Boston Arms
Saturday, July 14: Manchester, Star and Garter
Sunday, July 15: Leicester, Soundhouse
Tuesday, July 17: Norwich, Waterfront Studio
Wednesday, July 18: Bristol, Fleece
Thursday, July 19: Newcastle Cluny
Friday, July 20: Edinburgh, Citrus Club
Saturday, July 21: Wickerman Festival
Sunday, July 22: Telford, Area 51 Bacharite Hall

+ + + +

Monday, July 9, 2012

Duff Review: The Soulsteppers "The Return of..."

CD 2008
10" vinyl record 2012

Editor's note: Jump Up just released a 10" vinyl version of this incredible gem of an album, so we thought it would be a service to The Duff Guide to Ska readers to re-post this review of "The Return of the Soulsteppers" that we ran a few years ago...

(Review by Steve Shafer)

Ever since 2 Tone was tagged as a "ska revival" movement in the late 70s, each subsequent wave of ska has been burdened with this albatross around its neck. While it probably didn't help that so many of the 2 Tone acts expressed their sincere love of their influences so prominently in their set lists and on their LPs, people like Jerry Dammers, Mike Barson, and Dave Wakeling heard Prince Buster, Laurel Aitken, and many more extraordinary JA musicians as they grew up along side the sons and daughters of Jamaican immigrants. Ska and reggae had become an integral part of the empire of British pop culture, as England absorbed the music and styles of the peoples of its former colonies--so questions of legitimacy or cultural appropriation were never an issue (particularly when many of the 2 Tone bands were multi-racial and The Beat could boast of Saxa in their ranks).

Respect was due to the originators, even as their songs were being transformed by the fury of the times and the power of punk. Yet an over-reliance on (admittedly brilliant) ska covers on all of their debut LPs--which helped launch the bands to the Top of the Pops--left the 2 Tone bands open to accusations of creative shortcoming in the songwriting department (something that certainly was not an issue on follow-up albums by The SpecialsThe Beat, and Madness). So, yes, 2 Tone may have started out as as a ska revival, but a lot of distance was covered from "A Message to You, Rudy" to "Ghost Town"--and at by end, the sound and style was all their own.

But this informed and nuanced view of 2 Tone never made it across the Atlantic whole. Most mainstream music critics in the US have been all too willing to sneeringly dismiss the scene as somehow illegitimate--failing to see that 2 Tone, the third wave of the late 80s and 90s, and whatever we want to call what is going on today as the organic evolution of this genre of music, developing in new ways as it is re-interpreted by successive generations of musicians around the world. Interestingly enough, the questions of musical authenticity or musical/cultural appropriation generally don't dog rock bands using/exploring/recycling blues riffs or punk bands doing the Class of '77 ad nauseum. But ska is shunted off to its own musical ghetto--and maybe its better this way. Most people don't know what to do with it.

Perhaps because those in the current ska scene are somewhat touchy about questions of ska's lineage (though their affection and respect are never in doubt), many traditional bands are almost fanatical about authentically re-creating the particular style of Jamaican music they love. While I'm generally more intrigued by acts which bring something new to a specific musical form, the groups with the talent and skills to faithfully realize a specific vintage ska sound and compose new songs in that style--without succumbing to shoddy imitation or parody--are really worth hearing.

A fairly recent album by a band in this category (that seemed to slip under the radar) is Return of the Soulsteppers by Bakersfield, California's The Soulsteppers, who are remarkably similar in sound and quality to the cream of the skinhead reggae crop: The UpsettersLaurel AitkenHarry J All StarsDave Barker and Ansell CollinsClancy EcclesLloyd CharmersSymarip, and The Pioneers, among others. After first listening to The Return of the Soulsteppers, I was also reminded of the two King Hammond records that Bad Manners' Nicky Welsh lovingly created (if, at times, a bit tongue in cheek), Revolution 70 and Blow Your Mind, in the late 80s/early 90s (the story goes that when the debut King Hammond album was released, they actually passed some of them off to unsuspecting record store owners as a long-lost skinhead reggae classic--it's that good). Indeed, The Soulsteppers are in good company.

While this mostly instrumental album is simply excellent from start to finish, highlights include (and note the extraordinary attention to detail in the production of the album--the instruments used, the recording process--it sounds like a 60s-era gem) "Warhead," with its choppy, propulsive Hammond organ and human-made groans and roars; the bass-heavy, orgasmic (le petit mort?) "Death Comes"; the ethereal flute melody floating through "Soul Step"; the soulfully sung love song "The Feeling is Real"; the jaunty "On That Evening"; "Last Laugh's" lazy, dubby trombone line contrasting with its frenetic guitar and melodica; the amazing steel drums featured in "Basson"; "Mars Invasion's" updating of "Skinhead Moonstomp"--"Cause they've already gone to the Moon/So the skinheads are going to Mars"; the sweet, romantic-sounding sax of "The Park"; and the electric piano melody leading the rhythm section forward on a march through "Death Valley"--with a reverb-y sound effect that's the aural equivalent of the sun baking your brain in your skull. Cool stuff!

The album's sparse liner notes indicate that the tunes here were composed between 2002-2008 (and several tracks were previously released on 7" singles on the European Lava and Conquering Ruler labels) and from what is captured on The Return of the Soulsteppers, it was clearly worth the wait! The rest of the world might not know what to make of The Soulsteppers--or skinhead reggae, for that matter--but if you're in the know, you'll definitely want this record.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Boss Dave Wakeling Interview!

Here's a sweet interview with Dave Wakeling that came our way via Beacon Audio where he talks about why he tours in the US as The English Beat; learning the guitar completely wrong (but having Pete Townsend call him up years later in order to learn the chords for "Save it for Later"); what it's like having his guitar in the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame; and the best part of performing live.

+ + + +

The English Beat are performing in the New York City area on July 12th at The Bell House in Brooklyn, July 13 at The Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ, and on July 18 with my buds Bigger Thomas at The Sellersville Theater in Sellersville, PA.

Also of interest are the deluxe reissues of The Beat's catalogue in the UK, plus the release of The Beat box set (The Complete Beat) in the US.

Monday, July 2, 2012

NYC Summer 2012 Ska Calendar Update #25

+ + + +

Saturday, July 7, 2012 5:00-10:00 pm

Mastic Beach Surf Camp
1 Blue Point Road
Mastic Beach, NY

+ + + +

Thursday, July 12, 2012

149 7th Street
Brooklyn, NY

+ + + +

Saturday, July 14, 2012 at 10:00 pm

Plus Chuck and Maddie Selectors

Austin's Steak and Ale House
82-70 Austin Street
Kew Gardens, NY

+ + + + 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012 @ 8:00 pm

The English Beat and Bigger Thomas

24 West Temple Avenue
Sellersville, PA

+ + + +

Friday, July 27, 2012 @ 8:00 pm

Red Star
37 Greenpoint Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 

+ + + +

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Randall's Island, NY
Weekend Festival ticket: $179.00

+ + + +

Friday, August 3, 2012 at 7:00 pm

(with The Rudie Crew and many more!)

Asbury Lanes
209 4th Avenue
Asbury Park, NJ 
$10 advance/$12 day of show
18 to enter/21+ to drink

+ + + +

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Crossroads
78 North Avenue
Garwood, NJ
(This is the King Django Birthday Bash)

+ + + +

Saturday, September 15, 2012 @ 8:00 pm

Electric Avenue Presents Bigger Thomas and The Beat Brigade

Characters NYC
243 West 54th Street (between Broadway and 8th Avenue)
Manhattan, NY

(Electric Avenue is sponsored by Marco on the Bass and The Duff Guide to Ska)

+ + + +