Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Duff Guide to Ska Fast Takes: Laurel Aitken and The Skatalites "Ska Titans" Reissue

(Review by Steve Shafer)

Even though it had been recorded in 1996, by the time the master tapes for Ska Titans had been licensed to Moon Ska Records and slated for release in 1999, the writing was on the wall for the label. (Full disclosure: I was the director of promotions, marketing, and production for Moon from 1991-1999.) Troubling warning signs portending a significant downturn for Moon's future prospects were evident by the summer of '98 and cost-cutting measures were soon implemented across-the-board. Much to the label's detriment, one of these restrictions was not hiring freelance graphic designers to create CD artwork for new releases. By this point in Moon's history, we had built up a roster of pretty amazing designers to use whenever one of our bands didn't provide us with artwork for their release, including Gile Ribiero (see The Bluebeat's Dance with Me, Laurel Aitken's The Bluebeat YearsSkarmageddon 3, and more), Mike Reddy (The Skalars' Skoolin' with The Skalars, Bad Manners' Heavy Petting, Tricia and The Supersonics' King Bravo Selects Ska Authentic, Volume 2, Nihon Ska Dansu, and more), Jeremy Donelson (Love and Affection: Ska in the Key of Love, Ska United), Jordan "Jafo" Worley (Skankaholics Unanimous, The Toasters' Don't Let the Bastards Grind You DownChristma-Ska), and the late Andrew Blanco AKA King Chango (The Toasters' Dub 56 and Hard Band for Dead, Skarmageddon, and more). So, it was painful to see what was created in-house for the cover of Ska Titans (by someone who it was later discovered stole a fair amount of money from the label over the years)--a pixelated close-up of tree bark with text over it. Not one of our finer moments by far.

This shabby cover artwork--for an album released at a point after Billboard, Alternative Press, and others had declared ska "dead" (which had triggered a tsunami of returns from record chains and mom and pops; whenever the UPS truck showed up, it was to bring box after box in, instead of out)--worked overtime against the amazing music by ska's founders contained inside, which was such a shame, particularly considering Moon's championing of Laurel Aitken and various Skatalites (Tommy McCook, Lloyd Brevett, Lester Sterling, Tricia and The Supersonics) through its series of "Ska Authentic" releases (and heavy tour support for Laurel Aitken) in the US. Needless to say, at the time, this album sold poorly. Fortunately, Black Butcher Classic's vinyl-only issue (the first time this has been released on LP) available in the USA through Jump Up, provides this album with excellent retro packaging (though oddly devoid of any credits or liner notes), which helps rectify the sins of the original and should help entice the ska faithful to explore the wonderful ska music within.

Ska Titans was recorded during the 1996 European Ska Splash Skatalites/Laurel Aitken tour (both acts were represented by the same manager) and marked the first time they had recorded together since 1963. During Aitken's '63 visit to JA from the UK, he and The Skatalites recorded twelve of his songs at Ken Khouri's Federal Studio at Laurel's expense--and he made sure never to let the masters that he owned out of sight, for fear of being bootlegged; all tracks were released in '63 and '64 on a series of Rio and Black Swan singles that were later collected and issued in 1990 by Unicorn Records as Laurel Aitken with The Skatalites, The Legendary Godfather of Ska, Volume 3. For the Ska Splash tour and Ska Titans recording, a good number of the original Skatalites were still around and active, including Roland Alphonso, Lester Sterling, Lloyd Brevett, and Lloyd Knibb (all accompanied by newer members Devon James, Will Clark, and Nathan Breedlove).

Ska Titans features re-recordings of six Aitken originals (including his classics "It's Too Late," "Rude Boy Dream," "Bad Minded Woman"--which he first taped with The Skatalites during that '63 session--and the epic, dubby, and moody "Summertime" ("...in the ghetto"), which is a version of his "Who Sey," from his awesome Superstar album), the perennial "In the Mood for Ska," a cover of The Four Tops'/Holland-Dozier-Holland's "Same Old Song," and a few live recordings taped in Amsterdam, including a Don Drummond composition ("Confucius") and Doreen Schaffer doing vocals on Aitken's "Sugar Sugar." Everyone's performances, both in studio and live, are top-notch and the studio recordings are brilliantly warm and vibrant (thanks to Victor Rice, who mixed this album), while the live tracks have a wonderful clarity and immediacy to them, as if you were in the venue as this happened.

Ska Titans would have fared better had it released earlier in that decade (and, of course, with better packaging), but it remains a triumph--a testament to the incredible talents of Laurel Aitken and The Skatalites, the originators and elder statesmen of ska, who continued to burn brightly throughout the 1990s. If you're a fan, you need this album in your collection.

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Thursday, August 22, 2019

Duff Guide to Ska Fast Takes: Various Artists "Sock It To Me!" and Reggae Roast's "Sensi Skank Reloaded"

(Reviews by Steve Shafer)

As part of its "Spirit of '69" campaign marking the 50 years since a slew of their skinhead reggae singles conquered the British charts--think of top 10 hits like Desmond Dekker and The Aces' "Israelites" and "It Mek," Harry J All Stars' "Liquidator," The Upsetters' "Return of Django," and Jimmy Cliff's "Wonderful World, Beautiful People" ('69 also saw the launch of their excellent series of Tighten Up compilations), Trojan Records has released Sock It To Me: Boss Reggae Rarities In The Spirit Of 69 (CD/LP, Trojan Records, 2019; the CD contains 13 more tracks than the LP) a collection of hard-to-find skinhead reggae tracks that surprisingly have not reissued by this king of reissues since they first saw the light of the day back in 1969. One might assume that these cuts were buried in the vaults for reasons of quality control, but most of the songs are good-to-great, pleasant mid-tempo head-nodders, though not exactly the pulse-raising dance floor stompers promised on the compilation's packaging. Having said that, notable tracks on the LP include The Sparkers' "Israel" (which could be about Masada: "In a bunch, Lord/Them tried to kill dem/Some of dem, Lord/Don't need a gun, yeah/But never broke/Before Bad-a-lon"); The Impersonators' hauntingly plaintive "I've Tried Before"; Hopeton Lewis and The Sexy Girls' slack "Sexy Woman" ("Go on woman, let them wreck your pum pum/All you need is a big fat man"); Tommy McCook and The Supersonics' instrumental "Shangul" (AKA "Shange The Whipman"); Lloyd Charmers and The Hippy Boys "Long About Now" (which Harry Belafonte first recorded in 1962; Charmers' produced a version for Bruce Ruffin and obviously recorded his own take, too); and Anonymously Yours' defunkified skinhead reggae take on The Isley Brothers' "It's Your Thing."  Liner notes to shed some light on/give some context to the makers and origins of these songs would have been a big plus (who was involved with Anonymously Yours and how did Hopeton Lewis come to record a rude reggae track?).

One of the more intriguing aspects of Trojan's 50th anniversary last year was the introduction of a new imprint, Trojan Reloaded, whose mission is to release new and current reggae (The Duff Guide to ska reviewed their first single here). So far, this label has focused on one of the UK's top sound systems--Reggae Roast--and dancehall (as opposed to other reggae sounds). The latest physical release from Trojan Reloaded is "Sensi Skank Reloaded" (10" vinyl EP, Trojan Reloaded, 2019), which revisits/remixes Reggae Roast's 2011 digital hit--a hymn to ganja: "Babylon want to take my herb/It can't keep my herb, oh no!" Both the original and remixed versions are new to me--I have to admit to being partial to the former (it has a deeper, more powerful groove to it)--but I'm sure dancehall fans will jump at the chance to have this on vinyl.

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Thursday, August 15, 2019

Upcoming 2 Tone 40th Anniversary Releases

We're already more than halfway through 2 Tone's 40th anniversary year and the 2 Tone faithful have seen precious little in terms of celebratory concerts and anniversary-related releases. No doubt, the fallings out between members of each of the driving bands behind this label have put the kibosh on anything extraordinary happening, which is certainly a shame.

However, just before the calendar year runs out, Chrysalis will be issuing two releases which will be of some interest to obsessive collectors. The first is a remastered and cut at half speed on double vinyl at 45 rpm edition of Specials' debut LP to be released on October 11, 2019. The second and somewhat more interesting release is Two Tone 7" Treasures, a collection of twelve 7” picture sleeve singles selected by Jerry Dammers, which represent his favorite singles released on the label between 1979 and 1984. These singles are "presented with their original sleeve designs in a bespoke 1960s style carry case along with a Two Tone 7” slipmat and an art card signed by Jerry Dammers." Pre-orders are being now being taken at Rough Trade (UK) and it will be available on November 15, 2019; this box set is retailing for 90 pounds sterling. (None of the selections are rarities and long-time fans will have all of them, though the add-ons are very cool; notable omissions from this collection are The Specials' "Rat Race" and "Do Nothing" singles, and Rico and The Special AKA's "Jungle Music.")

One supposes that an expanded, two LP version of the Dance Craze soundtrack or a reissue of Rico's incredible (and hard to find) Jama Rico would be too much to ask for (and is there really nothing good left unreleased in the vaults?).

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Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Singles Going Skanking: Le Grand Miércoles' "Lone Gunman Theory" b/w "I've Got to Surf Away" and Ska Jazz Messengers' "Mil Veces No" b/w "Mil Veces Dub"

(Reviews by Steve Shafer)

Le Grand Miércoles "Lone Gunman Theory" b/w "I've Got to Surf Away" (7" vinyl picture sleeve single, Liquidator Music, 2019): The latest single from Le Grand Miércoles serves up yet more amazing surf-ska-rocksteady (they've labeled it "surf steady") from this Spanish ska supergroup (with members of The Malarians, Dr. Jau, Pataconas, The Offbeaters, and the Golden Singles band). "Lone Gunman Theory" (which, of course, refers to the Warren Commission's official determination that Lee Harvey Oswald was the sole assassin involved in JFK's killing and that there wasn't a conspiracy to assassinate the president) is a sprightly, if moody (and kind of laid back for the band), organ-centric instrumental. The flip side revisits their incredible, supercharged cover of John Holt's "Man Next Door" from their fantastic 2014 Ghost Cowboys album (read The Duff Guide to Ska review of it here), this time adding--intentionally or not--slightly Elvis-sounding vocals to great effect. Oddly, they don't go the nine yards and revise the lyrics from "I've got to get away from here" to "I've got to surf away from here..." Marvelous stuff, nonetheless!

Ska Jazz Messengers "Mil Veces No" b/w "Mil Veces Dub" (7" vinyl picture sleeve single, Liquidator Music, 2019): This is the excellent debut single from this Venezuelan band, in advance of their first album, which is slated to be released later in 2019. "Mil Veces No" ("A Thousand Times No") is a 1969 pop-soul b-side by Venezuelan pop group Las Cuatro Monedas (The Four Coins) about being once bitten, twice shy ("I was in love with you/and suffered loving you like that/I don't want to repeat it") and is transformed into a wonderful Skatalites-like track by the Ska Jazz Messengers. The dub on side b is more of a straight-up instrumental version with some echo effects mixed in, which is fine, but including another new or previously unavailable track might have been a better move (like their awesome cover of Pharell William's "Happy" from a few years ago). Having said that, this single is a compelling teaser for their new album!

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Thursday, August 8, 2019

Duff Guide to Ska Fast Takes: Prince Fatty featuring Big Youth and George Dekker "Get Ready" b/w "Get Ready Dub"

(Review by Steve Shafer)

Prince Fatty featuring Big Youth and George Dekker "Get Ready" b/w "Get Ready Dub" (7" vinyl single/digital, Evergreen Recordings, 2019): This extraordinary 1966 Smokey Robinson-penned and produced track for The Temptations--one of the defining songs of the 1960s (and for Motown)--has a brilliant, menacing edge to the bass and horn lines that belies the subtext to the chorus, "Get ready, 'cause here I come," which (apart from the double-entendre) was clearly a message of black empowerment and support for the civil rights movement (and probably a nod to Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready" of a year earlier). The white radio and TV powers that be--and many white teenage Motown fans--took the love song lyrics at face value (and for most of the '60s, Motown head Berry Gordy didn't want any overtly controversial lyrics getting in the way of record sales), but there was another nation of receptive ears receiving the signal loud and clear. Prince Fatty's take on this soul classic (which follows recent covers of Roy Ayers' "Everybody Loves the Sunshine" and William DeVaughn's "Be Thankful for What You've Got") with the amazing George Dekker singing Eddie Kendrick's falsetto lead and Big Youth augmenting it all with his head-over-heels DJ chatting ("Maybe we could settle down/If you have children/I've got some/But we could have some more...10 to 10/This love will never really end/10 to 10/You'll never fall in love again") presents it as a straight-up love song--and he gives it the usual, fantastic Prince Fatty production. But given the times, perhaps it would have been even better if Big Youth had emphasized the hidden anti-racist aspect of the original and chatted about combating white supremacy to make the world a better place for his woman and kids...

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Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Duff Review: Ranking Roger with Daniel Rachel "I Just Can't Stop It: My Life in The Beat"

Paperback
Omnibus Press
2019

(Review by Steve Shafer)

Apart from Malu Halasa's really terrific, if truncated, 1981 biography of the band, "The Beat: Twist and Crawl" (she was Beat guitarist Andy Cox's girlfriend at the time--the two later married--and also ran The Beat Fan Club under the pseudonym Marilyn Hebrides), there's not been nearly enough written about the history of this extraordinary band, so Ranking Roger's autobiography co-written with Daniel Rachel ("Walls Come Tumbling Down: The Music and Politics of Rock Against Racism, 2 Tone and Red Wedge," which includes the best history of 2 Tone that you'll ever read) is a very welcome addition to the growing body of literature focused on the 2 Tone era bands. Roger's "I Just Can't Stop It: My Life in The Beat" is a wonderfully engrossing and satisfying read (it's as if Roger was telling you all this over many cups of tea one afternoon) that provides readers with a very candid look--at times, he's unsparing in his opinions--at The Beat's rise and fall. Of course, it includes Roger's invaluable insights as to how songs came into being; conveys stories related to--and his thoughts on--each album and key singles; and recounts the highlights and lowlights of the band's time on the road. It's everything Ranking Roger and Beat fans could hope for and more.

Clearly, Ranking Roger was the right person (an ideal mix of great talent, charisma, intelligence, and PMA), plugged into the right band, at the right moment in time --all of which was illustrated in this story of his and The Beat's meteoric rise to fame. It was a mere nine months from the time sixteen year-old Roger joined The Beat until they were on Top of the Pops promoting their debut single for 2 Tone, "Tears of a Clown" (which reached #6 on the UK charts). Yet, through all this and his time with The Beat, Roger was remarkably mature and level-headed in learning how to successfully navigate his way to adulthood with humor and grace, despite the pitfalls of instant fame and the intense scrutiny/focus that resulted from being one of the first and few black pop media icons (along with Pauline Black, Neville Staple, Lynval Golding, and Rhoda Dakar) promoting an anti-racist message of "love and unity" in a very racist society.

The following passages are particularly profound and relevant to fans of Roger and the band--and are illustrative of Roger's clear-eyed assessment of his life and experience with The Beat.

When he was nine, Roger Charlery's family moved to Stetchford, which was an area with a heavy National Front presence, so he was forced to create strategies to deal with racists during his formative school years:
"Over time I developed my own ways of dealing with racism. If somebody said, 'You're a wog,' I would say, 'Yes, I am a Western Oriental Gentleman.' If they said, 'You're a nigger,' I'd say, 'That's one of the longest rivers in the world,' with the knowledge that the word derives from the River Niger where slaves were exported from West Africa. I would use my mouth, but non-aggressively. I was trying to each them something. Of course, if all else failed, I punched them." 
Roger added:
"There's been many a time when I've got on with racist people. When I've asked them why they're racist they don't really know. I concluded their bigotry came from their parents. I would say, 'If you like me you can't be racist.' They would say, 'You're all right, Roger. It's the others.' I would say, 'I am the others. I'm a representative of the others.'"
The Beat and other 2 Tone acts--most of which were interracial, played black music, and were actively involved in promoting racial tolerance--often drew large contingents of racist and Nazi skinheads to their shows, some were fans (talk about cognitive dissonance), while others paid the entrance fee to be there to disrupt the goings on or cause violence. Learning how to effectively counter/shut them down was a steep learning curve for the band. During The Beat's first tour supporting The Selecter in the summer of 1979, they encountered a particularly hostile audience in London. Roger recounted:
"It was packed with about five hundred skinheads. From backstage we could see the audience shouting 'Sieg Heil' and doing Nazi salutes. We were all terrified...I was like, 'I've got to go on stage to that? What's going to happen? The first coin that's thrown at me I'm down in the audience. I'll knock them out.' We went on and throughout the gig the chanting continued. I was saying to myself, 'Just keep going. If you jump into the audience someone might have a knife.' Thank God we were good and there wasn't any serious trouble. The flagrant Nazism on show was a shock but we went down really well. The music got through. But as we came off stage, Desmond Brown, The Selecter's organ player, started shouting at Andy [Cox], 'Don't you ever fucking do that again! You're a cunt if you get scared by an audience.' He obviously had taken umbrage at our nonaggression and was laying it on really thick...We were all going, 'London is fucking heavy.' How do you weigh that up? We're educating racists? It gave me reason to want to continue. From that night on I had something to fight for and I came to believe that wherever there is racism, Beat music should be played. In its very essence it is anti-racist music."
But Roger soon figured out the best--and non-violent--response to the racists in the audience at Beat shows:
"The fascists would do it to wind you up. You had to ignore it and show them that you were better than that. From then on I always used the power of the microphone to control a situation. It was a great art to learn. As soon as there was a fight, it was, 'Right, everyone stop. Spotlight on them two now.' Then I'd say, 'What do you thing of this lot,' and the rest of the audience would boo. 'Okay, you want them out. Let me hear you say "Out...out...out."' You'd get a big cheer and then go into the next number."
In a similar vein, one of Roger's observations about the racist undercurrent of a certain strain of twisted patriotism in the United States in the early 1980s has particular resonance today with a white supremacist in the White House:
"Dave wrote 'I Am Your Flag' about young working-class men being used to fight in the name of nationalism dying to become man because I am your flag. While we had been on our in America, we were struck by how proud people were of their flag. You would see the Stars and Stripes everywhere. If you saw that many Union Jacks in England, you'd think 'National Front.'"
Roger was referring to The Beat's debut album I Just Can't Stop It in the following passage, but it aptly captures the band's essence and speaks to their great appeal:
"I loved The Beat because it was about two sides of the coin, in every way: in subject; in music. It crossed borders and appealed to a socialist conscience or simply to people in relationships, who could say, 'I've experienced that.' We were talking about real things--whether they be political, social or romantic--and our experiences. Punk and reggae lyrics were about social reality. We just updated it to sing about our lives. Songs like 'Two Swords,' about racism, or 'Big Shot,' which Dave wrote about capitalism after standing in the freezing cold at a bus stop in Five Ways [in Birmingham] trying to get to work. He said he would watch Rolls-Royces and BMWs go past and the drivers would deliberately steer into puddles and splash everyone in the queue."
The band's most overtly political song was, of course, "Stand Down Margaret," which was released as a single (in a dub version) with "Best Friend" on the flip side--and all proceeds going to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and Anti-Nuclear Campaign, aimed at shutting down nuclear power plants ("Psychedelic Rockers," the b-side to "Too Nice to Talk To," expressed the very real dread of dying in a nuclear war: "On a night like tonight, when I'm losing my hope/I pray for the best with my heart and soul/It is the hardest...At the edge of your nerves where the lights are pretty/A change in the weather and it smothers the city/Psychedelic, psychedelic, psychedelic war...Well, it's an atmospheric shock..."). But expressing their fiercely anti-Thatcher sentiments (in response to her racism and xenophobia--Thatcher: "People are really rather afraid that this country might be rather swamped by people of a different culture"; slashing of funding for education, housing, and social services; privatization of state-owned industries; wholesale business deregulation; and her belligerent Cold War stance aligned with Ronald Reagan that included allowing the US to base cruise missiles in England--making it all the more likely to be on the USSR's list of first strike targets, should nuclear war ever break out) came at a steep price. "Best Friend" b/w "Stand Down Margaret (Dub)" was the first Beat single (an amazing, double AA sided one at that) not to crack to the Top 20--they later learned that the BBC had secretly banned it--and Roger noted that even though Wha'ppen sold well (and many of its songs, like "Get-A-Job," "All Out to Get You," and "Monkey Murders," were pointed commentary on the state of things under Thatcher's rule; I got a kick out of learning that Wakeling wrote "Drowning" while holed up in the Empire Hotel in Manhattan--later in the 1980s, I lived there while going to college nearby, since the school's campus had no dorms), none of their post-"Margaret" singles did well on the British charts, and the next and last album Special Beat Service was much better received in the US than the UK. Even though Roger opined that it was probably their proudest moment, it marked the turning point that led to the eventual downfall of The Beat.

With an increasingly hostile UK press, suspected surveillance ("We were taking risks and there were times we thought we were being watched by the government. They probably sought we were communists or subversives. We would see suspicious-looking people at our gigs. It was very scary."), and imposed limits on their charting (and financial) success, led the band to shift their lyrics from political to interpersonal conflict (to focus on one side of the coin, so to speak) with Special Beat Service, and concentrate more on the receptive college rock/new wave scene in the US than what was going on in Blighty.
"The disenchantment in the UK surrounding The Beat signposted a new beginning for the band. For us, it was like, 'Well, we've said everything we have to say politically,' so as the band got more popular in the States, we started writing more pop and love songs. The next batch of songs replaced political issues with personal politics: we live with politics and we live with people. There's politics in relationships. It was good to combine the two, and as they used to say in the Seventies, 'the personal is political.' It got us to the next level."
The Beat's break-up came after a Top of the Pops appearance in support of the final Beat single, a remix of "Can't Get Used to Losing You" (from the What is Beat? comp), and three dates opening for David Bowie (and, afterwards, apparently an offer to open for Bowie on a nine-week tour of North America). Instead of continuing work on demoing songs for The Beat's fourth album, Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger left the band. Wakeling had spoken to Roger privately and repeatedly about it during their 1983 tour of America with REM (in 1982, they had toured the US with The Police and The Clash; they also played both US Festivals), convincing him of their elevated self-worth and how much more they'd earn splitting everything two ways instead of evenly with the rest of the band, as was their practice. In this book, Roger readily admits to succumbing to greed and hubris and, in time, came to massively regret this decision. He surmised that the never realized fourth Beat album--a combination of All the Rage... and Fine Young Cannibals--would have been pretty fantastic.

Loads more of interest is covered here, including tales about General Public and some dish about Madonna, Gwen Stefani, and The Bangles' Susannah Hoff (and there are the cliched rock star exploits about hooking up with countless women on tour in America that don't play well in this #MeToo age, but I suppose go along with the warts and all tenor of the book). And I never knew that "Save It For Later"--their most popular and enduring song in the US--was written during Wakeling's Isle of Wright days, before The Beat formed, when he and Cox were building frames for solar panels. They used to perform it during The Beat's early days in Birmingham, but didn't record it for I Just Can't Stop It, because David Steele thought it was "too rock...too old wave." (It's one of their greatest tracks and it helped buoy my spirits countless times when someone in my life or life itself was disappointing; but I've always found it depressingly juvenile that Wakeling wrote the lyric as a play on "save it, fellator," which gives "just hold my hand while I come...to a decision on it" a different spin, and insisted on printing the "fellator" lyrics on the inner sleeve of the Special Beat Service album that I picked up when it was originally released.)

While "I Just Can't Stop It: My Life in The Beat" was never intended as Roger's final memorial--there was certainly much more music for him to make and performing left to do (he became sick following the completion of this manuscript)--after reading this book (and listening to his excellent, final album Public Confidential, which he felt really captured spirit and sound of original band), one comes away from it with the sense that his life was so well-lived and to the absolute fullest--and that his fans (myself included) were so fortunate to share part of his life and gifts through his and The Beat's incredible recordings and live shows.

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Friday, August 2, 2019

Singles Going Skanking: Susan Cadogan's "Breakfast in Bed," Danny Rebel and the KGB's "Spacebound"


(Reviews by Steve Shafer)

Danny Rebel and the KGB's most recent album, 2017's Lovehaus, was a phenomenal ska-reggae-soul-pop gem packed with incredibly catchy and evocative songs, so it's great to finally see a new release (even if it's only one track) from this spectacular band. The beautiful but melancholy "Spacebound"  is a "Space Oddity" of sorts for our times (with a little "Man Who Fell to Earth" mixed in) and sequel to their apocalyptic track "When the Lights Go Out" from Lovehaus. Instead of tentatively reaching out to explore the final frontier, it's concerned with escaping the goddamn mess humanity's made of everything here below: "With this clock here going in reverse...When I'm fed up and wanna quit/I'll shimmy on down to my rocket ship/All the madness on this Earth just makes me sick." (Danny, how much room do you have on that ship? 'Cause there are a whole lot of people who want to join you on this ride...)

Over the past few years, legendary reggae singer Susan Cadogan has issued a string of consistency  amazing new releases in conjunction with producer-songwriter-musician-King Kong 4 man Mitch Girio (see The Duff Guide to Ska reviews of Mitch and the King Kong 4 here)--and her latest digital single ("Breakfast in Bed" b/w "Don't Burn Your Bridges Behind You," digital, 2019) does not fail to impress. This time out, she covers Dusty Springfield's classic "Breakfast in Bed" (written by Eddie Hinton and Donnie Fritts), which also has been recorded by Hortense Ellis, Lorna Bennett, Scotty, Bongo Herman and the Harry J Allstars, Sheila Hylton, and UB40 with Chrissy Hynde, amongst others over the years. This terrific rocksteady version of this song--about being the "other woman" comforting someone else's boyfriend/husband--is joyful, playful, and lusty, where Dusty's is tinged with heartache that their time together can only be sporadic and fleeting. I was completely unfamiliar with "Don't Burn Your Bridges Behind You" by 1970s, NYC-based soul/disco band Ecstasy, Passion and Pain, which apparently was a huge hit in Jamaica in 1974. While the original is offered as an admonishment (to someone who's going to light the matches, anyway), Cadogan's sprightly take is more like good advice from a trusted friend.

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Thursday, August 1, 2019

The Duff Guide to Ska Summer/Fall 2019 NYC Ska Calendar #7

The magnificent Beat
Friday, August 2, 2019 @ 7:00 pm

The Prizefighters, The Pandemics

The Kingsland Bar and Grill
269 Norman Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
16+

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Sunday, August 4, 2019 @ 12:00 pm

The Shipwrecks, plus DJ Alexander Orange Drink

Riis Park Beach Bazaar
Jacob Riis Park
within Gateway National Recreation Area
16702 Rockaway Beach Blvd
Queens, NY
Free/All ages

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Friday, August 16, 2019 @ 6:00 pm

The Slackers

Rocks Off Concert Cruise
The Liberty Belle Riverboat
Boards Pier 36, 299 South Street
New York, NY
$35 in advance/$40 day of show
21+

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Saturday, August 17, 2019 @ 8:00 pm

Subway to Skaville presents The Hempsteadys, Stop the Presses, Joker's Republic, Love is a Fist, plus DJ Ryan Midnight

Otto's Shrunken Head
538 East 14th Street (between Avenues A and B)
New York, NY
No cover, but bring cash for the tip jar for the bands!
21+

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Wednesday, August 21, 2019 @ 7:00 pm

Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Bedouin Soundclash

Webster Hall
125 East 11th Street
New York, NY
$29.50

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Saturday, August 24, 2019 @ 12:00 pm

Beat Brigade, plus Future Punx DJs

Riis Park Beach Bazaar
Jacob Riis Park
within Gateway National Recreation Area
16702 Rockaway Beach Blvd
Queens, NY
Free/All ages

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Wednesday, August 28, 2019 @ 8:00 pm

NY Ska Jazz Ensemble

Iridium Jazz Club
1650 Broadway
New York, NY
$25/all ages

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Friday, August 30, 2019 @ 8:00 pm

The Skapones (UK), The Pandemics, Ensemble Calavera, plus DJ Ryan Midnight

The Kingsland Bar and Grill
269 Norman Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
16+

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Wednesday, September 11, 2019 @ 7:00 pm

The Selecter w/special guest DJ Rhoda Dakar (Bodysnatchers/Special AKA)

Gramercy Theater
127 East 23rd Street
New York, NY
$29.50/16+

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Friday, September 20, 2019 @ 7:00 pm

The Toasters, Beat Brigade, Catbite

The Kingsland Bar and Grill
269 Norman Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
16+

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Saturday, September 21, 2019 @ 8:00 pm

Lee Scratch Perry and Subatomic Sound System, The Far East, DJ 2Melo

Industry City Courtyard 1/2
(Food Hall Entrance)
238 36th Street,
Brooklyn, NY
$25 in advance/$32 day of show
21+

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Thursday, September 26, 2019, doors @ 6:00 pm/show @ 8:00 pm

UB40 (Robin Campbell, Brian Travers, Jimmy Brown, Earl Falconer and Norman Hassan, Duncan Campbell, Martin Meredith, Lawrence Parry and Tony Mullings)

Sony Hall
235 W 46th Street
New York, NY
Tickets: $39.50 in advance/$45 day of show
All ages

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Saturday, October 2, 2019 @ 7:00 pm

Five Iron Frenzy, Mustard Plug, Mephiskapheles

Gramercy Theatre
127 East 23rd Street
New York, NY
$26.50 in advance/$30 day of show
16+
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