Friday, December 9, 2016

New Releases from Destroy Babylon and Flying Vipers

We're very much looking forward to two upcoming new releases that are slated for early 2017--the fifth album from Boston's incredible roots reggae act Destroy Babylon and the second cassette tape from their dub spin-off the Flying Vipers (there's a video teaser for "Dubbin' in the Den" here).

(Read what The Duff Guide to Ska thought of Destroy Babylon's most recent album Long Live the Vortex here and the Flying Vipers' debut The Green Tape here.)

And if you're in the Boston metro area, make sure to check out Destroy Babylon's next show at The Middle East on Saturday, December 17, 2017 with NYC's The Far East and Boston punks Whoopi Sticks! All the details are in the awesome Tom Robinson Band-inspired flyer to the right...

+ + + +

Thursday, December 8, 2016

New Selecter/Beat Split 7" Vinyl Single!

In recognition/celebration of their string of upcoming appearances together, Pauline Black's and Gaps Hendrickson's version of The Selecter is releasing a split 7" vinyl single with Ranking Roger's version of The Beat. This double A sided 45--out December 16, 2016 and available for order here--features The Selecter's "Breakdown" (about the unjustified police killings of unarmed black men and women from their recent Subculture album) and The Beat's "Side By Side" (from Bounce).

Both bands are performing at the BBC Radio 6 Music Christmas Ska Party at Maida Vale Studios on Tuesday, December 13th along with Mungo’s Hi Fi and David ‘Ram Jam’ Rodigan. The Selecter and Beat are then scheduled to tour the UK together in spring 2017:

Friday 31 March – Glasgow O2 ABC
Saturday 1 April – Manchester Old Granada Studios
Friday 7 April – Nottingham Rock City
Saturday 8 April – Bristol O2 Academy
Friday 28 April – -Birmingham O2 Institute
Saturday 29 April – London O2 Shepherds Bush Empire

+ + + +

Monday, December 5, 2016

Duff Guide to Ska Fast Takes: The Uptown Ska Collective "The Uptown EP"

(Review by Steve Shafer)

The Uptown Ska Collective The Uptown EP (six-track 10" vinyl EP/cassette, Foruli Limited Edition Books and Records, 2016): In addition to his recent performances with The Specials in various parts of the globe and creating his now trademark cassette paintings (like the one he did for Lynval Golding's Know Your Rights EP), The Specials' bass player Horace Panter is keeping busy with his other band--The Uptown Ska Collective--which is devoted to (and honors/celebrates) 60s-style ska and rocksteady made by the originators (with nary a trace of 2 Tone in sight!). The core of The Uptown Ska Collective is made up of The Specials' touring band's keyboardist (Nikolaj Torp Larsen) and horn section augmented by a few other musicians, including vocalist Jocelyn Harris of The Pressure Tenants (who backed Laurel Aitken for a spell), and the quality of their playing and musicianship is really top-notch, as would be expected. The Uptown EP kicks off with a great rendition of Don Drummond's "Occupation," followed by a cover of Booker T. and the M.G.s' "Heads or Tails" that would have made Jackie Mittoo mighty proud, and "Bushfire," an original instrumental by TUSC's Jon Read (trumpet, guitar) which could slip into The Skatalites' oeuvre unnoticed. Harris' lovely and winning alto dominates the vocal side of the EP, with its reverent versions of Phyllis Dillon's "Don't Stay Away," Marley's "Simmer Down," and soul singer Clarence Carter's "Slip Away" (his "Back Door Santa" was sampled by Run-D.M.C. for "Christmas in Hollis"). Not much new territory is trod here (it's not really the point), but The Uptown Ska Collective do what they do so well that you'll be more than happy to have this record in heavy rotation on your turnable.

+ + + +

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Duff Guide to Ska NYC Winter 2016/2017 Ska Calendar #41

1978: Dambala, Tom Robinson, and Misty in Roots (Photo by Syd Shelton)
Monday, December 12, 2016 -- 2 Sets: 6:00 pm and 9:30 pm

Sekta Core, Nana Pancha

Tobacco Road
355 West 41st Street
New York, NY
6:00 pm show: $30/9:30 pm show: $40

+ + + +

Saturday, December 17, 2016 @ 9:00 pm

The Slackers, The Frightnrs, Full Watts, DJ John Glenn Soundsystem

Bell House
149 7th Street
Brooklyn, NY

+ + + +

Thursday, December 29, 2016 @ 8:00 pm

The Skints, Rude Boy George, The Far East

Knitting Factory Brooklyn
361 Metropolitan Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
$15 in advance/$20 day of show
All ages

+ + + +

Thursday, December 29, 2016 @ 8:00 pm

HR (of Bad Brains), Dubb Agents, Skarroñeros, Kingsound

The Bowery Electric
327 Bowery
New York, NY
$12 in advance/$15 day of show

+ + + +

Friday, December 30, 2016 @ 7:30 pm

The Porkers, The Pandemics, The Rudie Crew, Skarroneros

Knitting Factory Brooklyn
361 Metropolitan Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
$12 in advance/$15 day of show

+ + + +

Saturday, January 14, 2017 @ 9:00 pm


Shrine World Music Venue
2271 Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard/7th Avenue
New York, NY
No cover!

+ + + +

Friday, February 24, 2017 @ 7:00 pm

The Skatalites

Brooklyn Bowl
61 Wythe Avenue
Brooklyn, NY

+ + + +

Friday, March 17, 2017 @ 7:00 pm

The Pietasters

The Marlin Room @ Webster Hall
125 East 11th Street
New York, NY$16/16+

+ + + +

Friday, March 31, 2017 @ 8:00 pm

Los Fabulosos Cadillacs

The Theatre at Madison Square Garden
4 Penn Plaza
New York, NY
Tickets: $35-$95

+ + + +

Duff Guide to Ska Fast Takes: Two New Singles from The Ska Flames!

(Review by Steve Shafer)

The Ska Flames "Hoppin' Steppin'" b/w "Someday" and "El Camino" b/w "Hometown Waltz" (vinyl singles, Sun Shot Records, 2016; available in the USA through Jump Up Records): The Ska Flames first came to the attention of trad/vintage ska fans outside of Japan courtesy of Gaz Mayall, who produced and released their now classic debut LP Ska Fever on his label in 1989 (it was recorded during the Ska Flames' first visit to the UK in 1988, when they performed at the Notting Hill Festival and Gaz's Rockin' Blues). While the band seemed to go dormant after a string of excellent releases in the first half of the 1990s (ending with 1995's Damn Good, which featured the "Godfather of Ska" Laurel Aitken, and Skatalites Roland Alphonso and Lester Sterling), they've been at it again in the 2000s and have just issued a new album Turn-up on their own Sun Shot label. Jump Up's Chuck Wren--a huge fan of the band--managed to obtain hard-to-come-by copies of these two singles off the album to offer to followers in the US (Chuck, can you import the Turn-up LP, too?). "Hoppin' Steppin'" is a bright, swinging Skatalites-styled ska instrumental designed to pack the dance floor, while "Someday" is melancholy rocksteady tune full of longing that sounds like it was taken from the American Pop Standard songbook, circa 1962. The rollicking instrumental "El Camino" is pure Latin ska (think of Jump With Joey's "El Diablo Ska"), but things shift gears for "Hometown Waltz" (sung in Japanese), which is solely for the purpose of slow dances or sobbing into your pint of beer. Get 'em before they're gone!

+ + + +

Friday, November 4, 2016

Duff Review: Arthur Kay and The Originals "Rare 'N' Tasty" Reissue!

(By Steve Shafer)

Arthur Kay and The Originals Rare 'N' Tasty (LP, Mad Butcher/Black Butcher Classics, 2016 re-issue--available in the US through Jump Up Records): Back in 2008, MOJO Magazine dubbed Arthur Kay (nee Kitchener) as "the unsung hero of ska" and included one of his tracks in their Dawning of a New Era compilation CD, alongside The Specials, Desmond Dekker, Toots and the Maytals, Rico, Bob Marley, Laurel Aitken, Dandy Livingstone, and others. But his inclusion with such illustrious company surely left many casual ska fans scratching their heads. While he had built a considerable following of die-hard ska fans during 2 Tone and the late 80s/early 90s British/Euro ska revival, Arthur Kay never quite achieved the level of popularity and recognition that was his due, despite being a UK ska pioneer who had been in the right place at the right time with great and undeniably catchy material.

A first-generation South London mod in 1965, Kay had played bass in The Next Collection, which performed a mix of Tamla and Stax soul covers as well as their own songs at venues like the famed Ram Jam Club (where they played a week after Jimi Hendrix's debut there). Like many other mods, Kay also had caught the ska bug via the Prince Buster singles that were seemingly ever-present on the sound systems of all the clubs he frequented that year. In a development that further galvanized Kay's interest in ska, The Next Collection had the great fortune to back the great JA ska trombonist Rico Rodriguez and jazz trumpeter Harry Beckett during their first-ever recording session. But by 1966, Kay had left the band to become a session bass player at Chalk Farm Recording Studios in Camden (owned by The Next Collection's manager Vic Keary and Blue Beat Records/Melodisc owner Emil Shalit), where Kay appeared on many reggae recordings released on Trojan Records.

Just before 2 Tone hit in 1979, when there was no galvanized ska scene in the UK to speak of, Kay released his "Ska Wars" b/w "Warska" single for a local indie Red Admiral Records, which seemed to anticipate the looming ska craze (though Kay's ska sound had little in common with what The Specials, Selecter, and Madness were about to unleash--it was more of a stripped-down, often minor-key affair, devoid of any punk rock influences or hint of its origins in rhythm and blues). With only limited radio play and no major label backing, all 10,000 copies of the single still managed to sell out quickly, yet it never charted. The even stronger follow-up 45 on Red Admiral "Play My Record" (by Arthur Kay and the Originals), about how radio playlists are largely pay-to-play and dominated by the deep-pocketed major labels, was released during the fever pitch of 2 Tone in 1980, but failed to attract any significant national attention (and a potentially momentous tour with The Bodysnatchers had to be turned down due to scheduling conflicts with various members of The Originals). Two other excellent singles--"No One But You" b/w "High Flyer" (by The Originals) and "Watching the Rich Kids" b/w "Doctor Bird" (by Arthur Kay and The Originators)--were recorded during the 2 Tone era, but not issued.

During the UK ska revival of the late 80s (which featured such extraordinary acts as the Potato 5, The Trojans, Laurel Aitken, Loafers, Bad Manners, Judge Dread, The Deltones, Maroon Town, The Hotknives, etc.), Skank Records, as part of their Invisible Ska Years series, collected all of Arthur Kay and The Originals' released and unreleased 2 Tone-era recordings and issued Rare 'N' Tasty in 1988. At the time of its release, all of the 1979/1980 cuts on Rare and Tasty were right in synch with the contemporary UK ska scene, which must have been particularly satisfying to Kay--even if he had been ignored by the music industry and press, the kids had paid attention. Arthur Kay and the Originals clearly had influenced many of the late 80s UK ska acts (all of which were all decidedly non-2 Tone in sound); you could hear it in The Loafers, The Hotknives, The Riffs, and others. Kay's music had helped spawn the next UK ska scene and, in doing so, revitalized his career.

Interest in the band surged after the release of the Skank comp and Arthur Kay's Originals went on to record and release three albums (Sparkes of Inspiration in 1989, The Count of Clerkenwell in 1995, and Live in Berlin in 1996) with yet another iteration of the band (who also sometimes served as Judge Dread's backing band until his death in 1998).

As I was writing this post, I remembered that the reviewers in George Marshall's amazing late 80s Scottish skazine Zoot! had been huge fans of Arthur Kay. So, I dug my treasured copies out of my closet and found the review of Rare 'N' Tasty in Zoot! #9 (all of Zoot's reviews were always spot-on and brilliantly succinct). The rave write-up, which notes the injustice of Arthur Kay's exclusion from the history of UK ska/2 Tone, concludes with this line: "If I was a millionaire, I'd make sure everyone had a copy."

+ + + +

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Duff Review: Susan Cadogan's "Take Me Back" EP!

(By Steve Shafer)

Susan Cadogan Take Me Back (digital EP, Stonyhill Records, 2016): While she is best known for her Lee "Scratch" Perry-produced 1975 hit "Hurt So Good" (#4 on the UK charts) and her classic self-titled 1976 album of "romantic reggae" for Trojan (which was also produced by Perry and is being re-issued on heavyweight vinyl in late October in celebration of Scratch's 80th birthday this year), reggae singer Susan Cadogan has been fairly active in the 2000s (for example, see her recent single with Ken Boothe on Jump Up) and her voice is still in absolutely gorgeous shape. Having said that, it was still a wonderful surprise to find that she's released an EP's worth of really fantastic new tracks on her Stonyhill Records label--all co-written by Mitch "King Kong" Girio of King Apparatus and Prince Perry fame, who also performed on, recorded, and produced these tracks. (It's very much worth mentioning that Take Me Back was recorded in Jamaica, Canada, and Germany by an all star team including “Lucky” Pete Lambert of The Trojans on drums, Jammal Tarkington and Rodney Teague of Keyser Soze on horns, Ryan Chopik of The Harmonauts on organ, Meher Steinberg of Prince Perry/King Apparatus on keys, and Girio on guitars and bass--they've done Cadogan proud.)

As might be expected, Take Me Back is full of damaged love songs--all exploring the Venn diagram of ecstasy and agony delineated in "Hurt So Good." The EP opens with a sultry and ethereal version of One Night Band's "Crazy" (co-written with Girio and Lorraine Muller of The Kingpins, Fabulous Lolo, etc.), which is a stellar rocksteady track about taking stock of a relationship after it's done and one's head is clear: "I must have been crazy to beg you to stay/Crazy enough to take you in anyway... Standing by the open door/Waiting for you to hurt me once more." Things shift quickly to the irrepressibly optimistic "Take Me Back"--see if you can resist singing along with the backup singers during the chorus--a song full of eager anticipation for the good things that could come if all is forgiven. "I Don't Want to Play Around" sounds like it could be a recently unearthed 2 Tone single (that would have hit it big!). Cadogan's heartbreaking performance on the dark "Leaving" is simply devastating ("The hardest part of leaving you/Is knowing that you'll move on, too/Holding somebody's hand/Instead of mine"). And even though the subject matter is kind of bleak ("The neighbors still talk/My best friends ask/It's the worst it could be/But when you left this home/You also took the best from me"), the EP ends with "The Best of Me," a sprightly and crazy catchy early/skinhead reggae cut.

I am in no way exaggerating when I state that this is one of the best ska/rocksteady releases I've heard this year.

+ + + +

Friday, October 28, 2016

David Katz Tribute to Prince Buster and More in November Issue of MOJO

The November 2016 issue of MOJO Magazine contains an excellent piece by reggae author/expert David Katz honoring Prince Buster's extraordinary career, his many musical achievements, and his impact on music worldwide. One of the interesting things I learned from the article was how Prince Buster and The Trojans' Gaz Mayall became fast friends and collaborators (they met when Prince Buster appeared with The Skatalites at the Reggae Sunsplash Festival at Crystal Palace FC's Selhurst Park in London in 1984, where Gaz convinced him to start performing regularly again; in fact, a few years later, Buster recorded the "Stack-O-Lee" single with The Trojans for Gaz's label and Gaz put together King of Ska in 1992, quite possibly the best Prince Buster compilation ever released).

Also within these pages are stellar reviews of The Frightnrs' Nothing More to Say ("'s one of the most thrilling rocksteady albums to have been made since the genre emerged in the late '60s..."), Max Romeo's Horror Zone (which I reviewed for The Duff Guide to Ska in August), and the book "Walls Come Tumbling Down: The Music and Politics of Rock Against Racism, 2 Tone and Red Wedge 1976-1992" (which I'm planning to review once I've finished reading John Savage's lengthy tome "1966: The Year the Decade Exploded").

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Duff Guide to Ska Fast Takes: New Secret Affair Single, Dennis Bovell's "Heaven" 12", and the "Skinhead Reggae 1969" Comp!

(Reviews by Steve Shafer)

Dennis Bovell "Heaven" (Four-track 12" vinyl EP, Optimo Music, 2016): The wonderful funky afro-beat title track of this EP comes from Dennis Bovell's 1981 genre-defying Brain Damage LP and concerns our elusive (and probably futile) struggle to live in peace and harmony ("On bombs and guns they spend their funds/Instead of investing in humanity... Tomorrow may one day too late/Now is the time to investigate/Heaven right here on Earth") and is accompanied by its club edit for your maximum dancing pleasure (both will remind anyone who was around in the early 1980s of the fantastic musical experimentation and hybrids of sounds that were a hallmark of the post-punk/New Wave era). The flip side of this EP contains Bovell's truly brilliant 1981 dub collaboration with American singer/songwriter Garland Jeffreys, "Escape Goat Dub"--a word play on "scapegoat"--which contains these toasts dropped in the mix: "I was walking down the road in the blistering heat/A bomb explode on a hot concrete/It can happen in the broad daylight...Separate a black from his rights/The like to separate a black from the white...I was walking down the road one afternoon/Feeling upset, no I'm not immune/What do you think of world like that? Think...think...think"). Epic had arranged for Bovell to produce several tracks for Jeffreys' new album (which would eventually become the Bob Clearmountain-produced Escape Artist), but since Jeffreys was a huge fan of reggae and dub, the duo ended up creating several dub tracks instead of the expected rock and reggae singer/songwriter cuts, much to Epic's displeasure. However, these dubs were released on the Escapades 7" EP that was included as a free single that came with the first pressing of Escape Artist. "Escape Goat Dub" (which is a version of Escapades' "Miami Beach" and featured Linton Kwesi Johnson) was relegated to the B side of Jeffreys' great cover of ? and the Mysterians' "96 Tears"--though the version here comes from a 12" promo that was only released in France.  A sunshine-y bright reggae instrumental called "Smouche," also from Brain Damage, closes out this must-have Bovell set.

Secret Affair "Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)" b/w "Crumble Gunn" (7" vinyl single, I-Spy Records, 2016): Many in the US may not be aware of it, but Secret Affair--with original members Ian Page and guitarist David Cairns--have been pretty active in the new millennium (first reuniting in 2002 after their 1982 break-up), touring extensively and recording a surprisingly good new album Soho Dreams in 2012. Their latest release for the mod faithful is an absolutely scorching cover of Frank Wilson's 1965 Motown rarity "Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)." Apparently Berry Gordy so disliked Wilson's vocals--and didn't want his producers to have recording careers--that he destroyed almost every promo copy of the single and nixed its release to the music-buying public. But, in one of those unusual twists of fate, years later Wilson's song became so popular at the famed Northern soul nightclub Wigan Casino whenever their very valuable copy was played that Tamla-Motown finally gave the people what they wanted and released the single in the UK in 1979. "Crumble Gunn" is an inspired organ-heavy instrumental mash-up of Henry Mancini's "Peter Gunn" with The Quik's 1967 mod fave "Bert's Apple Crumble" that shows off the re-constituted Secret Affairs' formidable chops. Both of these tracks must be something to behold whenever Secret Affair plays them live.

Various Artists Skinhead Reggae 1969 (CD/LP, Kingston Sounds/Jamaican Recordings, 2016): While virtually all of the tracks on Skinhead Reggae 1969 can be found Trojan's impressive double-CD Dancehall '69: 40 Skinhead Reggae Rarities (issued back in 2003), this particular comp is really worth acquiring on vinyl, as you would be hard-pressed to find any used copies of most of these original singles. (I immediately picked up this record when I saw that it included Max Romeo and The Hippy Boys' phenomenal "Clap Clap," which isn't for sale anywhere on Discogs.) In addition to their common musical sub-genre, what connects the songs on Skinhead Reggae 1969 is that all of them were produced or financed by Bunny "Striker" Lee in the late 60s/early 70s and oftentimes these recordings involved many of the same musicians. (It's also worth remembering that Bunny Lee co-wrote and produced Judge Dread's massive skinhead/rude reggae hit "Big Seven"--#8 on the UK charts in 1972.) Skinhead Reggae 1969's highlights include the Bunny Lee Allstars' "Warfare," "Annie Pama" (an instrumental version of The Maytals' "Monkey Man"), and "Revenge of Eastwood" (which versions Prince Buster's incredible "Drunkard Psalm" and is one of many skinhead reggae tracks that falls into the spaghetti Western reggae category--see The Hippy Boys below); King Horror's "Cutting Blade" (King Horror was Laurel Aitken's musical alter ego); Max Romeo's "Melting Pot" (a cover of Blue Mink's song which, as good intentioned as it was, ironically manages to be racist in its promotion of racial integration); The Des All Stars' "Walk with Des"; The Hippy Boys' "Peace Maker" and "Death Rides a Horse"; and Lloyd Charmers' "In The Spirit." Since we're on the topic of skinhead reggae, if you ever come across Dawning of a New Era: The Roots of Skinhead Reggae don't hesitate to buy it--most of these cuts don't appear on any other skinhead reggae comps, Trojan or otherwise.

+ + + +

Friday, October 21, 2016

Madness Release New Video for "Herbert" from 11th Album "Can't Touch Us Now"!

With the UK release of Madness' 11th album Can't Touch Us Now just a week away (!), comes the second music video in support of the Nutty Boys' "Herbert" (which in the song's context refers to "a foolish or ridiculous man").  Make sure to check out the equally awesome first video from this record--"Mr. Apples"!

We'll have a review up of Can't Touch Us Now as soon as our imported copy arrives in the mail from England!

+ + + +