Wednesday, September 30, 2009

NYC Ska Show Reminder: Megalith Ska Splash at Crookland Knitting Factory This Saturday Night!

Whatever Happened To Yellow Pages? Whatever Happened to Burning Books?

In a fascinating article ("Record Stores: Out of Sight, Not Obsolete") in today's New York Times about NYC record stores that went bust, but whose owners are still somewhat in business, selling their deep stock out of their apartments to collectors who have taken the time to track them down--comes some news about Jammyland, the much beloved Manhattan reggae shop that closed last year:
Ira Heaps ran the tiny East Village reggae shop Jammyland from 1992 until last year, and now sells his leftovers in his even tinier apartment nearby. Boxes of albums and singles fill up the space beneath a loft bed, and the walls are lined with yet more boxes. Mr. Heaps said old customers sought him out after the store closed.

“It started with D.J. friends of mine,” he said. “ ‘Come on, what happened to your stuff?’ I said mainly it’s in my apartment. They said, ‘Can we come over?’ I said sure.” Mr. Heaps, 45, still sounds bitter about the demise of his store. “Jammyland ruined me,” he said. “I gave it 16 years of my life. It ruined two marriages. I have nothing to show for it.”

Actually, what he has to show for it is encyclopedic knowledge — he rhapsodized for 15 minutes about “Bam Bam,” a 1982 hit by Sister Nancy, and would not let a reporter leave without buying a dozen carefully chosen singles — and a central position in a network of collectors who, he said, found him even during a period when he had disconnected his phone.

And Mr. Heaps said he simply liked hanging out with fellow music lovers, a sentiment echoed by many former store owners.
The sad thing is that I've been to all of the shuttered record stores mentioned in this piece--and I miss them all.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

From the Duff Archives: The NY Citizens' On The Move Review

The article below comes from the very depths of The Duff Guide to Ska's archives. This past weekend, I stopped off very briefly at my parents' house in Yonkers and managed to rifle through one of my old storage bins that contains all sorts of bits of pieces of my life. Happily, I was finally able to dig out a review of The NY Citizens' On the Move LP that I had written in my senior year at college, which was published in the March 23, 1989 issue of Fordham University's College at Lincoln Center's student paper, The Observer. (I had written about this review previously, but hadn't been able to locate my copy of this issue until now.)

Apart from a few cringe-worthy passages at the beginning, I'm relieved to find that it's a pretty decent piece of writing--if I don't say so myself. Just to give you a few points of reference, The Coliseum was the local dive (58th Street, right off Eighth Avenue--the Apple Bank that used to be across the avenue had an ATM that gave out cash in increments of $5.00, which was pretty convenient when you didn't have that much to begin with, but still needed to contribute something toward the next pitcher of beer) that the theater majors, arty-types, and freaks hung out in, where they served cheap, diluted Rolling Rock; never checked IDs; had a latrine in back that masqueraded as a bathroom; and during the week always threw us out soon after midnight, as the barkeep had a long subway and bus ride home (to Yonkers!)--you could tell when he was done for the night because he'd mutter under his breath, just loud enough for you to hear as you walked away after purchasing your tenth pitcher of beer, "Get the fock outta my bar!" Also, The Toasters album about to be released was Thrill Me Up, while Bim's was Tuba City (both on Skaloid Records).

(I also found the ticket stub from the Toasters/Bim/NYCs show at The Ritz referred to in the review!).

Click on the image to enlarge it for reading...

Monday, September 28, 2009

Duff Guide to Ska Interview with Mike Drance of The Bluebeats

Since the mid-80s, Mike Drance has been a vital force on the New York City and Long Island ska scenes as a former singer, songwriter ("Rudy's Back," "Paul Getty," "Ali-Ska-Ba," "Goin' Back to Kingston"), and baritone saxophonist for The Scofflaws and founding member, singer, and songwriter for his current rocksteady band, The Bluebeats.

After catching up at a recent Bluebeats show, Mike was kind enough to agree to consent to an interview with The Duff Guide to Ska via e-mail...

The Duff Guide to Ska: When/how were you introduced to ska music--and what was the first ska (or rocksteady) album/single that you picked up?

Mike Drance: In 1980, when The Specials' and The Selecter's first records came out, I used to frequent a local record store in Huntington Village. At the time, I was into punk and new wave music and I remember seeing the lifesize cut out of the rude boy from the Selecter album cover in the store and thinking to myself, that is so fuckin' cool! I hadn't even heard the record yet. Soon thereafter, one of the guys at the bar/restaurant/disco I worked at at the time was playing The Specials' first record while we were setting up for the dinner crowd and I thought to myself, this is so fuckin' cool! Then I spoke to the DJ about the record and he showed me the cover and the connection was made. I was changed for life. I went out and bought The Specials and Selecter records almost simultaneously, then Madness followed, Bad Manners, etc. I cut my hair and was a Rudeboy from then on. A couple years after that, I was turned onto the original ska from the 60s by my friend Mike from The Nihilistics, a local hardcore band. We used to go to some of the local new wave clubs and go to shows together and he turned me onto the Intensified compilation and again I was hooked.

DGTS: When you were thinking about forming The Bluebeats back in the mid-90s, what attracted you to the rocksteady genre (as opposed to continuing with a vintage ska sound)?

MD: Well, as you know, I was in the New Bohemians in the early 80s, which was a garage/soul/funk/junk band at the time and when I joined, I began introducing more and more of the 60s ska stuff into the band's repertoire. We eventually became a full-fledged ska band and became The Scofflaws. I was with them for almost 10 years, so I had my fill of the vintage ska sound and was ready to do something different. At first I didn't find the rock steady as exciting as the ska, but the more I listened, the more I began to appreciate the wonderful melodies, vocals and pure soul of the music. To me, nothing is more soulful than rock steady and the early reggae tunes.

DGTS: What do The Bluebeats have on deck for the next year or so--any new recordings, big gigs, etc. (plug away!)?

MD: At this time, it's really hard for us to get together on a regular basis, with members starting families and all, so working on new material is hard to do. I've got quite a few tunes ready to go and a bunch more that need some work with the band, but it looks like it's gonna be a while before we get another record out.

DGTS: Are any of the members of the band full-time musicians, or is everyone balancing family/work along with The Bluebeats?

MD: No full timers.

DGTS: As with many bands, The Bluebeats have gone through some personnel changes over the years--is being its musical director one of your roles (i.e.: is there a lot of collaboration with the other members of the band with writing new material and the choice of covers--or do you make all of these decisions)?

MD: It's more of a collaboration at this point. We share ideas and material and work on arrangements together.

DGTS: What have been your best and worst experiences performing in The Bluebeats?

MD: Best...The Brooklyn Rock Steady Festival back in 1995, I think? Steeplechase Park at Coney Island. That was a dream come true. Playing with the likes of Ken Boothe, Phyllis Dillon, Hopeton Lewis, Big Youth, John Holt, and others I can't remember. It was amazing! We blew a lot of minds that day. Being the only white group on the bill and pretty much the only white folk at the festival, people were looking at us setting up on stage and you can imagine what they might have been thinking. But from the first chord on, we immediately won them over, big time! It was great. Also the European tour with Laurel Aitken and Dave Barker was awesome. Europeans totally understood what we were about and I was very touched by their appreciation of our music.

Worst...Hmmm Nothing terrible. Everyone has bad gigs from time to time, but nothing that I can think of that I would say was really that bad.

DGTS: What are your thoughts about music file sharing? Have you found a lot of The Bluebeats' recordings available on-line for free downloading?

MD: I love the idea of file sharing. Honestly, I haven't looked to see what is available from The Bluebeats music for free. I don't care if it's all available. I want people to share music with each other and I hope people are sharing our music with each other.

DGTS: Which up-and-coming bands on the current ska scene should we keep an eye/ear out for?

MD: Our friend John Pinto had a band Cold Spot 8 that played the last NYC Knitting Factory gig that blew me away. Unfortunately, they are not a regular performing band. I've heard some tunes from a new incarnation called The Equilibirans that sound pretty hot, so I'm keeping an eye/ear out for them.

DGTS: What are your top five Desert Island ska/reggae albums or singles?

MD: Do you mean Treasure Island? Anyhow, I don't catalog records by label so I couldn't tell you and I hate faves lists anyway.

DGTS: Do you ever forsee the possiblity of a debut album-era Scofflaws reunion (it was a smokin' line-up you all had back then!)?

MD: It's been talked about from time to time. I don't see it happening anytime soon, but I'd be willing to have a go at it. I'd have to pick up the horn again and get my chops back anyhow.

DGTS: Thanks for doing this, Mike!

MD: Thank you, brother! Hope to see you at another show soon. Peace.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Madness: One Step Beyond 30th Anniversary Reissue

From the Madness Central fan site:
One Step Beyond Re-Issue Tracklisting And News
We are now able to bring you exciting news of the One Step Beyond album re-issue due for release on 26th October 2009. This has been a subject of much conversation round the Madniverse with speculation as to any likely “extras” that might be included and formats etc. Well wonder no longer and just….errr…wonder in awe at the feast that has been prepared. 2 CD’s, 33 audio tracks, 5 video tracks, booklet notes from Irvine Welsh and much more:

One Step Beyond - 30th anniversary release 2CD set

CD 1 Original Album & Videos

1. One Step Beyond
2. My Girl
3. Night Boat To Cairo
4. Believe Me
5. Land Of Hope and Glory
6. The Prince
7. Tarzan’s Nuts
8. In The Middle of the Night
9. Bed and Breakfast Man
10. Razor Blade alley
11. Swan Lake
12. Rockin’ In Ab
13. Mummy’s Boy
14. Madness
15. Chipmunks are Go

1. The Prince
2. One Step Beyond
3. Bed and Breakfast Man
4. My Girl
5. Night Boat To Cairo

CD 2 John Peel Sessions & Bonus Tracks

1. The Prince (Peel session)
2. Bed and Breakfast Man (Peel session)
3. Land of Hope & Glory (Peel session)
4. Stepping Into Line (Peel session)
5. One Step Beyond ( 7″ single version)
6. My Girl (Mike Barson Demo)
7. Mistakes
8. Un Paso Adelante
9. Nutty Theme
10. My Girl (Ballad - Flexipop)
11. Stepping Into Line
12. Un Paso Avanti
13. Deceives The Eye
14. The Young And The Old
15. Don’t Quote Me On That
16. Razor Blade Alley (Live Dance Craze)
17. Night Boat To Cairo (Live Dance Craze)
18. One Step Beyond (Live Dance Craze)

It has a 3 part card gate-fold-out packing, original album artwork on cover and on 3 panels inside sleeve.

With additional 1979 publicity shot.

24 page sleeve notes booklet including ”Number Two Cuts” written by author Irvine Welsh (one for Trainspotters this then!!), with singles and video art/photos, lyrics & credits. Collector's Checklist.

There is a Circle M design on sleeve and number 1 on spine to line up with forthcoming albums presumably Absolutely will be (2).

From Union Square Music on Salvo label. Digitally remastered.
Holy crap! This looks like it's gonna be an extraordinary re-issue (it even has the live tracks that had to be cut from the Dance Craze soundtrack)--they're setting the bar mighty high with this one!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Onion's AV Club Does Ska

As part of their "Gateways to Geekery," the AV Club takes on the three waves of ska with mixed results:
Geek obsession: Ska

Why it’s daunting: Ska isn’t daunting so much as it’s something most sane and so-called cool people wouldn’t care to be associated with. Even during the ’90s, the height of the genre’s popularity in the U.S., ska carried associations of dorks in suspenders, ridiculous dancing (that would be skanking, which might be effectively translated as “spazzercise,” or “slam-dancing for pussies”), and bands made up of repressed high-school band geeks trying too hard to rock out. Move those stereotypes out of the way, though, and you’re left with a rich, vibrant, and fun-as-fuck style of music that’s inherently inclusive and unpretentious—and one populated by some of the finest songwriters and instrumentalists in pop history.
The article goes on to recommend This Are Two Tone, Dance Craze, and the Trojan Ska Box Set as good introductions to the genre (fine choices, you certainly could do much worse). But then they have to dis the third wave (and include some inaccuracies...The Toasters formed in the early 80s and are still kickin', guys):
Where not to start: While the late ’80s and ’90s birthed some of the best ska bands of all time—including The Toasters, The Pietasters, Let’s Go Bowling, and Rancid precursor Operation Ivy—the era’s so-called Third Wave is also the main reason many people can’t stand the genre. And understandably so: Everything from ska-funk to Christian ska to the stoner abomination known as Sublime sprang from the Third Wave. Granted, bands like The Slackers and the reggae-leaning Hepcat survived the ’90s and still thrive—and the relatively new outfit The Aggrolites is as good as the genre has ever produced. But considering the high signal-to-shit ratio, fishing for good ska made during the last 20 years should be the last concern of the budding ska geek. Now: Get ready to head to the dance floor and throw those knees and elbows around like you’re an epileptic marionette.
Okay, the ska scene did kind of get out of hand at the end of the 90s, but there were a lot of great acts/releases that are getting the shaft here. Go on over to the AV Club site and vent your righteous rage...

An Oral History of 2 Tone Featured in Spin Magazine (Who Knew!?!?)

Thanks to John at Hoi Polloi Skazine for alerting me to the fact that Spin Magazine (which I literally haven't read since about 1987) contains an extensive article on the history of 2 Tone in its October 2009 issue (with sludge rockers Pearl Jam on the cover). A generous sampling of the article, unimaginably titled "Checkered Past: The Oral History of 2 Tone" (but done in a similar format as Legs McNeil's and Gillian McCain's great oral history of punk, Please Kill Me) is up on the Spin website now.

Earlier today, I looked for a copy of this issue at a few magazine shops in my neighborhood, which admittedly is neither hip nor fashionable, but none of them had any copies yet (they're always a little slow on the uptake around here).

Does a major article on 2 Tone in a fairly mainstream US music magazine portend a visit from Coventry's finest at some point in the future? I wanna know!

Across the Aisle to Appear on Checkerboard Kids TV Show

This week, Across the Aisle are filming a segment for Checkerboard Kids, a long-running, ska-influenced, public access cable variety show, hosted by Phil Esquire and The Masked Mutant. (In NYC, this show may be seen on cable--generally every other Tuesday night at midnight, but visit the Checkerboard Kids site for times and channels--if you are outside of the five boroughs, you can watch it at its broadcast time over the internet at I dropped Phil a line to find out when the ATA show will air and will pass that info along to The Duff Guide to Ska readers when I receive it. (Phil?)

Phil Esquire (and his trademark, gravity-defying poof of hair) has been a mainstay of the NYC ska scene for years--he graciously aired and promoted the ska videos we sent his way in my Moon days--and he continues to showcase many a great ska act on his program. Plus, he has great respect and admiration for Laurel "The Godfather of Ska" Aitken (there is a even a picture of Phil with Laurel taken, I believe, at the in-store I set up at the Moon shop back in '97 or so), which makes him more than okay in my book.

Here is the Checkerboard Kids promo to give you some flava...

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In other ATA news, the band is currently recording new tracks for a new release. The band's next gig is with The New York Ska Jazz Ensemble, Hey Stranger, and the Duppies at The Trash Bar in Williamsburg on October 12. See flyer below for details...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

New Do the Dog Skazine !

The latest issue of the Do The Dog Skazine arrived in the mail yesterday (with the great Rasta4Eyes on the cover--read a review of their split CD with Captain Black No Stars here). As always, Kevin Flowerdew's long-running, subscription-only, printed (!) zine is jammed with essential information on the UK and international ska scenes (including bands on his excellent Do the Dog Music label) that you will not find anywhere else. Kevin has been printing this zine for something like two decades now--god, am I that old to know this?--and it is a must read for any self-respecting ska fan (subscribe now!).

+ + + +

In a related note, The Duff Guide to Ska will soon be reviewing new Do the Dog Music releases from Resolution 242, Rebelation, and a live Bakesys album mercifully rescued from the vaults. In short, they are all very good! Stay tuned...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Pete Porker Hits NYC

I had a great time this past Friday night downing a few pints and catching up with Pete Cooper of The Porkers, who was in town on holiday with his lovely fiancee (by now they have been married up in Niagara Falls--congrats Pete and Haley!). Pete and I hadn't seen each other since just before I left Moon Records in '99 (and The Porkers were about to head off on the Warped Tour that year), so there was a lot of ground to cover...

While The Porkers have been a bit of a break this year, they are doing two dates in their native Australia (Sydney and Newcastle) this November and will soon be releasing "Persistence is Futile," a live DVD (containing 15 Porkers clips plus extras, including a 1988 Pork Hunts documentary), which can be purchased from Sound System Music. The band's most recent album, This is the Porkers (The Duff Guide to Ska review may be read here), is very much worth picking up (Pete thinks it's their best studio recording yet).

And Pete and Haley report that The Specials, who toured Australia and New Zealand this past summer, were incredible (though they missed Dammers being part of the show).

Saturday, September 19, 2009

30 Years of Madness Tribute Album Preview Mix

Here's a track by track preview of the upcoming 30 Years of Madness tribute album coming out on October 8 from Big 8 Records. From what I heard, it sounds quite good. (And you gotta love how DIY this video is...the French MIS fans who put all of this together are hardcore!)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Next Big NYC Ska Show: Megalith Showcase at Knitting Factory Brooklyn

Spoiled Manhattanite that I am, I always kind of dread having to head for the boroughs via public transportation--when some drinking is going to be involved--for some night-life (trains run infrequently in the wee hours, I sometimes get lost, etc.), but I gotta go where the ska is, right? The first big ska show at the Knitting Factory's new home in Crookland (361 Metropolitan Avenue in Williamsburg; take the L/G train to Lorimer Metropolitan or L train to Bedford Avenue--either way you have to walk a bunch of blocks from the subway) is taking place on Saturday, October 3. Billed as "Skasplash Saturday," this Megalith Records showcase will feature:

Hub City Stompers (ska/reggae/punk from New Brunswick, NJ)
Void Union (vintage ska from Beantown)
Channel One (Texas ska from San Antonio way)
The Stress (vintage ska/rocksteady from Rhode Island)
The Hard Times (NYC skinhead reggae/vintage ska)

Doors are at 7:00 pm; tix are $12 in advance, $15 day of the show.

Gonna try to make this one, as I really like what I hear on The Stress' and The Hard Times' respective MySpace pages--and I think I need to see Channel One live, too. (No disrespect to Void Union and Hub City Stompers, of course, they are both terrific bands on stage and CD...)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

More Madness Madness

Jeez, look how incredibly young those Nutty Boys were just before they hit it big back in 1979!?!? Click on the article to enlarge it for reading/gawking. (Thanks to John at Hoi Polloi Skazine for the NME clipping--he hopes the band keeps going for another 30 years, as do I!) JP from Skanews/French MIS is sending over a review copy of the Madness tribute album he's helped to produce, 30 Years of Madness, so I'll get a review of that up soon. YepRoc is releasing The Liberty of Norton Folgate CD on September 29th in the US (if you pre-order it, you receive two digital bonus cuts, plus a digital copy of the album now). In addition, for the ska collectors out there, YepRoc is carrying the UK 12-track vinyl release of The Liberty of Norton Folgate on the band's Lucky Seven Records, that features a different track order from the CD, which has 15 cuts. (I picked up the LP through YepRoc for $17.99, which is a lot cheaper than mail-ordering it from the UK.) Maybe I'll finally get my freakin' act together and write up my review of TLNF! Lastly, here is the UK Monty Python-esque telly advert for the latest in a long line of Madness greatest hits comps out there...(actually, it might be worth picking up for bonus DVD of all their videos).

TV Advert for the CD/DVD album 'Total Madness'
Set for release on 21st September through

CD: The Hits
01. One Step Beyond
02. Baggy Trousers
03. House Of Fun
04. Embarrassment
05. My Girl
06. Our House
07. It Must Be Love
08. Wings Of A Dove
09. The Sun and The rain
10. Tomorrows Just Another Day
11. Cardiac Arrest
12. Driving In My Car
13. Bed and Breakfast Man
14. Grey Day
15. NW5
16. Lovestruck
17. One Better Day
18. Michael Caine
19. The Return Of The Los Palmas 7
20. The Prince
21. Shut Up
22. Madness
23. Night Boat To Cairo

DVD The Vidz:
01. One Step Beyond
02. Baggy Trousers
03. House Of Fun
04. Embarrassment
05. My Girl
06. Our House
07. It Must Be Love
08. Wings Of A Dove
09. Sun and The rain
10. Tomorrows Just Another Day
11. Cardiac Arrest
12. Driving In My Car
13. Bed and Breakfast Man
14. Grey Day
15. NW5
16. Lovestruck
17. One Better Day
18. Michel Caine
19. Los Palmas 7
20. The Prince
21. Shut Up
22. Night Boat To Cairo

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Duff Review: Across the Aisle-The Mercy EP

Across the Aisle
The Mercy EP

On The Mercy EP, NYC's Across the Aisle crank out loads of hooky, tart, and rambunctious ska-punk-pop in the vein of such 90s acts as Dance Hall Crashers and Save Ferris, but with Mighty Mighty Bosstones Devil's Night Out-type muscle and bite (pay close attention to the lyrics--the world according to ATA is quite bittersweet). Powerhouse singer Megg Howe has an extraordinary command of her rich alto voice and is more-than-ably backed by her musical cohorts on these four studio and four live cuts. "Better Off" is a gleeful kiss-off to obnoxious backbiters ("Thank you for leaving/we're so better off without you/Thank you for leaving/Don't let the door hit you on the way out!"), while a public break-up on the angrily catchy "59th & Lex" leaves the singer stunned, incredulous, and pissed-off in his wake. "Beer Song" is a ridiculously addictive, over-the-top ode to suds, which swipes part of the melody from "Walking On Sunshine" by Katrina and the Waves for its intro, and sports these great lyrics: "Rum and coke, whiskey on the rocks, don't give me Long Island iced tea--NO!/My liver needs a break/but I can't seem to shake my love for beer!" Special Brew indeed.

The live tracks prove that Across the Aisle is no studio creation--but a super-tight ska musical machine. The best of the lot is the noir-ish "Total Stranger," a deadly serious and slinky jazzy/punky/reggay number about a philandering musician on tour running through more groupies than towns and his very aware and wounded girlfriend hot on his trail ("And how's Miss Sunshine State?/Or the punk rock chick near the Michigan lakes?/Then there's goody two-shoes Seattle/All you do is kiss, but it gives your brass a rattle/Don't treat me like a groupie/Treat my heart with care/I might give it back to you, so don't you dare/Put my high heels on the line/It's such a stupid wager/You don't know her like me, she's a total stranger..."). And not a shred of self-pity is found in Megg's voice--knowledge is power and she's gonna use it.

The Mercy EP is one hell of an impressive debut--somebody should sign 'em to a label now!

The Duff Guide to Ska Grade: B+/A-

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I Heart Unicorn (Records)

My friend John at Hoi Polloi Skazine, who has a terrific Unicorn Records discography page up on his site, has kindly posted this article I wrote back in 1998 about the UK-based label and several its many incredible releases (from such stellar acts as Laurel Aitken, Derrick Morgan, The Toasters, The Busters, The Deltones, The Potato 5, No Sports, and more). The history of this label is particularly significant as it provided an international home and focal point for ska after 2 Tone gave up the ghost and while the third wave ska scene found its collective sea legs (yes, there were other good ska labels at the time, particularly in the US, UK, and Germany, but none of them had such a world-wide reach and A-list roster).

The article was originally printed in The People's Ska Annual (on newsprint!) and I believe this is the first time it has been available on-line.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Madness 30th Anniversary Tribute Album Release Date Set

[Editor's note: the fantastic Madness 30th Anniversary logo was designed by Lee Jepson at Kayfabe Design--and he was kind enough to let us use it here.]

According to Jean-Pierre Boutellier of Skanews and the French Madness Fan Club (French MIS: French Madness Information Service), the Madness double-CD tribute album 30 Years of Madness (Big 8 Records) will be released on October 5, 2009 in record shops across France and on the web via the Amazon in France and other fine internet retailers.

JP reports that members of Madness have heard advanced copies of the record and "love it." At the moment, the CD is the top selling 'World Music' album on

For more background about this project, check out the interview I did with JP (who is one of the producers of the album) back in November 2008.

The Duff Guide to Ska hopes to be posting a review of 30 Years of Madness in the near future...

In the meantime, here's the tracklist:

CD 1

THE MIS MC'S: "We Love You Madness"
Featuring Jonathan Young, Robert Hazelby, Lee "Loobyloo" Buckley & Daughter Danni, Arno & Jean Pierre Boutellier , Benoit “MR B” De Gauléjac, Steve Bringe, Graham Yates, Owen "The Nutter" Collins, Garry Scurfield of Shut Up & Vince Carden.

Backy Skank: "In The Rain" (McPherson/Madness)
Boy In The Boat: "Day On The Town" (McPherson/Foreman)
Cherry Boop and the Sound Makers: "Cardiac Arrest" (Smyth/Foreman)
Desorden Publico: "It Must be Love" (Siffre)
Ejectés: "The Prince" (Thompson)
Freddy Loco featuring "Rocksteady" Freddie of NYSJE: "Return of the los Palmas 7"Barson/Woodgate/Bedford)
Gordon: "Michael Caine" (Smyth/Woodgate)
Indeed: "The Sun And The Rain" (Barson)
Inspector: "Our House" (Smyth/Foreman)
JAG: You Said (McPherson/Barson)
Jah On Slide: "Bed and Breakfast Man" (Barson)
JNEB: "In The City" (McPherson/Smyth/Barson/foreman/crutchfield/inoue)
King Django: "Nakht Shifl Ken Kayro" (Night Boat To Cairo) (McPherson/Barson)
Les Touffes Krétiennes: "On The Beat Pete" (Thompson/Madness)
MOT: "Sign Of The Times" (McPherson/Barson)
No Dread & Black Sifichi: "Never Ask Twice" (McPherson/Barson)
Niko Costello: "Drip Fed Fred" (Thompson/Barson)
Statuto: "Un Fiore Nel Cemento" (Johnny The Horse) (Smyth)
The Chancers: "Deceive The Eye" (Foreman/Bedford)
The Inflatables: "One Better Day" (McPherson/Bedford)
The Opium Eaters: "The Opium Eaters" (Barson)

THE MIS PLAYERS: "02 Ole Ole Ole" (Finally The Weather)
Featuring Jonathan Young, Micheal Gillis, Benoit “Mister B” De Gaulejac and the Madness fans in the 02 Arena 19th December 2008.

CD 2

Elastik featuring Malika: "Magic Carpet" (Thompson/McPherson/Foreman)
Swanlake: "She's Gone" (McPherson/Barson)

Chimpmunks are GO!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

New Pressure Sounds Releases: King Tubby, Jah Wobble

The good folks at Pressure Sounds (UK) have two new releases coming out of their pipeline:

King Tubby & The Dynamites: Sound System International
(PSCD/LP65) - Available September 7th (NOW!)

A fifteen track CD and a ten track single album. Ten early King Tubby dubs from Clancy Eccles productions that are as rare as they come. This is truly a very obscure album--check out streaming tracks from this album on the Pressure Sounds website. (Of note, if you purchase this LP or CD directly from the Pressure Sounds website, they will include three free, limited-edition postcards printed in Japan of King Tubby from the 60s, courtesy of his estate, which will be packaged in a custom printed paper bag.)

Jah Wobble: Get Carter
(PST1006 10’ Vinyl) - Available Late September

Two new heavyweight versions of the ‘Get Carter’ movie theme. Thunderous new recordings by one of the best bass players around.

The past few Pressure Sounds releases/re-issues that I have picked up in the last year or so have been stellar, including Jimmy Radway & The Fe Me Time All Stars' Dub I; DJ Kentaro's Tuff Cuts; the Micron label com Every Mouth Must Be Fed; and Joe Higgs' Life of Contradiction. All of these are highly recommended! (If you are looking to order any of these releases in the US, I've bought all of the aforementioned titles through Ernie B's Reggae in California and J&R Music World in NYC.)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Duff Gig Review: The Bluebeats at Shrine (9/5/09)

Despite the light turnout at Shrine (AKA Black United Fun Plaza!), no doubt due to the Labor Day holiday weekend, The Bluebeats tore through two powerful sets of their most excellent rocksteady-reggae-soul sounds. Much to my shame, I have to confess that I haven't seen the band in a couple of years, so I was thrilled to find them still in top form. Clearly, I've been away for far too long.

Highlights of their first set included The Bluebeats' terrific originals "Dance with Me," "Boom-Boom-Boom," and "Hardest Working Man" (shout out to a certain Scofflaw here), as well as extraordinarily smokin' covers of Ken Boothe's "Freedom Street," Otis Redding's "Look at that Girl," and Elvis Costello's version of Sam & Dave's "I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down." (I wish I had recorded some of these cuts to share with you, but I didn't get a chance to speak to Mike Drance about videotaping the band with my son's trusty Flip until the break between sets--I've known Mike since the early 90s and Shrine is so intimate, so it seemed like the right thing to secure his permission before shooting...)

Several video clips from The Bluebeats' great second set are below for your viewing/listening pleasure, including covers of The Drifters "I Count the Tears," Pat Kelly's "How Long," and The Gladiators' "Live Wire." (Look for more interesting video from The Duff Guide to Ska's vaults, soon.)

On our way to Shrine, my friend Joe and I had been talking about our respective parents' increasing frailty, the specter of their (and our own) mortality, and all kinds of day-to-day crap that was beyond our limited realms of control. Good times for two forty-something guys grappling with the same matters that people have been/are/will be confronting or ignoring all over the world till the end of time. Listening to The Bluebeats took all that away--not only while they performed, but the joy, excitement, and empathy in their music was something almost tangible that I carried with me as I headed towards the subway on my way home. Their music--like all truly good music--made everything better. Didn't solve my problems or feed the hungry or figure out a policy that will allow everyone to go to a doctor when they're sick--but seeing The Bluebeats play was another one of those experiences that reminds you why life is good and worth getting up out of bed for every day.

Simply put, The Bluebeats are brilliant! You've got to make sure to catch one of their upcoming gigs soon!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Prince Buster Suffers a Stroke (Part 2)?

This word on Prince Buster's health (taken with a grain of salt) comes from a forum posting on via Liam Ska's Heavy, Heavy Monster Blog (please ignore all the links to the illegal downloads of ska albums there--not good):
Some great news - Prince Buster has not had a stroke as was reported on BBC 6Music. According to a post by 'mrClaypole' on the forum at

"I got in touch with...Busters UK manager and.......the shows had been cancelled because the Brighton show that they were going to do 1st had been pulled and that it was the same promoter for the Camden gigs, they hope to do some shows before the years out. But the good news is "THE PRINCE IS IN GREAT SHAPE" and no he hasnt had a stroke as reported.# Long live the Prince!!!."
Not sure who Mr. Claypole is--and no disrespect to him--but I tend to believe what Gaz Mayall says.

(Speaking of 1960s ska-era musicians suffering strokes, has anyone heard anything about Lord Tanamo lately?)

This Weekend's Ska Gig: The Bluebeats at Shrine!

If you aren't one of the billions of people that stream out of the New York City area for the last gasp of summer (AKA Labor Day Weekend), the ska (and rocksteady!) gig to be at is The Bluebeats at Shrine (in Harlem) on Saturday night, September 5. The band is playing two sets from 8:00-10:00 pm.

As if that weren't enough to get you out to see them, there is no cover, either.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Gaz Mayall on The Prince's Health

Gaz Mayall (of The Trojans and Gaz's Rockin' Records, etc.) has collaborated many times with Prince Buster over the years, so I've been thinking of trying to call him up to see if he knows what is going on with Buster. (In fact, back in the mid-90s, Gaz and Buster stopped by the Moon Records shop when it was on Second Street, just off Avenue A in Alphabet City--I was working out of my uptown apartment at that time--so when a co-worker rang me up to tell me who was in the store, I had them put Gaz on and said hello and asked if he and Buster could please sign a few singles for me--which they were nice enough to do so!)

Back to the Prince...with a little bit of digging on "The Google," I was able to uncover this sad bit of news from a recent interview from Spoonfed London with Gaz about his soundsystem (Gaz's Rockin' Blues) at the Notting Hill Carnival:
"He's stuck in Miami with health problems, I don't know what's going on..."

Do check out the whole interview with Gaz, as it will make you terribly jealous that you weren't around for it (his soundsystem featured Rico, Ska Cubano, and Duke Vin!).

And I should probably ring Gaz up at some point soon just to find out the latest going's on with The Trojans and his label...

Prince Buster Suffers a Stroke?

According to Liam Ska's Heavy, Heavy Monster Blog, BBC 6 Music has announced that Prince Buster has experienced a stroke (though his manager has not yet confirmed that this has happened)--which would explain the cancellation of his September 5th gig at the Camden Centre.

All of us at The Duff Guide to Ska wish The Prince a quick recovery! You're in our thoughts!

Duff Review: Kid British-It Was This Or Football...(First Half)"

Mercury Records (UK)

One shouldn't be cowed by the ska purists who will no doubt scoff and snort derisively at the likes of a band like Kid British--a major label, multi-racial Britpop-ska act--since you'll be missing out on some excellent music from a band with the chops and backing (some of Football's cuts were produced by Stephen Street, who has previously worked with a few acts you might have heard of like fellow Mancunians The Smiths, as well as Blur, and Kaiser Chiefs) to keep legitimately good ska music on the radar of the music industry, press, and fans alike. (While we can endlessly debate the merits of keeping ska music underground after the hijacking of the US ska scene in the 90s by the majors, it still takes money, fans, and hype to keep a scene going, whether it's mainstream or not--so when a major label supports a better-than-decent band making "authentic" ska music, respect and support are due.)

For those keeping score, of the seven tracks on It Was This or Football...(First Half)--the second half of the album is being released this fall (why split the album in two--maybe they hope for twice as many opportunities for the release to be reviewed?)--Kid British serve up three flat-out ska songs ("Elizabeth," "Part-Time Job/Shirt & Tie," and "Cosmopolitan"); a ragga bonus cut about (what else?) footie and Manchester United; generously sample Madness' "Our House" on the awesomely addictive "Our House is Dadless" (okay, the original wasn't a ska song--but that band obviously has a major ska pedigree); which leaves us with two catchy Blur/Kaiser Chiefs-y songs: "She Will Leave" and "Reaction" (which makes this musical Anglophile happy).

Taking a page from The Specials' playbook, Kid British don't hammer you over the head with overt "message" songs, but sing about topics everyone can easily relate to (family, money, relationships between the sexes, jobs, and sports) and slip the social commentary in the subtext. Casual listeners might mistake the ska-romp "Elizabeth" as a conflicted love song to a woman--which in a way it is: the Elizabeth referred to is the royal one depicted on the British pound ("At the end of the month you always disappear/When I get paid somehow you reappear/My mates love it when you're out on the town/'Cos you're the one who always gets in the first round"). "Our House is Dadless" is a smart, funny, Doc Marten's-on-the-ground, 21st century update on Madness' nostalgic take on the (stereo)typical working-class household ("And every one of our houses are dadless/So no wonder our houses are Madness"). The Catch-22 (referring to the book and phrase, not the band) desperation of "Part-time Job/Shirt & Tie" ("I got to get a part-time job/I really need to make this music/but look at all the bills I got/I need help just to see me through this") isn't just for musicians trying to figure out how to pay the rent while pursuing their musical vision, but is for all clockwatchers out there in soul-deadning jobs, seeing their time, energy, and spirit robbed from the pursuit of their vocation.

Perhaps the best song on this half-album is the gorgeously lush "Cosmopolitan," which manages to embody the thrilling experience of being young, single, and on the make with the day ahead of you ripe with possibilities for finding a new girlfriend ("There's a warm summer's breeze, not a cloud in the sky/You put your worries on hold when the sun shines/And the girls are outside reading Cosmopolitan/And the boys are outside, and you know they're watching them..."). Pure ska-pop for rude people.

Can't wait to see what the "second half" brings...

Kid British Duff Guide to Ska Grade: B+/A-

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Prince Buster Camden Gig Cancelled/Gaz Mayall at Carnival

From Jean-Paul Séculaire's The London Dossier blog:
Bad news I'm afraid; the Prince Buster gig at the Camden Centre (due to take place on the 5th September) has been cancelled. I have been given no official explanation for this, but have heard through the grapevine that it is due to medical problems. I can only hope that Prince Buster and his band are ok and that any illness is not serious.
The Duff Guide to Ska had noted this gig in an earlier post. We wish The Prince a quick recovery and all the best.

+ + + +

Jean-Paul Séculaire also has posted some info about the Notting Hill Carnival, which took place this past weekend, including this bit about our old friend Gaz Mayall (of The Trojans and Gaz's Rockin' Records):
The two must-visit sounds are The Gladdy Wax Road Show, which plays 60s ska through to 70s reggae, and Gaz's Rockin' Blues, which plays mento, calypso, ska, rocksteady, early reggae, soul and rhythm & blues. Gaz's soundsystem is always the biggest and most exciting-looking too (in fact he's deservedly won the "best-dressed sound" prize a number of times over the years) and each year he picks a different theme for it.