Sunday, January 25, 2009

From the Duff Archives: Lord Tanamo with Dr. Ring Ding & The Senior Allstars - Best Place in the World

Editor's note: With the recent news of Lord Tanamo's poor health, I thought it might be good to revisit one of his last recordings, which I originally reviewed for the print version of Read Magazine back in 2000. (Thanks to Adam Coozer for allowing me to reprint it here.) Best Place in the World is still in print and available from Grover Records, Amazon, and other music retailers. If you are unfamiliar with this album, Amazon features sound clips of each track on Best Place in the World for your listening pleasure.

Lord Tanamo with Dr. Ring Ding & The Senior Allstars
Best Place in the World
Grover Records (Germany)

It is fitting that Lord Tanamo, the first singer to front the brilliant Skatalites in the early 60s (he is said to have dubbed them the “Satellites”--this was the era of Sputnik and the space race, after all--and that quickly evolved into The Skatalites), should make an album with Dr. Ring Ding & The Senior Allstars, who are arguably one of the best ska/rocksteady/reggae acts currently on the planet. Lord Tanamo knows a top-notch band when he hears it, and he’s always backed by the best.

Lord Tanamo (AKA Joseph Gordon) launched his musical career in the early 1950s (when he was singing mento, r&b, jazz and calypso tunes, and by the middle of that decade was working with pre-Skatalite members Lloyd Brevette and Lester Sterling); half a century later, his gruff, yet wonderfully versatile voice is still in amazing shape. It almost goes without saying that Dr. Ring Ding & The Senior Allstars are in top form here (and yet their style of playing is so understated and confidently relaxed--the best always make it seem so easy!).

Best Place in the World kicks off with Tanamo’s signature tune with The Skatalites, his cover of “In the Mood for Love” (AKA “In the Mood for Ska”), and several of his best-known songs recording with them are represented in fine form here, such as “Come Dung” and the Don Drummond tribute “Big Trombone.” Tanamo scored a big hit in the 70s with a reggae cover of “Rainy Night in Georgia” (which Prince Buster also transformed into the semi-naughty “Big 5”), and this version is truly sublime. The stripped-down cover of Prince Buster’s “Hard Man Fe Dead” is a revelation, with its acoustic guitar, congas, and spiritual-like backing vocals (and dare I say that it is almost better than the original?).

Yet the real gems of this album are Tanamo’s lesser-known songs, as well as several brand new tunes. From Lord Tanamo’s back catalogue comes the surprisingly smooth ‘n’ sexy “Keep Moving”; the admonishing and upbeat treat-your-mother-right “Mother’s Love” (“A mother’s love is from creation/it is truly the greatest association”); and the sing-along rude boy tale of crime in “Iron Bar,” among others. Tanamo’s new tunes easily measure up to the caliber of his previous work: the unabashedly romantic “Best Place in the World” (“…is the place that you were born”), the wonderful old-school calypso “Musso,” and the rhythmic love song “Out of this Big World.”

After listening to Best Place in the World, it strikes me that Dr. Ring Ding & The Senior Allstars’ style of composing and arranging ska and rocksteady songs is very much in the same vein as Lord Tanamo’s (listen to their stunning debut album “Dandimite” after Best Place in the World and you’d never know that there had been almost 40 years between the time each set of songs was written). Dr. Ring Ding & The Senior Allstars don’t imitate the old time ska sound, they inhabit it--and that’s what makes this album (and the band in general) work so well. (Having said all that, it is eerie how much Dr. Ring Ding sounds like Lord Tanamo.) The Best Place in the World is wherever you are when you listen to this album, because the music that will be pumping out of your speakers is awesome. Get it!

(Originally reviewed: October 2000)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Kid British: Britpop Ska

Forgive me for my ska obsessions (see: RiceRokit, for example), but what better place to express my pathetic pathologies than in the public arena of a blog (that is, if there are actually more than a handful of people out there reading this thing on a regular basis). I continue to be intrigued by Kid British, who seem poised to hit it pretty big in the UK with their mix of ska (think Madness' ska-music hall pop--they cover "Our House" on their upcoming album, which, if it's good, seems to guarantee them some airplay--and The Specials' mid-tempo stuff like "Do Nothing"), Britpop (a la Blur or the Gorillaz, which I know is almost being redundant), and whatever other genre suits their mood (British musical tastes seem to be much more omnivorous than American's, much to our detriment). I just mail-ordered Kid British's 10" vinyl EP from a record shop in Britain and will review it when it arrives at my lair in Gotham (sure, I could just listen to essentially the same tracks on their MySpace page--but that just ain't the same as putting the needle on the record, looking over the album jacket, and listening to the whole thing on my stereo a few times in a row).

Here's a bit from RWD Magazine to pique your interest, and be sure to check out "Part Time Job/Shirt & Tie" live clip at the bottom--it's good stuff:

Kid British: Kool Brittania

We found Manchester quartet Kid British ‘lost in London,’ so we directed the ska/ slash/ indie kids to tell us exactly what they have in common with Take That, Suggs and Queen Elizabeth! words By Rajveer Kathwadia

“Sorry, I’ve gotta finish mixes for this great album,” beat-maker Sean explains of having to rush off from our interview with Kid British. Once we’d received a heartfelt promise from the producer that he would be present next time, we sat down with the Manchester menagerie. The remaining British Kids are found striking a pose and expressing their love of The Clipse and the rest of their wide and varied spectrum of influences to our photographer James. “Their first album was amazing,” says band member No. 1 AKA James before bandmate No. 2, Adio adds. “All four of us are writers and we all listen to different stuff – just anything that’s good.” Final member Simeon concludes “From Take That through to The Clipse, if we think they’ve written a good song, we’ll listen to it.” It is this eclectic taste that has sculpted the music of the quartet who dabbled with garage and hip hop before evolving into the hotpot of noise they are today. “The musical path we took helped us develop our sound,” James explains. “The lyrics are written in the same way as putting a rap down, except to a different kind of music and with a bit of a melody to it. It’s just disguised rapping, it’s nothing we’ve formulated.”

With a sound that incorporates all of the options found under an iTunes genre field, it is hard to pinpoint Kid British’s style, though they have been likened to ‘80s ska outfits The Specials and Madness. “A lot of people compare us to Specials cos of the mixed race make up of the group,” Simeon decides of the comparisons. “But I think we are more like Madness when it comes to the way we write our music cos it is fun, but also with clever messages and stories behind the songs.” Kid British have paid homage to Suggs and Co. by covering the classic Our House, yet they have a whole slew of original material that is just as good. “There is substance to our music,” Adio furthers. “It’s not just about the chorus. If you don’t listen to the lyrics you won’t get the song.”

“Manchester is known for having ‘real’ music. It’s built up on a great tradition of artists coming out with a lot of confidence. The former firefighter insists though that’s it’s difficult for a group from outside of the capital to be heard by the industry. “Everything’s down there so we do have to work extra hard.” Another problem that outsiders to London have is negotiating the public transport. The group have documented the pitfalls of TFL with their song Lost In London.

With an album on the way that includes other live favourites such as Let’s Have A Party, Part Time Job and Sunny Days due some time in the New Year, what does the future hold for Kid British? “We wanna come out with a bang and stick around,” James asserts. “We don’t wanna be one of those bands that people will look back on in only a few years time and think to themselves ‘They were good them, weren’t they.’ We still wanna be going in 10 years time and have a sustained career.” Simeon concludes. “In the same way Madness and The Specials are named when people talk about us, we wanna influence people so that we’re mentioned when people talk about them.”

Kid British's new EP Leaving London is out now and features She Will Leave, Elizabeth and Lost In London.

Kid British
"Part Time Job/Shirt & Tie"

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Duff News: Lord Tanamo Suffers Stroke; Abandoned in Canadian Nursing Home

Here's a disturbing piece of news via the Jamaica Observer (anyone out there know where his family is/can help?):

Lord Tanamo Suffers Stroke; Abandoned in Canadian Nursing Home
Basil Walters, Observer staff reporter
Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Lord Tanamo had a stroke last year June that has left him unable to speak.

Pioneer ska singer Lord Tanamo has lost his ability to speak and is now living in the Lincoln Place of Nursing Home, Toronto, Canada. The 74-year-old former vocalist of the Skatalites Band has had a stroke that has left him unable to speak for some time now.

In an e-mail sent to his booking agent Brian Keyo of Tallawah Entertainment, Lord Tanamo's doctor Michael J Taylor expressed concern that the friends and family of the veteran entertainer, born Joseph Gordon, are not aware of his condition or whereabouts.

"Sadly, Mr Gordon has had a stroke that has left him unable to speak. Over the last several weeks, he has had no visitors and we have had limited success in contacting any family members," stated Dr Taylor who is also calling on the wider music fraternity.

"I'm hoping that you can assist me in locating anyone who would be interested in visiting Mr Gordon and providing him with support in this difficult time," he pleaded.

Locally, organisations with mandates to offer such support are the Jamaica Association of Vintage Artistes and Affiliates (JAVAA), the Jamaica Federation of Musicians (JFM) as well as the Ministry of Information, Culture, Youth and Sports.

Born in Kingston in 1934, at 20 years of age, Joseph Abraham Gordon, who in time became known as Lord Tanamo, made his earliest recording in 1954 for Jamaica's first music producer, Stanley Motta, which was a mento style release called Crinoline Incident.

As an exponent of the rumba box (an essential element of mento), Lord Tanamo helped to create the ska beat by combining elements of calypso gleaned from Lord Kitchener's songs. As lead vocalist and emcee for the Skatalites he recorded his best known song, I'm In The Mood For Ska.

After the Skatalites broke up, Lord Tanamo was employed by the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) and travelled to Canada where he played mento and reggae at cultural events.

Eventually he emigrated to Canada where his Toronto Mento Group became the Toronto-based quartet for the late keyboardist/composer, Jackie Mittoo.

On a return trip home he recorded a cover of Brook Benton's Rainy Night In Georgia which remained seven weeks at number one on the Jamaican hit parade. And on another visit to Jamaica he recorded for producer Bunny Lee, an album called Calypso Reggae.

In June 1983, the Skatalites reformed for the first time. And under the auspices of a reunion gig, Lord Tanamo gave a sensational performance at Herbie Miller's Blue Monk Club in Kingston.

On his self-produced set in 1994, called Skamento Movement, Tanamo compiled 15 of his ska and reggae tunes. After a tour of Europe with Germany act Dr Ring Ding and Senior All Stars, out of which came the album, Best Place in the World, at the 2002 Legend of Ska Concert in Toronto, Lord Tanamo led a mento quartet that performed between the ska sets.

Those shows were filmed and are currently being shopped as a documentary of the Jamaican version of Buena Vista Social Club. Such is the measure of the trailblazing Jamaican artiste who is now forgotten and abandoned in a nursing home in Canada.

Duff Thoughts: Memory Train

This past fall, my parents were kind enough to give me their old car, which bizarrely enough, has a cassette deck, even though it came off the factory line in 2002. Unfortunately, dad didn't warn me that the deck wasn't working that well--I discovered that as I was speeding down the Deegan toward Manhattan and it ate my NYC Ska Live cassette. I shredded the tape trying to get it out. Luckily, I have an LP copy of this compilation, so I still have the music and all, but I was bummed nonetheless. My immediate thought was that there aren't too many cassette copies of this floating out there anymore (sure enough, a search on eBay and GEMM didn't turn anything up--no NYC Ska Live LPs or cassettes, nada).

It also reminded me how earlier in the summer, when I was moving around some of the stuff I have in storage in my parents' basement, I opened one of the big Rubbermaid trunks where I had been keeping a ton of old ska t-shirts dating back to the late 80s, Moon posters, and posters that Buck brought back from touring in Europe and points beyond--and found almost everything wet and moldy (their basement had flooded a year earlier, but not high enough to leak into the seam where the lid connects to the I'm not exactly sure how the water found its way in). It was all trashed. I was heartbroken.

Most of this stuff can never be replaced.

Now, I don't consider myself to be a ska collector (I'm not obsessive enough, and don't have the time or enough disposable income--or even space--to do so), but what I have I treasure. I don't hold on to all of this stuff because I hope to sell it one day for a killing on eBay (if that were even possible!), but because each LP and patch and sticker and button that I have means something to me.

Here's sad part--the true geek in me: I imagine that someday, someone will desperately want it all to be part of a larger scholarly collection of ska and reggae (a version of the ARChive of Contemporary Music, where one of the ex-Skavoovie band members has been a music archivist). I can trace the seed of this desire back to around 1997, when a librarian at the New York Performing Arts Library at Lincoln Center got in touch with me at Moon, because they were putting on a small exhibit featuring graphic design in punk and ska (or something like that). So I sent over a bunch of posters, t-shirts, etc. that were displayed in the library (and I had been regularly sending him promo CDs, which became part of the general New York Public Library collection--some of them are still in circulation and I've run across them in the stacks). Plus, I've always been a sucker for sociology and cultural studies--particularly what the products of pop and subculture reveal about us as a people. The meaning behind the sound and vision.

There's nothing profound in this here post--sorry. I'm getting older. Change is constant. Things that hold meaning for me won't last forever. Pop culture is especially ephemeral (CDs crack; LPs warp and melt; bands break up; labels go under; fanzines disintegrate; digital files are mistakenly deleted or are stored on something that becomes obsolete; fans move on; people die).

But I like to think that it all will still continue to matter.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Duff News: Pepper Pots, RiceRokit Alert, Bad Manners/English Beat Tour, Ska is Dead 4 Tour

Spanish vintage ska/soul act The Pepper Pots (the three singers are pictured, right) will be playing this year's South by Southwest Festival (SXSW) in Austin, Texas this March. (There may be a New York City gig on their way back to Spain, so stay tuned.) Megalith Records will be releasing their excellent "Shake It" album, which previously was only available in Spain and Japan, at some point early in 2009. At the end of January, the band is planning to enter the studio with a "world renowned" producer to record their third album.

* * * *

For the ever-growing legion of RiceRokit fans out there (and if you haven't heard the band, listen to "Dull Boy" on the RiceRokit MySpace page, and you'll quickly become one) who happen to live in or be visiting Southern California, there are two excellent opportunities to see the band in action (where they will, no doubt, be previewing some of the new cuts from their forthcoming sophomore album, Pidgin English--make sure to request their cover of "Bela Lugosi's Dead"!):

February 3, 2009: Hollywood, CA - 3 Floors of Ska/Ska is Dead 4 Tour @ The Knitting Factory, with The Toasters, VooDoo Glow Skulls, Buck-O-Nine, Deal's Gone Bad, Boogaloo Assassins, Hub City Stompers, The Roundabouts, Raskahuele, Kingston, Delirians, Half Past Two, One Pin Short, plus DJs

February 27, 2009: Solana Beach, CA @ The Belly Up Tavern with The English Beat!

* * * *

The English Beat/Bad Manners US Tour:

1/22/09 Dallas, TX @ Granada Theatre
1/23/09 New Orleans, LA @ House of Blues w/Pato Banton
1/24/09 Atlanta, GA @ The Loft
1/25/09 Saint Petersburg, FL @ Jannus Landing
1/27/09 Cocoa Beach, FL @ Chili Pepper Supper Club
1/28/09 Ft. Lauderdale, FL @ Culture Room
1/30/09 Baltimore, MD @ Ram's Head Live w/The Pietasters
1/31/09 Richmond, VA @ Toad's Place Richmond
2/2/09 Alexandria, VA @ Birchmere
2/3/09 Philadelphia, PA @ World Cafe Live
2/5/09 Farmingdale, NY @ The Crazy Donkey w/Big D and the Kids Table
2/6/09 New York, NY @ The Fillmore at Irving Plaza w/Big D and the Kids Table
2/7/09 Asbury Park, NJ @ The Stone Pony w/Big D and the Kids Table

Haven't seen either of these bands in ages, so it might be time to see them both at Irving Plaza...

* * * *

Ska is Dead 4 Tour

Bands: The Toasters, Voodoo Glow Skulls & Deal’s Gone Bad (all dates)
Monkey (Jan. 22 - Feb. 1), Mustard Plug (Jan. 23 - 25), Buck-O-Nine (Feb. 4 - 8)

Wed. 21: Norman, OK @ The Deli
Thurs. 22: Albuquerque, NM @ Launchpad
Fri. 23: Colorado Springs, CO @ Black Sheep
Sat. 24: Ft. Collins, CO @ Aggie Theatre
Sun. 25: Denver, CO @ The Gothic Theatre
Mon. 26: Grand Junction, CO @ Mesa Theatre
Tues. 27: SLC, UT @ Avalon Theatre
Weds. 28: Boise, ID @ The Knitting Factory
Thurs. 29: Seattle, WA @ Studio 7
Fri. 30: Portland, OR @ Hawthorn Theatre
Sat. 31: Orangevale, CA @ Boardwalk

Sun. 1: San Francisco, CA @ Slim's
Mon. 2: Los Gatos, CA @ The Venue
Tues. 3: Anaheim, CA @ The House Of Blues
Weds. 4: Victorville, CA @ KARMA
Thurs. 5: Tempe, AZ @ The Marquee
Fri. 6: Las Vegas, NV @ Game Works
Sat. 7: Los Angeles, CA @ The Knitting Factory w/RiceRockit!
Sun. 8: San Diego, CA @ House of Blues
Mon. 9: Tucson, AZ @ Club Congress
Tue. 10: Lubbock, TX :@ Jake's Back Room
Wed. 11: Tulsa, OK @ Rose Bowl Event Center
Thurs. 12: Kansas City, MO @ The Riot Room
Fri. 13: Minneapolis, MN: TBA
Sat. 14: Houghton, MI @ Michigan Tech Univ.
Sun. 15: Lansing, MI @ Mac's Bar
Mon. 16: Louisville, KY: TBA
Tues. 17: Toledo, OH @ Frankies
Wed. 18: Indianapolis, IN :@ES Jungle
Thurs. 19: State College, PA @ The Brewery
Fri. 20: Allentown, PA @ The Crocodile Rock (Masquerade)
Sat. 21 TBA
Sun. 22: New York City, NY @ Highline Ballroom

[While I realize that the "Ska is Dead" label is now a brand of sorts, it has kind of lost its irony, don't you think? We're almost a decade out from the crash and burn of the third wave, and there are many hopeful signs that the fourth wave, for lack of a better term, is gaining ground. Plus, it plays too much into the hands of those who hate the scene and the bands and fans that never lost faith.]

* * * *

The Pepper Pots
"Stay on Your Way"

"Dance with You"

Bad Manners
"Skaville UK"

The English Beat"
"Save it For Later"

Haven't seen this video in years. Yeah, it reeks of the early 80s (and I love it), but I never realized until now that Gaz Mayall of The Trojans can be spotted throughout the video...

The Toasters
"Don't Let the Bastards Grind You Down"

Yes, I'm in this one, too.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Duff Review: Skaville UK "Decadent"

Moon Ska World

When Skaville UK's terrific second album opens with a fake radio broadcast of the the band doing their best New Romantic imitation of Martin Fry and ABC (posing as the band Leather Arcade doing "The Policy of Love," natch), you probably wouldn't be too surprised to find that Decadent (a word play on the excesses, musical and otherwise, of the glorious 80s) revels in skinny tie power-pop, day-glo new wave, and jagged post-punk music. Having said all that, Decadent is most definitely a ska record--we're just not necessarily on Orange Street anymore (more like Bleeker and Bowery).

"The Alternate," hands down my favorite song on the album, features the incredible Rhoda Dakar on a cut that sounds like an awesome mash-up of Gary Numan and the Tubeway Army with Echo and the Bunnymen (you've just got to hear it to realize how well they pull this off--give "The Alternate" a listen on Rhoda's MySpace page). "It's a Me, Me, Me Society" is Missing Persons meets Rebel Yell-era Billy Idol and features the great line "You're laundromatic/you clean your past so well." On these tracks and few others, you can almost picture Nicky Welsh, all smiles, as he borrowed bits and pieces of the musical language of the new wave era--the handclaps and background vocal harmonizing of The Cars for this song or a synthesizer riff plucked from Heaven 17 there--when he went about writing this album, but the songs are so well constructed that they completely sidestep parody or imitation and stand solidly on their own as fun and catchy original tunes.

Other highlights on Decadent include the hard-rocking, I've just realized too late what an a-hole I am "Bad Man"; "She's Mad About the 80s" ("Once she heard the Thompson Twins/she never was the same"); "The Inappropriate One," a song for that "special" person in our lives who both thrills and appalls us with the outrageous things they do and say; and the sweet, laid-back ska gem "One Way Street," which is about pining after someone who probably won't reciprocate your feelings, and was co-written and sung beautifully by Jennie Matthias (ex-Bellestars, who has interesting new ska/latin/reggae group with Lee Thompson and Dave Barker called The Dance Brigade).

Having been a teenager in the early to mid 80--and as a huge fan of new wave music in all of its permutations--I really dig Decadent, but not for any cliched nostalgic reasons like new wave was the soundtrack of my youth or they just don't make 'em like they used to rubbish. It's more like the soul-pleasing satisfaction that comes from hearing musical sub-genres being recombined, reinvented, and rejuvenated by very talented musicians in a manner that seems so natural and simple that an Acme light bulb should click on over your head the moment you hear it (as in "why didn't I think of that?)--except that its not (you need crazy mad skills and inspiration, obviously).

But, perhaps the biggest reason the blending of new wave and ska works so well on Decadent is that the distance between 2-Tone and the host of other non-mainstream musical styles that were huddled under the new wave umbrella in the 80s (punk rock, synthpop, electropop, early hip hop, Mod, power pop, New Romantic, etc.) just isn't that far. All of these underground/alternative music scenes spawned some amazing acts and stunningly good music that made (and continues to make) one hell of a good mix tape (if you were in NYC in the 1980s when WLIR was in full force, you know what I mean). That's what it boils down to: good music is good music, no matter its sub-category or hyphenation, and Skaville UK know how to make it in spades.

Grade: A-/B+

Friday, January 2, 2009

Catching Up with...

Smash Mouth: While I have a begrudging respect for their mad pop music skills (you have to give it to them, "Walking on the Sun" and "All Star" are terrific, well-crafted pop tunes), I still hate how they were promoted by the music industry as a ska band and rode the crest during the late 90s ska boom. Oh, but how the mighty have fallen (break out the schadenfreude!). As the Las Vegas Sun reports in advance of the reconstituted band's upcoming show in the area, singer Steve Harwell thinks Vegas is the ultimate place to perform; he envies Barry Manilow (for being in a position to play there all the time); and he will be releasing a solo country (!) album in 2009 titled "L.A. to Nashville." Oy vey.

* * * *

The Knitting Factory: An article in the Downtown Express notes the closing of the Knitting Factory in Manhattan's disgustingly trendy (and way expensive) Tribeca neighborhood. The club will be reopening in a smaller venue (the old Luna Lounge) in disgustingly trendy Williamsburg, Brooklyn in 2009. The piece also mentions the last 3 Floors of Ska show that was held at the KF earlier this week, as well as several of the bands that performed, including The Bluebeats, The Allstonians, and Westbound Train. Read all about it here.

(Interesting factoid: John Zorn once yelled at Vaclav Havel, then president of the Czech Republic, who was talking loudly in the balcony with Clinton's Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, to "shut the #&*% up" --in all fairness, Zorn didn't know who he was cursing out during his set.)

* * * *

The Skatalites: Here's a show review from a recent gig in Edinburgh.

* * * *

Mighty Mighty Bosstones: The Boston Globe reviews one of the Bosstones' Xmas time "Hometown Throwdown" gigs. Sounds like it was a great show, if you dig their brand of ska-core. Also, a preview for the New Haven "Hometown Throwdown" in the New Haven Advocate spotlights MMB's trombonist Chris Rhodes and notes his relationship to past Connecticut ska bands Spring Heeled Jack and the unfortunately named JC Superska (as well as his stint with The Toasters).

* * * *

The English Beat: I've always felt that Dave Wakeling has one of the best voices in ska music and I've been such a fan of the band that I still remember the impassioned arguments in high school that I had with my friend Gordon over which Beat album was the best (then, I would have said Special Beat Service, but now it's Wha'ppen?). Even though I generally dread it when bands reform only to bash out the hits without bothering to write any new ones, I'm willing to forgive Dave, since he insists that new music is coming down the pipeline (see below) in 2009. And for those who scoff at him for carrying on with The English Beat, despite being the only original member--and in light of the version of The Beat that Ranking Roger is running in the UK--I only have to point to Bucket and The Toasters (still going strong and still relevant over 25 years later). Here's an article in the Fairfield County Weekly (for their New Year's Eve show in Bridgeport, CT), where Dave elaborates a bit on how his version of The English Beat will be releasing new tracks soon:

The band, which played this year's South by Southwest festival, plans to release a series of "gaily colored EPs," featuring new songs, live cuts, acoustic tracks and remixes of English Beat classics. "I've got enough to make an album that I think would be one of the collections of songs that I'm proudest off," Wakeling says. "But I don't know what the story is about LPs these days. I think the world has turned a few times and I don't know that they make as much sense as they did. I always used to love EPs." The releases will be available on CD and vinyl at shows and through the band's various websites.

Also, I don't think I ever knew that The Beat's first gig coincided with the Three Mile Island meltdown in '79.

Get a Job, indeed.

* * * *

The Specials: Not many teachers make the news when they quit their jobs, but how many of them used to be in The Specials? According to the Coventry Telegraph, Horace Panter (AKA Sir Horace Gentleman) is quitting his art teacher position at a school for children with autism (which he has held for the past ten years) for the April/May 2009 Specials reunion tour. As many of you already know, for better or worse, Jerry Dammers is the only original Special not participating in this reunion. An article posted on In the News (UK) does little to clear up the real reasons behind Dammer's absence:

Jerry Dammers, one of the founding members of the Specials, has slammed his former bandmates' upcoming reunion tour.

The Ska legends recently confirmed they will take to the road for UK tour starting in April next year, some 30 years since the release of their debut single Gangsters.

But while frontman Terry Hall has said "the door remains open" for Dammers to take part in the reunion shows, the keyboardist has issued a statement saying he was neither invited to take part in the tour, nor told about it.

"The prodigal sons came home, kicked me out, and have left the door open, great," he remarks.

His statement continues: "Attempts to imply that any proposed tour has Jerry's 'blessing', at this stage, are also highly misleading.

"These seem to be part of a wider attempt to rewrite the whole history of the band, in order to try and justify what is currently going on.

"Jerry does not wish to go into too much detail at this point, except to say that for over 25 years he had dreamed that his former bandmates might come back one day, and was deeply shocked to find that when they did, for some of them, it was apparently to kick him out."

Dammers claimed he turned up at a rehearsal uninvited and was "subjected to a severe dressing down" but had always intended to take part in a 30th anniversary reunion tour.

The statement concludes: "Jerry sees this whole thing as a takeover, rather than a proper reunion... At the moment this is not the proud reunion and 30th anniversary celebration Jerry had hoped for."

I'm kind of disappointed, too.

* * * *

Madness: If you are on the Madness mailing list, this is old news, but for those of you who aren't, the band has finally announced the release date for The Liberty Of Norton Folgate, which is March 2, 2009. In the meantime, one may pre-order a special limited edition box set of the album from Madness' website, which includes the full album on CD and vinyl, a second CD with outtakes and bonus tracks, a poster and 'M' badge--plus you will be able to immediately download a digital version of the entire record. I don't know what the current exchange rate is between US dollars and British Pounds (40 to be exact), but if you're a big fan and obsessive collector, I'm sure you're going to want to get your hot little hands on this set.

No word on a US release date for The Liberty Of Norton Folgate (if there is one) or if some form of the box set will even be available in the States.