Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Duff Guide to Ska NYC Winter 2016/2017 Ska Calendar #42

Misty in Roots (photo by Syd Shelton)
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

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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

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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

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Saturday, January 14, 2017 @ 9:00 pm


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

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Tuesday, January 17, 2017 @ 7:00 pm

LARP Showcase #10: King Django, Control This, The Screwups, Brother Jerome, Carmelo DiBartolo (Beat Brigade)--plus DJ Ryan Midnight

Don Pedro
90 Manhattan Avenue
Brooklyn, NY

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Saturday, January 21, 2017 @ 8:00 pm

Dj Gorilla Presents: Oi! Punk/Ska Party!!! [Queens Edition] w/Los Perros, Raise the Kicks, The Omega Men, Eskrofula

Pista Bandas Unidas Oficial
96-11 Roosevelt Avenue
Queens, NY
$10/All Ages

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Friday, February 24, 2017 @ 7:00 pm

The Skatalites

Brooklyn Bowl
61 Wythe Avenue
Brooklyn, NY

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Saturday, March 4, 2017 @ 7:00 pm

Save Ferris, Baby Baby

The Gramercy Theatre
127 East 23rd Street
New York, NY

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Friday, March 17, 2017 @ 7:00 pm

The Pietasters

The Marlin Room @ Webster Hall
125 East 11th Street
New York, NY

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Friday, March 24, 2017 @ 7:00 pm

Voodoo Glow Skulls, Hub City Stompers

Knitting Factory Brooklyn
361 Metropolitan Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
$13 in advance/$15 day of show
All Ages

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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

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Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Duff Guide to Ska: Year in Ska Reviews - 2016 Edition

(All Reviews by Steve Shafer)

Here we are at that time of the year again when we all take stock of the twelve months that have just passed. I tend to look at my failings, instead of the accomplishments (I could have reviewed many more releases, seen more shows, etc.). Having said that, I am proud of and stand by everything I've written here and hope that these words have helped steer you/turn you on to some amazing ska bands and music.

Below, please find links to all of The Duff Guide to Ska reviews of 2016, in case you missed anything, want to reassess a particular release, or re-read a review or two.

I'd also be remiss not to mention all of the ska musicians that we lost in 2016, including Prince Buster, Lord Tanamo, Jimmy Riley, John Bradbury, Clyde Grimes, Jr. of The Untouchables, Al Fletcher of The Selecter/Skaville UK, Roy Radics of The Rudie Crew, Dan "Brukky" Klein of The Frightnrs, and we just learned of Rudy "Valentino" Jones--the tenor saxophonist for The Trojans--who passed away this week (12/21/16). All of you will be sorely missed by many.


1592: Family of Choice

The Amphetameanies: Last Chance Bordello

The Beat Featuring Ranking Roger: Bounce

The Bionic Rats: T.B.R.

Sammy Buzz: The Buzzman Cometh

Susan Cadogan: Take Me Back 

The Crombies: Dance Crazee

The Downsetters: The Asylum Hotel

The Frightnrs: Nothing More to Say (review TK)

The Frits: The Greatest Frits

Vivien Goldman: Resolutionary (Songs 1979-1982)

Arthur Kay and The Originals: Rare 'n' Tasty reissue

Madness: Can't Touch Us Now

Massive Attack v. Mad Professor: No Protection reissue

N.S.T. and The Soul Sauce: Heaven is Here/Song for Rico EP

J. Navarro and The Traitors: Criminals and Lions

Phoenix City All-stars: Searching for the Young Ska Rebels

Pyrotechnist: Dub Rocketry

Rhoda Dakar: The Lotek Four, Volume I (review TK)

Rico: Man from Wareika/Wareika Dub expanded reissue

Max Romeo: Horror Zone

Joe Scholes: Songbook, Volume II

Sonic Boom Six: The F-Bomb

The Lee Thompson Ska Orchestra: Bite the Bullet

The Toasters: Skaboom reissue

The Untouchables: The Duff Guide to The Untouchables

The Uptown Ska Collective: The Uptown EP

Various Artists: Money Maker

Various Artists: Skinhead Reggae 1969

Various Artists: Trembling Earth - A Scottish Ska Compilation

7" and 12" Singles 

The Abruptors: "Buffalo Ska"

Laurel Aitken and The Ruts: "The Peel Sessions"

The Bishops: "The Ol' 49R" b/w "The Black and Tan"

Dennis Bovell: "Heaven" 12" reissue

Dennis Bovell: "Row, Row, Row" b/w "River Dub"

Empire of Two: "Let Us Live"

Lynval Golding and Contra Coup: "Know Your Rights" 12"

Natalie Wouldn't: "Natalie Wouldn't"

The Ruts: "Psychic Attack" b/w "Vox Teardrop (Instrumental)"

Secret Affair: "Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)" b/w "Crumble Gunn"

The Selecter/The Beat: "Breakdown" b/w "Side To Side" split single

The Ska Flames: "Hoppin' Steppin'" b/w "Someday" and "El Camino" b/w "Hometown Waltz"

Yellowcap: "Around the World"

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Other Reviews and Pieces of Note

Review of The Selecter at The Gramercy Theatre on 10/6/16

The Duff Guide to Ska Remembers David Bowie

The Duff Guide to Ska Remembers Prince

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See what The Duff Guide to Ska reviewed during 2015 here!

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Monday, December 19, 2016

Duff Guide to Ska Fast Takes: Rico "Man From Wareika/Wareika Dub"

(Review by Steve Shafer)

Rico Man From Wareika/Wareika Dub (Double CD, Caroline International/Island Records, 2016): Even though he had lived in the UK since 1961 and had played on numerous records as a very respected and in demand session trombone man for Laurel Aitken, Dandy Livingstone (performing on "Rudy A Message to You"), Joe Mansano, Georgie Fame, and many others (for labels such as Blue Beat, Planetone, Ska Beat, Collins Downbeat), as well as releasing several albums of his own on Pama and Trojan, Rico Rodriguez (check out our bio of him here) wasn't well-known much beyond the Jamaican immigrant community and the devoted subculture of mods and skinheads until Island signed him in 1976. By that time, Chris Blackwell had begun to experience enormous success in marketing reggae to a rock audience--specifically with Bob Marley and the Wailers--and intended to repeat/build upon it with newly signed artists like Toots and Maytals, Burning Spear, and Rico Rodriguez.

Rico recorded Man From Wareika (its title track a tribute to Rico's friend and Alpha School mentor Don Drummond who first brought Rico to the Rastas up on Wareika Hill; this song is a version of Drummond's "Green Island") with top reggae musicians (Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespeare, Bobby Ellis, Eddie Thorton, Dick Cuthell, Ansel Collins, Karl Pitterson--who also produced the majority tracks here--and many more) during sessions in England at Island's Hammersmith Studios and Jamaica at Randy's and Joe Gibb's studios. A few months prior to Man From Wareika's release in 1976, Rico toured the UK with Bob Marley and the Wailers, which helped generate advance interest in his album (and in 1977, Rico opened for Marley on the European tour in support of Exodus). Man From Wareika received positive to stellar reviews and sold well-enough that Island released an extremely sought after handmade-looking white label dub version through its Ghetto Rockers imprint and a series of Island 12" singles in 1977 and 1979--"Africa," "Ska Wars," "Dial Africa," "Take 5," and "Children of Sanchez." Having said that, Rico's heavily jazz-influenced instrumental reggae was a bit out of step with the contemporary roots reggae of the mid-70s, which limited Man From Wareika's appeal to some degree (though Jerry Dammers took note, which led to Rico essentially joining The Specials a few years later and achieving even greater popularity and acclaim). But listening to it today, one recognizes that this a phenomenal album--a masterpiece of Jamaican jazz--though nowhere as near well-known and celebrated as it should be.

This definitive 40th anniversary release of Man From Wareika marks the first time that Wareika Dub has been available on compact disc outside of Japan (where it was issued in 2004) and this double CD features 15 bonus tracks--comprised of cuts from many of the Island 12" singles, a few tracks from the Man from Wareika sessions that were first released on Roots to the Bone in 1995, and five terrific unreleased songs (vocal versions of "Africa" and "(Free) Ganja" with Ijahman Levi; a cover of Lee Morgan's "The Sidewinder"; and Rico's "Shabeen" and "Night of the Bongo Man," which features Count Ossie). Fans of Rico will need this in their collection--but anyone who loves reggae and Jamaican music should really give it a shot, since it's that crucial.

One hopes that this re-issue will lead to expanded releases of Rico's two albums for 2 Tone: That Man is Forward (1981) and Jama Rico (1982). The later has never been released on CD, which is shocking, as its an extraordinarily good album (it may be Man From Wareika's equal or better) and very hard to find on LP these days.

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Saturday, December 17, 2016

Duff Guide to Ska Fast Takes: Madness "Can't Touch Us Now"

(Review by Steve Shafer)

Madness Can't Touch Us Now (16 track CD/12 track LP, Lucky Seven Records/UMC, 2016): You've got to hand it to Madness--there are precious few bands this far into their (incredibly successful) career who continue to give enough of a damn to resist the temptation of churning out by-the-numbers albums and sitting back to watch the royalty checks come flooding back in the mail. Madness' eleventh album Can't Touch Us Now keeps with the fantastic creativity and high quality control of their two most recent records, The Liberty of Norton Folgate (2009) and Oui, Oui, Si, Si, Ja, Ja, Da, Da (2013), and is packed with the kind of wonderfully crafted upbeat ska, melancholy pop, and uniquely British music hall tracks one always hopes for from the band. All Nutty Boys are present--with the exception of the much missed Cathal Smyth--and, always, all members had a hand in writing this collection of songs (which may explain their ongoing wellspring of great music--they don't rely on one or two songwriters to carry the day).

Ska music purists will find great satisfaction in "Mumbo Jumbo" (a broadside aimed at right wing politicians: "Cobbled together raise your right arm/Stoke a little fear back on Maggie's farm"--which includes a great tip of the hat to Prince Buster's "Madness" at the end, when Lee Thompson sings "propaganda minsters" repeatedly) and the melodramatic spaghetti Western reggay of "Grandslam." As well, there are several really excellent ska-influenced music hall cuts (a Madness specialty)--"Mr. Apples" (which concerns a puritan who sneaks out at night to indulge the very vices he publicly decries), "I Believe" (about a boy who finds the strength to reject formal religion and its bigotries in favor of a moral framework that embraces difference and diversity), "Can't Touch Us Now" (about star-crossed lovers feeling invincible despite their fate), and "Herbert" (literally about trying to avoid a shotgun wedding, but also a musical nod to their friend, the late Ian Dury). For those fans whose tastes extend a little further afield, Can't Touch Us Now features some extraordinary pop songs, including the amazing Beatle-ish "Another Version of Me" (criminally, not included on the LP!), the neo-soul of "You Are My Everything," the lush ballad "Pam the Hawk" (about an actual skilled Soho beggar), and a trio of Motown-via-Madness cuts: "Don't Leave the Past Behind You," "Good Times," and the heartfelt, spoken/sung Amy Winehouse tribute--based on a real-life chance encounter Suggs had with her just days before she died--"Blackbird" ("'Alright, Nutty Boy,' she said/Passing me on Dean Street/She's striding through the puddles/On black stiletto feet/Guitar over one shoulder/Swirling swagger in her stride/And a well appointed pencil skirt/Just maybe 18 inches wide").

While listening to the album, you should try to pick out some of the song references on the Sgt. Pepper's-like album cover (ironically, Madness' album cover for Oui Oui... was designed by Sir Peter Blake, who is best known for creating the cover of The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's)--the title cut mentions the Tower of London, "I Believe" name-checks St. Paul's Cathedral, etc. (too bad that the LP/CD insert doesn't include a map of all of the people and places and why they were selected; what's the significance of the Bedford Theatre in Camden Town or the inclusion of the rude boy Islington Twins from Janette Beckman's photos?).

Can't Touch Us Now is another triumph from Madness--one that you shouldn't miss!

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Monday, December 12, 2016

The Duff Guide to Ska Fast Takes: The Bionic Rats "T.B.R."

(Review by Steve Shafer)

The Bionic Rats T.B.R. (CD/digital download, self-released, 2016): If Rock Against Racism stages a comeback--and God knows we need them more than ever on both sides of the Atlantic--Dublin's phenomenal The Bionic Rats have two powerful anti-racist anthems ready for the RAR playlist, as well as a slew of other terrific ska, rocksteady, and reggae songs about enduring the slings and arrows of work, love, and life, on their amazingly good fourth album T.B.R. (the acronym reminds me, in my dyslexic way, of the Tom Robinson Band!). The ska-jazzy, but kind of spaghetti Western-ish "One More Nail in the Coffin" lays out The Bionic Rats absolute determination to counter the forces of fear and hate: "Climb up the ladder, get to the top/We'll never stop/One more nail in the coffin, one more nail/'Til all superstitions are dead in the ground/We'll never stop/One more nail in the coffin of ignorance." Even better may be the biting, minor-key lament "Half a Mind," which is similar in vein to Linton Kwesi Johnson's fierce anti-fascist/anti-National Front cut "Fite Dem Back" and is equally on the mark: "Now it wouldn't happen all the time/But you hear them talking about their kind/While they seem intelligent otherwise/I never fail to be surprised/Every time I hear their bile and see the poison in their eyes/They can never justify their lies but they try, oh yes they try/If they had half a mind maybe they could could use it/Take up too much of their time, too confusing." But it's not all about manning the ramparts against the bigots. The shiny and upbeat ska tune "I'm Doing Good" is an ode to the office workers of the world slaving away in their cubicles for someone else's big gain (complete with work-induced grunty vocal effects--shades of, um, "Allentown"!): "I'm doing good today/I'm making someone else some money...I'm doing good today/Hit all my targets this week/I'm doing good today/I worked right through my lunch break/I'm doing good today/I'm such a good employee/I'm doing good today/I'll still be here when it's late/I'm workin' it/I'm livin' it/I'm losing it/Each day at a time." "Say Something" urges bands to use their platform, large or small, to communicate something meaningful (amen to that--I'm all about the lyrics, too). "Until I Forget" is about struggling with drink--and references my favorite Homer Simpson quote ever on the subject. The band won't let you wallow in regret over how you completely blew it in the dubby "Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda"--'cause you know better. And the 11 year-old lurking within me loves the "dilemma" inferred in "Girls With Big Hands." The Bionic Rats' T.B.R. is by far one of my most favorite albums of the year--and fans of bands like No Sports or The Toasters should make a point to check it out!

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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...

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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

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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.

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