Sunday, October 31, 2010

Kid British: A New Hope For Ska In The 21st Century?

While I join other old school ska fans in looking forward to new releases from Madness and The Specials in 2011, and I am heartened that the bands of my youth (The Beat, The Selecter, UB40) continue to record, tour and play, I have to confess that I often wonder when a new, next generation version of these bands will emerge to carry on the legacy that they created thirty odd years ago. One band that is making a case to carry the torch, albeit with a new and more modern take on the ska genre, is Manchester-based Kid British.

For the uninitiated, Kid British play a mix of ska meets indie pop with strong hints of pop/hip-hop and soul. Visually, this multi-cultural band look exactly like what you would expect the off-spring of 2-Tone to look like. Hyped as the next big thing by the UK mainstream music media two years ago, the band may finally be hitting their stride. With support slots for The Enemy, The Specials and now UB40 under their belts, the band that released an EP titled 'It Was This Or Football First Half' in 2009 to mixed reviews (here's a good one and here's a bad one), may finally be poised to live up to the hype. How have they done that you may ask? By willing to go back to the past to create new ska-flavored sounds (their use of a sample from the Madness song 'Our House' for their song 'Our House Is Dadless' was pure genuis) and by playing great live shows for the fans of bands old enough to be their parents in an attempt to turn them (and their kids) on to their 21st century take on ska. When Lynval Golding comes to one of your shows to personally invite you from the stage to open for shows for the reformed version of The Specials, then you must be doing something right.

Kid British who are currently on a U.K. tour with UB40 are garnering rave reviews for their live show and UB40 saxophonist Brain Travers (who like Golding from The Specials saw the band's potential in revving up their long-time fans) has been tweeting about how much he likes them. And that, I would argue is where Kid British need to focus their attention - on honing their live show. Unlike some of the British music media, I think they have more than a handful of great songs, which speak to what life is like for twenty-somethings in a UK of downsized expectations. For those among you who have not seen the band perform live, have a look at video from a live TV session they recorded. The band are tight, the musicianship is strong, they are visually appealing and their sound is diverse -- just what they need to capture the iPod generation. The songs (all from their debut album) include 'Elizabeth', 'Sunny Days', 'Lets Have A Party' (as great an outtake from The Specials as you are likely to hear) and the Northerner's lament 'Lost In London'.

I have also been struck by the band's creativity and their love of older music. Here are great ska/reggae covers of Thin Lizzy's 'Boys Are Back In Town' and New Order's 'Blue Monday' that the band recorded to honor musicians from their hometown for BBC Manchester. Both are single worthy in my book. Have a look/listen.

You can pick-up a copy of the band's debut album 'It Was This Or Football First Half' on in the U.S. and in the U.K. The band is currently on tour in the U.K. with UB40. If you have seen them, please share your thoughts.

You can listen to and download a track from the new Kid British release 'Winner' from

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Marco On The Bass Live review: The Toasters Live At BB King's in New York City

I regularly attended NYC ska shows held at CBGB's, the Cat Club and The Continental in 1987-1988 and that time period is owned by The Toasters, who were just about to rocket out of the New York scene to begin touring and preaching the gospel of ska around the U.S. The band and its impact and influence on ska in the U.S. can't be emphasized enough. So it was with great excitement and affection that I hopped the New York City subway a few stops to BB King's in Times Square last night to pay my respects to English guitarist/vocalist Robert 'Bucket' Hingley. Bucket is responsible more than any other musician for ska’s popularity in America, and for keeping faith in the genre through its many ups and downs. Hingley and The Toasters tour relentlessly and he has become a familiar face to ska fans all over the world.

Whenever The Toasters return to New York City to play, its always like one big ska family reunion and last night was no different. The bill included The Pietasters, Hub City Stompers and Royal City Riot, who like The Toasters are all touring and working hard to play and promote ska and the bill drew a very respectable sized crowd. I attended with my friend and fellow ska blogger Steve Shafer (Duff Guide To Ska) who worked for Hingley and Moon Records during the height of ska's popularity here in the U.S (see picture of Shafer and Hingley below). We also met up with Brett Trach who worked as a business manager for Moon Records and helped manage distribution for the label at the height of its popularity. Both Shafer and Trach shared some amazing stories and anecdotes about the ups and downs of Moon Records and the American ska scene which will hopefully be recorded at some point for a book or documentary about the label. These are tales and memories that really tell the story of ska in the U.S. and deserve a wider audience than just those of us having a pint or two together at the bar.

While Hingley is the only original member of the band, he never fails to attract a strong backing band of talented musicians. The current lineup on display last night was tight and talented. In particular, drummer/vocalist Jesse Hayes and bassist Thaddeus Merritt (formerly of Boston-based Westbound Train) make a tight, nimble rhythm section. Trumpeter Rich Graiko (also formerly of Westbound Train) in particular played a number of outstanding solos and long-time keyboardist Dave Barry (who has returned to play with the band when they are on the East Coast) added organ and piano that filled out the normally stripped down sound of the band. And in the middle of it all, Hingley (in his trademarked New York Yankees baseball cap) held center stage with his choppy rhythm guitar and his grainy tenor.

The Toasters’ songs may not be widely known among pop music fans, but to ska enthusiasts, they’ve become true classics. As an old school fan of the band I was happy to hear a few older songs from the band's catalog which took me back to all those shows I attended 25 years ago including 'East Side Beat (an homage to the band's old Manhattan neighborhood),' 'Two-Tone Army', 'Run Rudy Run' (a personal favorite of mine) and 'Weekend in L.A.' (which tells the story of the band's first visit to play Los Angeles). You can see live video of these songs below.

After nearly thirty years, over three dozen changes in the lineup, and just about every frustration and setback that a working musician can endure, Hingley shows no sign of slowing down. The Toasters are wrapping up a European, U.K. and U.S. tour that has kept them on the road for most of 2010. You can expect the same from Hingley and the band in 2011.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Selecter Announce Special London Show To Perform 'Too Much Pressure' Album

For anyone who loves 2-Tone era ska and reggae, 2010 has been an amazing year to celebrate the music's legacy and longevity. With 1980 as the high point of many iconic releases, 2010 has been a bonanza of 30th anniversaries. With The Specials now actively touring and planning a new release, Madness announcing plans for a new album of material in 2011 and UB40 touring to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the 'Signing Off' album, its now time to turn our attention to the 30th anniversary of one of 2-Tone era ska's all time great albums, namely 'Too Much Pressure' by The Selecter. To celebrate this milestone, Pauline Black's version of the band (featuring her original co-vocalist Arthur 'Gaps' Hendrickson) will perform the album with her new band, in its entirety, exclusively at the Bloomsbury Ballroom in London on Saturday November 13th.

I love the idea of a band performing an album in its entirety and I think its a clever way for a band to market a show or a tour. The Selecter's first album (like UB40's 'Signing Off' and The Beat's 'I Just Can't Stop It') is certainly a worthy collection for this type of showcase. The history of The Selecter is in many ways the history of 2-Tone. The band was a microcosm of many diverse parts of both the 70's white and black music scenes in Coventry, with all the main players in The Specials, The Selecter and various other bands having had some some musical connection with one another. Though the band only burned brightly for two albums worth of material in its original 2-Tone incarnation, their first album remains a classic of the genre (though I remain partial to their second album 'Celebrate The Bullet'.) The show is timely too as ‘Too Much Pressure’ successfully reflected the social and political issues of the early Thatcher years and gave a voice to disaffected youth across the racial divide. Thirty years later the U.K. is confronting some of the single largest budget cuts in its post-war history as overseen by a newly elected Conservative government.

Though the show is meant to be a celebration of The Selecter and their enduring legacy, sadly the band remains divided. Black and Hendrickson's former band mate Neol Davies unveiled his own version of The Selecter earlier this summer. Though the reality of two version of The Selecter is intriguing, its a shame that the members remain unable to patch up their differences and come together to properly honor their legacy. Nevertheless, fans of The Selecter now have the choice to see competing musical visions for the band as laid out by Davies on one side and Pauline Black and Gaps Hendrickson on the other.

Tickets for Black and Hendrickson's version of The Selecter are available at the AGMP Web site. If you end up attending the show, please feel free to share a review, photos or video here on the blog.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Blue Riddim Band Return With First Album In 25 Years - 'Tribute' Pays Respects To The Titans of Rocksteady and Dub

Blue Riddim Band, America's original reggae band have returned to action for the first time in 25 years with a stirring collection of songs that honor the artists and songs that have influenced them throughout their nearly four decade career which includes a 1986 Grammy nomination for best reggae album. The inspiration behind 'Tribute' is simply that, a tribute, to the band's fallen comrades who have passed away (Scott Korchak and Bob Zohn), and to the originators of rocksteady and dub that have guided the band throughout their long career. 'Tribute' is similar in some ways to UB40's 'Labour Of Love series of albums, in that the 10 songs featured on the album are a tip of the hat to the band's Jamaican mentors who recorded some of the genres most well known and iconic tracks during 1965-69.

While reggae has become a global phenomenon, the idea of an authentic American reggae band has often been hard for a lot of music fans to comprehend. However, very few groups have played reggae as convincingly as the Blue Riddim Band who hail from Kansas City. Drawing on influences from Coxson Dodd's Studio One label and Duke Reid's Treasure Isle label, Blue Riddim has flourished for four decades by mastering the rhythms that are the basis for all Jamaican music. While other non-Jamaican reggae bands have fallen into the trap of trying to reproduce the crossover sound of Bob Marley and The Wailers, Blue Riddim became students and later experts who could play a range of ska, rock steady, and rockers reggae like the originals they pay homage to on 'Tribute'. Their performance during the 1982 Reggae Sunplash Festival remains legendary.

The new album features three original members including Steve “Duck” McLane (drums) and Jack “Blacky” Blackett (sax) and bassist Todd 'Bebop' Burd (who joined in 1983). It also features a cameo appearance by Jimmy Becker on harmonica who played on the band's Grammy nominated 'Alive In Jamaica' album. The band is rounded out with Jack Lightfoot (trumpet), Chris Bartak (trombone), Dan Bergner and Joe Miquelon (keyboards), Jimmy Dykes (guitar) and Edward Turner (vocals).

To keep an air of rawness to the sound, Burd and co-producer Leonard Dstroy did not inform the band what songs were to be recorded prior to the actual recording session. To add even more authenticity to the proceedings, the air conditioning in the studio was turned off and a minimal amount of mics were employed to capture the recordings. Burd believed that the recording conditions should be a bit physically uncomfortable to re-create some of the actual conditions that existed at Studio One in the 60's and try to catch a vibe that way.

Below is live video of the band performing tracks from the new album including the Rico Rodriguez classic 'Ramble', The Jamaicans 'Ba Ba Boom' (featuring Turner on lead vocals) and a ska version of Duke Ellington's 'Caravan':

The boot camp approach has worked wonders and the songs which include a mix of well known and obscure tracks from the Studio One/Treasure Isle archives are fantastic, among the best ska, 60's era reggae and dub you are likely to hear in 2010. McLane's drumming in particular is sublime, and he may be one of the most underrated reggae drummers of all time. The band's horn section (always among its strongest features) remains at the fore and continues to carry the memorable melodies of these classic songs. Vocalist Turner is a great addition to a band that was always identified by the unique vocals of its original singers Zohn and Korchak.

The track listing from 'Tribute' includes:

1. 'Illiterate Dub' is a Channel One instrumental version of a Horrace Andy song. Original title track unknown
2. 'Black Stick Rock' is originally 'Love Without Feeling' by The Heptones.
3. 'Only A Dub' is an instrumental version of the classic, 'Only A Smile' by The Parragons.
4. 'Skaravan' is a ska version of the classic 'Caravan' by Duke Ellington.
5. 'Ba-Ba-Boom' is by The Jamaicans.
6. 'Money Maker' is an instrumental version of The Heptones, 'Fatty Fatty Riddim'.
7. 'Ramble Dub' is by Rico Rodriguez
8. 'Dub Drifter' is an instrumental version of the “Mudie” label classic 'Drifter' by Dennis Walks.
9. 'Dub and Learn' is an instrumental version of the Alton Ellis classic 'Live and Learn'.
10. 'Queen of the Rub' is originally 'Queen of the Minstrel' by Cornell Campbell.

I'm hoping to help arrange a performance by the band in New York City sometime in 2011. In the meantime you can listen to or purchase a copy of 'Tribute' from

Monday, October 18, 2010

Fred Perry Launches 'Tell Us Your Story' Photo/Video Competition: Winner Receives £5,000

Fred Perry. Two words that inspire an intense emotional response from the myriads of musical sub-cultures all over the world that have embraced its iconic laurels: Mods, Punks, Rude Boys, Skinheads, BritPop and Indie fans. I count myself as a devoted fan of the brand. Nothing looks better or sharper and when I wear one I feel part of something bigger but also something special and select. And when I see someone wearing one I can assume we have a few musical things in common.

To tap into this loyalty, Fred Perry is celebrating its heritage with a 'Tell Us Your Story' interactive social media competition that invites fans of the brand to share their own personal stories accompanied by pictures or video that highlight you wearing their clothes. So what are they looking for? According to Fred Perry: Ideally, they would be images, video or cine film (converted to a video clip) from your own family albums – or shots taken with friends. The brand started in 1952, so they can be from that date - through to the present day. They might be of you at a music festival, club rally, on a beach or in your back garden. You may even choose to take a shot that has been inspired by the images you will see on this web site. This site is for you to share your affection and affiliation to Fred Perry or the many music subcultures associated with the iconic laurel logo: These include Mods, Rudeboys, Suedeheads, Ska/2-Tone, Reggae, Punk, New Wave, Casuals/Perry Boys, Alternative, Britpop, Electronic/Rave and Indie/Electro clash. This is not a ‘technical’ photographic competition – so family album snaps, camera phone pics or videos have just as good a chance of winning as a technically proficient shot. Visitors to the site vote for the picture/story combination they like the most for this to win a monthly prize and 4 final cash prizes.

I entered the contest (see my pictures and stories here and here and feel free to vote for me!) and I suggest that you do too! The key is select a photo or video of yourself wearing Fred Perry. If you don't have any Fred Perry shirts, track tops or shoes, than by all means beg, borrow or steal some and enter the contest! It's all in the creative composition of photo and words that describe the picture. Show some humor, sentiment, nostalgia or love. Nail the setting and you might earn quite a bit of cash, all for having fun writing about a shirt! Prizes will be awarded with £5,000 for the most interesting story and three runner ups will receive £250.

Fancy telling them your story? You can do so right here.

Below is a link to where you can shop for and purchase a variety of Fred Perry shirts and clothing:

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Keith Richards & Justin Hinds Collaborate On 'Wingless Angels II': Album Features Rastafarian Folk Songs & Drumming

Hot on the heels of the release of The Jolly Boys new album 'Great Expectations', comes 'Wingless Angels II' an album of Rastafarian folk songs, chanting and Nyabinghi drumming featuring the singing of Justin Hinds (of Justin Hinds & The Dominoes fame) and the guitar playing of Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones.

Like The Jolly Boys and their update of Mento, its an album that explores the original sounds of Jamaica and the musical and cultural traditions that had such an important impact on modern reggae. Its the second such album following on an a similarly self-titled first record that Richards released on his own in 1997. Richards' love for all things Jamaican was born when The Stones recorded there starting in the mid-'70s . The band dabbled in reggae, including a version of Jamaican singer Eric Donaldson's 'Cherry Oh Baby' on 1976's 'Black and Blue' album.

The idea for the Wingless Angles project was first hatched by Richards back in 1972. The Stones had escaped to Jamaica after their post-Exile On Main Street U.S. tour to begin work on 'Goats Head Soup' at Byron Lee's Studio in Kingston. Richards later bought a house in Ocho Rios where he met Justin Hinds who had just had a hit with 'Carry Go Bring Come' who was part of a loose collective of Rastafarian drummers and singers. Slowly over time Richards was invited to sit in on some of the musical sessions as a guest listener. Much later he was eventually given the nod to join the circle. It was at this point that he decided the music needed to be recorded. You can read more detailed accounts of Richard's Jamaican experiences and the genesis of Wingless Angels from an article in The Guardian and Spinner.

Richards describes Wingless Angels as making 'marrow music.' He says, “I think everybody knows what they have to do day in and day out, and this music is a way of separating from that, and getting as pure a spirit going as you can. Everybody knows that you’re still living on this earth, and you’re still gonna have to go through whatever you gotta go through, but it’s a release—an uplifting moment where you can actually forget all your sorrows and cares.” This is real soul music and the core of the songs is the sweet singing of Justin Hinds, who had been one of the key figures in the rise of ska music going back to the '50s and remained prominent in the transition to reggae. The new album serves as a loving tribute from Richards to Hinds, who died of lung cancer in 2005 at age 62 (listen to Hinds sing the ska classic 'Carry Go Bring Come' that was later covered by The Selecter).

Below is a video of the song 'Oh What A Joy' from 'Wingless Angels II' featuring the sweet soulful singing of Hinds and the understated guitar playing of Richards:

You can listen to and purchase a copy of Wingless Angels Volume II from

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Marco On The Bass Live Review: UB40 At BB Kings in New York City

Though it was just a short hop, skip and jump on the subway from my apartment in Manhattan to see UB40 at BB King's in the heart of Times Square, it had been 26 years and few blocks since I had first seen the band during their very first 'Labour Of Love' Tour in 1984 at the Roseland Ballroom on 52nd Street. A lot has changed over that time, but one thing has remained the same -- UB40 still put on a great live show!

I met up with my fellow ska/reggae blogger Steve Shafer (Duff Guide To Ska) at the venue a few minutes before 8 pm and right on cue the band came out on stage and kicked into 'Train Is Coming'. The close to sell-out crowd welcomed them warmly. From there it was a 90 minute trip through the band's extensive catalog with a set list that was definitely crafted for American audiences that included most of the songs the band placed on the U.S. pop charts including 'Red Red Wine', 'Can't Help Falling In Love' and tracks from all four Labour Of Love albums which did quite well here in the States (see the set list the band's sound engineer let me scan below).

New singer Duncan Campbell fills his brother Ali's shoes with ease, and he seemed to get looser and more comfortable as the set went on, really coming to life on the older material. He has a strong, soulful voice and hits all the notes his brother made his vocal trademark. The band's MC/toaster Astro was definitely missed (he was denied a visa by U.S. Homeland Security), but his bandmates filled in for him. It was great to hear album cuts like 'Reggae Music' and 'Baby' where bassist Earl Falconer took over lead vocals and the dancehall sounds of the tunes were a nice change of pace from the band's mostly mid-tempo set. Falconer is an animated performer with a great falsetto voice and it was nice to see him come out from behind his guitar. I also enjoyed hearing 'Dance Until The Morning Light' that the band recorded with Maxi Priest from the 'Twenty Four Seven' album, which had cant miss pop hit written all over it when it was released a few years ago.

True to their word, the set did include 'Tyler', 'King', 'I Think Its Going To Rain' and 'Little By Little' from the 'Signing Off' album in swift succession (see videos below). It was great to hear songs from the album that the band will be playing in its entirety during a U.K. tour which starts later this month. It was the real reason I was most excited to see the band, as that album and 'Present Arms' (the band also performed 'One In Ten') were both huge parts of my musical education. Sadly there were no tracks from the vastly underrated 'Who You Fighting For' album.

Below are videos of 'Tyler', 'I Thing Its Going To Rain', 'Little By Little' and 'King' from 'Signing Off' which I shot on my Flip Video. The visuals may be grainy but the sound quality is very good. Either way you will get a sense of the band live:

Fans in the U.K. should be excited. You are in for a real treat with the 'Signing Off' tour. Enjoy!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Unsung Heroes Of The 2-Tone Era - Channel A: Stan Campbell's Pre-Special AKA Ska Band

I've previously written about the important role that Stan Campbell played in the history of 2-Tone and his sad demise later on. As the voice of 'Nelson Mandela' and other songs from The Special AKA album 'In The Studio" he inhabits a strange nether world. His voice is forever linked to one of the greatest political protest songs of the late 20th century, but he remains a true enigma who never had a chance to make the most of his talent or his gifted voice. Here is very rare studio footage of Campbell and the band rehearsing 'Nelson Mandela'. Its over 8 minutes long and you finally get a sense of what Campbell's voice was like live.

Campbell's star blazed quickly and very briefly and he never actually performed live with The Special AKA, who true to their one and only album title never left the studio. Nevertheless, interest in him remains strong particularly in the one out-of-print self-titled solo album he recorded at UB40's DEP Studio in Birmingham with local musicians which was released after his stint with Dammers and Co. Have a look and listen to the single 'Years Go By' to get a sense of what might have been if destiny had been kinder.

But what about before The Special AKA and a solo career? I only recently learned that Campbell had a musical career going before he was plucked from obscurity by Jerry Dammers to fill Terry Hall's shoes. In fact, it must have been easy for Dammers, because Campbell was performing in an early 80's Coventry-based ska band called Channel A.

Not much is known about Channel A, but recently their co-founders Peter Jacobs and Martin Gardner posted promo and live pictures of the band performing and demo tracks the band recorded on a My Space page. The bands songs are notable for their moody keyboards and crisp bass playing and sound at times like The Police, but the stand-out is Campbell's voice and you get a sense that Dammers must have realized he had a diamond in the rough with him when he heard them perform. You can listen to the four songs on the music player I attached below.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Marco On The Bass Book Review: 'Ska: An Oral History' by Heather Augustyn

Heather Augustyn opens her new book 'Ska: An Oral History' with a preface that reads: 'Everyone who loves ska has a story to tell - the first time they heard The Specials in the 70's, the first time they danced on stage at a Toasters show in the 80's, the first time they saw The Skatalites perform in the 90's'. No truer words have been written! Its why I started a ska band and why I started writing this blog. Its the stories and experiences - past and present -- that keep ska alive for its fans and for the many musicians who have made it their life work.

So who is Heather Augustyn anyway and why did she write a book about the history of ska? She's quite open about the fact that she is a fan who decided to channel her own love of ska by tracing its historical arc. Taking matters into her own hands she contacted and personally interviwed an array of musicians (including Cedella Marley who provides the forward) who have helped ska to succeed and grow. In ten distinct chapters she traces its post-colonial founding in Jamaica via Derrick Morgan, Millie Small and The Skatalites through Laurel Aitken and Toots Hibbert and later its migration with Jamaican immigrants to the U.K. where it was Anglicized by Judge Dread and later re-interpreted by The Specials, The Beat, The Selecter, Madness and Bad Manners. In the final chapter she chronicles the explosion of ska in the U.S. featuring interviews and profiles of key American ska bands including Angelo Moore of Fishbone, Rob 'Bucket' Hingley of The Toasters, Jayson Nugent of The Slackers and Jim Arhelger of Bim Skala Bim, Buford O'Sullivan of The Scofflaws, Tony Kanal of No Doubt and Dickie Barrett of The Mighty Mighty Bosstones among others.

Its an ambitious undertaking and it took Augustyn nearly a decade from start to publication. In the end she has realized a long held dream that has become a personal mission: to ensure that the stories of 30 key ska musicians who have played a key role in its invention, development and ongoing success are captured and preserved. It is these personal stories and memories that make the book compelling. And it is the personal stories that Augustyn has collected that take this book from what could have been a rote re-telling of ska musical history from other sources into something bigger - fascinating and inspiring memories, anecdotes and stories that are woven together over nearly 50 years that show ska's strength and endurance as the people's music

Highlights that Augustyn has uncovered about the early days of ska include:

Why Byron Lee & the Dragonaires were selected to perform at the 1964 World's Fair in New York instead of The Skatalites.

Derrick Morgan's account of how he wrote the song, 'Tougher Than Tough', when threatened by a real rude boy.

Millie Small talking about her 1964 breakthrough hit 'My Boy Lollipop' which took ska mainstream in the U.S. and U.K.

As a committed 2-Tone disciple I especially enjoyed the separate chapters Augustyn devoted to The Specials, The Beat, The Selecter, Madness and Bad Manners. Highlights for me included:

Roddy Radiation's account of why the Specials' famous Saturday Night Live performance almost didn't happen.

Dave Wakeling telling the story of why General Public's original video for 'Tenderness' featuring him falling in love with a transvestite bodybuilder was never shown in the U.S.!

Pauline Black explaining the symbolism of The Selecter's logo used on their second album 'Celebrate The Bullet'.

Lee 'Kix' Thompson of Madness recounting how he invented the band's 'Nutty Sound'.

Buster Bloodvessel of Bad Manners explaining how an appearance on Italian Television where he exposed his 'bum' (when the Pope was watching) ended up getting the band banned from the country!

As an historical document, Augustyn's book is worth the high retail price of $35--where else can you find out the real reason that Neville Staple was denied a visa by the U.S. Government for The Specials recent U.S. tour or how Judge Dread helped to launch the career of Bob Marley in the U.K. in the early 70's

Whether you are a hardcore traditional ska fan, have an academic interest in the genre, were raised on 2-Tone or were in the crowd at one of The Toasters shows all those years ago, you'll definitely want this book.

If you are interested in buying the book, it is available for sale on Click below:

Friday, October 8, 2010

Listen To The X-Streams!: The Best 2-Tone Era American Ska Band You've Never Heard Finally Make Unreleased Demo Available

I'm happy to report that the surviving members of The X-Streams, an incredibly talented but overlooked 2-Tone era American ska band from the early 80's, have finally made some amazing unreleased demo tracks they recorded in Los Angeles in 1980 with noted Warner Brothers producer Paul Wexler (son of Jerry Wexler) available for all to hear.

The X-Streams, were an Arizona-based ska band that played a part in the resurgent Los Angeles ska scene of the early 80's that flourished around the O.N. Klub. They remain the band I wished I had seen live and their story is one that continues to draw me in. Perhaps because they came so close to success before self-destructing. Perhaps because they brought an energy and intensity that was both mesmerizing and a little bit frightening to those who saw and heard them. Perhaps because for one brief moment they may have been the best hope for what an American 2-Tone era ska band could have been.

The band coalesced around Bob Steinhilber (drums), Peter Tessensohn (bass), Steve Kriol (guitar) and Lorraine Springer, a young woman from Trinidad on lead vocals. Springer had met Kriol in California and travelled with him to Arizona to start the band. The addition of local guitarist Kurt Mayberry was the final ingredient that took them to the next level, but also complicated their future. Much like Pauline Black and Neol Davies in The Selecter, it was the vocal interplay and energy between Springer and Mayberry that set The X-Streams apart and captured the attention of LA-based producers and music industry veterans, who for a short time, were captivated by the band's live energy and their edginess.

Sadly, The X-Streams were plagued by infighting, drug addiction, a nasty love triangle involving Springer and the band's two guitarists and a penchant for self-destruction that seemed to keep them from ever reaching their full musical potential. Nevertheless, they made a mark for themselves in Arizona and L.A. and are best remembered for their raw and edgy take on new wave styled ska.

Now at last its possible to revel in the incredible vocal talent and artistic performance of Lorraine Springer. Her vocals and lyrics are marked by an intensity and anger that are breathtaking. Backed by the band's edgy ska meets punk vibe, all the bands best songs revolve around her performance. The band's cover of Sugar Minott's 'Hard Time Pressure' becomes a story of The X-Streams trials and tribulations during their time in Los Angeles. Their 'Rec A Pum Pum/Wet Dream' is a cover of Prince Buster's 'Wreck A Pum Pum' which segues into Max Romeo's 'Wet Dream' and gives Springer a chance to flaunt her own sexuality. Their clever cover of Third World's song 'Rhythm Of Life' makes the song their own and remains the best 2-Tone era song you've never heard and the hard-hitting ska of 'Games' (which seems to document Springer's complicated personal relationship with her in-band lovers) gives Pauline Black and The Selecter a run for their money. Springer shines on the the aggressive punk of 'Be A Boy' where she fantasizes about changing her gender to enjoy the benefits of being a man. The weird, indescribable but captivating 'Fairies In The Mountain' imagines 'No sex, no race, no color, no creed'. All the intensity is balanced by 'Pretty Baby' which had all the ingredients to be a hit on FM radio. It's an amazing performance that has been hidden away for 30 years and can now finally be heard.

The band has created a ReverbNation page with all these songs plus others that were recorded after Springer left the band. You can listen to them there or on the player below. If you register for the band's e-mail list you can download a song for free.

The X-Streams have also released a CD of their later post-Springer tracks called 'Cloud 10' which you can listen to and purchase from

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

UB40 Radio Documentary Hosted by Ranking Roger Tells The Inside Story Of The 'Signing Off' Album

Truth be told, I am incredibly excited to see UB40 play here in New York City on Monday October 11th. The band is just finishing up their 2-week North American tour and have been playing to full houses as they promote their new 'Labour Of Love IV' album and perform selections from their extensive back catalogue of songs. As the band gear up for their 30th anniversary tour of the U.K. to celebrate and promote the re-release of 'Signing Off', I came across a fantastic radio documentary hosted by Ranking Roger of The Beat and produced by Birmingham City University that tells the inside story of the recording of the album and its social, musical and cultural significance.

'Signing Off' was heralded as a landmark album when it was released in late August 1980. Mixing reggae and dub, the album chronicled the times, and wider social and political issues, as well as the plight of inner cities like Birmingham throughout the UK during the early Thatcher years. The album went on to attain Platinum status after spending 71 weeks in the UK charts, peaking at number two, featuring hit singles 'King', 'Food For Thought' and 'I Think It’s Going to Rain Today'.

The documentary features fantastic interviews with members of the band (Brian Travers, Robin Campbell and Jim Brown) along with Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders (who gave the band their first break opening for her band) and Bob Lamb, who produced 'Signing Off' and signed the band to his indie Graduate Records label. The documentary explores life in Birmingham in the early eighties 80's and reveals the band's strong political beliefs.

Here is a short video of the making of the radio documentary featuring Ranking Roger:

The documentary provides some amazing detail like the band's original influences -- Big Youth, Lee Perry's Black Ark dub albums and Bim Sherman. I was particularly interested to learn that the band's iconic song 'Food For Thought' was originally titled 'The Christmas Song' before a roadie suggested a better title. I also enjoyed hearing how the band went about making their recording of Randy Newman's 'I Think Its Going To Rain' their own.

I can't recommend the documentary enough. Have a listen.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Fishbone Documentary 'Everyday Sunshine' To Screen In New York City: Band To Perform Live Following Screening!

The Fishbone documentary 'Everyday Sunshine' will finally be screened in New York City on Friday October 22nd as part of the CMJ Music Marathon & Film Festival. Even better is news that the band plan to perform live following the screening at Le Poisson Rouge on Bleeker Street in the heart of Greenwich Village.

The documentary, narrated by Laurence Fishburne and featuring Fishbone, Flea, Ice-T, Gwen Stefani, Perry Farrell, Bob Forrest, Branford Marsalis, and George Clinton is garnerning rave reviews for its filmmakers Chris Metzler and Lev Anderson as it makes its way across the country. In fact, Metzler and Anderson just won the awards for Best Directing & Best Feature Film at the DOC UTAH International Documentary Film Festival in late September.

Read more about the documentary and Metzler and Anderson from an interview they conducted with me earlier this summer.

Have a look at a trailer for the film on the Facebook page for the documentary.

Details below on the screening and show:

Friday, October 22nd at 4 PM
CMJ Music Marathon & Film Festival
The Norwood Club
241 W. 14 Street
New York, N.Y.
* Post-Screening Q&A

Friday, October 22nd at 7 PM
Le Poisson Rouge
158 Bleecker St
New York, New York

Friday, October 1, 2010

Green Room Rockers Release New Self-Titled Album: Collection of Soul and R&B Produced By Dave Hillyard of The Slackers

Lafayette, Indiana's very own Green Room Rockers (GRR) have just released a new self-titled album and with it they are making their case to be one of the brightest American ska bands on the scene. The record, which is the follow-up to their 2007 debut 'Hoosier Homegrown' was produced by Dave Hillyard of The Slackers, which adds to its bona fides.

The band hooked up with Hilyard when he e-mailed them an offer to collaborate in July of 2008. According to the band, it was a 2 sentence e-mail that said 'Hey, if you guys ever need a producer, give me a call'. The band took The Slackers saxophonist up on his offer and Hillyard flew into Lafayette from New York a couple times during the recording process, which spanned two years. Hillyard offered an ear that the band could trust and suggestions for song arrangements and performed on the instrumental dub 'Exit 178'.

Hillyard's influence is clear as GRR have experimented with a sound that comes close to where The Slackers and other band's influenced by them (The Forthrights) are taking American ska in the 21st Century, which is towards a rootsier, more 60's R&B sound with a definite emphasis on soul and blues. While most of the songs on the album retain a Jamaican-influence (a la Toots & The Maytals), there are a lot of songs that are a departure from the band's original rocksteady sound. Among the 14 tracks -- and two hidden tracks if you get the CD -- are a mix of familiar tunes, new songs and a few covers. Many of the songs have been road-tested and by playing them live over and over, the band perfected them before they were recorded. Of the batch 'You and I' offers the best example of the new GRR sound. Below is a video of the band performing the song in front of a hometown crowd.

The album will be front and center on a 16-day midwestern tour GRR are doing with The Slackers through most of October and planning for a European tour is also underway. The album will be available via,, Itunes, and Rhapsody. A limited edition, green vinyl version will also be available from Jump Up Records in November 2010.
The band is on the road in the U.S. and Canada during October with The Slackers. Try and catch them if you can.
10.1 - Cleveland Heights, OH @ the Grog shop
10.2 - Chicago, IL @ the Bottom Lounge
10.3 - St. Louis, MO @ the FIREBIRD
10.4 - Lafayette, IN @ The lafayette brew co
10.5 - Grand Rapids, Mi @ Billy's
10.6 - Ann Arbor, MI @ The Blind Pig
10.7 - Toledo, OH @ FRANKIES
10.8 - Pittsburgh, PA @ Theatre of living arts
10.9 - Bloomington, IN @ NUTELLA FEST
10.10 - Riot Fest, CHICAGO w/ ROY ELLIS aka mr symarip
10.19 - Buffalo, NY @ Mohawk Palace
10.20 - Guelph, ONT, CA @ E-Bar
10.21 - London, ONT, CA @ Call the office
10.22 - Toronto, ONT, CA @ Lee's Palace
10.23 - Montreal, QC, CA @ Le Studio
10.24 - TBA Ottawa , CA

You can listen to or buy a copy of the new album from