Take it or Leave it – Top 5′s of 2007

Posted on January 2nd, 2008 by JJ Loy

In case you haven’t noticed, we are now living in a New Year. It’s a time to reflect on the year before, a time to ask, “what were the best Ska and Reggae albums of the past 12 months?” More importantly, it’s a time where I answer that very question, in the form of various Top 5 lists.

Top Ska Albums

  1. The Pietasters – All Day I hesitate to call this a Ska album since it is largely Reggae with a fair share of Rock n’ Roll and Garage mixed into the track list. But the Pietasters will always be a Ska band at heart, and this album is their best yet.
  2. The Pepperpots – Shake It! I’d really like to hear the Pepperpots get a bit rawer. Shake It! is fantastic all over, although sterile at times. These girls are onto something.
  3. The Skatalites – On the Right Track I’ve reviewed this album previously, so to make a long story short: It’s far from the original line-up, but this album delivers new songs in the quintessential, straight forward Ska that you would expect.
  4. Kingston Kitchen – Today’s Special Not a full album, but Dr. Ring Ding fronts this Jazzy outfit through 6 tracks that push the stylistic boundaries of Ska-Jazz.
  5. Deals Gone Bad – The Ramblers These guys seem poised to be major players in the Ska scene. This album, once started, has a tendency to play all the way through. The soulful vocals and jazzy solos keep my fingers off of the skip button. But don’t rest on your laurels yet DGB, with power comes responsibility.

Top Dub Albums

  1. The Drastics – Waiting Easily my most played album of last year, and I haven’t had it for very long. Their brand of Dub is heavy and multifaceted, but never a nuisance. It’s mellow enough to be background music, but experimental enough to pay attention too. It is perfect Dub.
  2. Crazy Baldhead – Has a Posse Agent Jay has a very home made approach to Dub, and his recording aesthetic directly effects the end product. Warm and analog- very Version City.
  3. Ticklah – Ticklah vs Axelrod Brilliant Ska and Jazz Dubs in the style of Victor Rice. Rice is, in fact, on about half of the tracks. However, unlike In America, TvA has vocal tracks by a handful of musicians, while Rice tends to play straight instrumentals. I predict big things for Ticklah in the coming years.
  4. The Eternals – Heavy International This is not the mellow Dub Reggae that you used to see in the genre, this is noisy- circus style syncopation with mind warping effects, urban poetry and unsteady beats. The Eternals aggression has not fallen on deaf ears.
  5. Unnamed – The Good, The Bad and The Queen Damon Albarn now has side projects to his side projects. Blur and The Gorillaz front man, teamed up with the Clash’s Paul Simonon and Danger Mouse. Not a Dub album, and certainly not a Reggae album, GBQ is slow tempo Rock with moody Dub elements that make it worth mentioning here.

Top Early/Skinhead Reggae

  1. The Aggrolites – Reggae Hit LA My downstairs neighbor must hate it when I play this disc, because nothing gets my feet going like The Aggrolites.
  2. Tim Armstrong – Life of a Poet This record, backed by The Aggrolites is like a night out with the band and Armstrong, themselves. The tempo is steady and the drop is Skinhead, but there’s a Punky- sometimes Clubby sound to Life of a Poet.
  3. Green Room Rockers – Hoosier Homegrown These guys seemed to pop up out of nowhere, and now they’re winning over audiences on the East Coast. There is room for them to grow still, but a very impressive first album.
  • I have to give Honorable Mention to a few other bands who had Early-Style Reggae offerings from 2006, but didn’t become easily available (to me) until this last year. The Upsessions and The Caroloregians both released records that would have rivaled The Aggrolites for the top spot. I hope that in ’08 I will hear more from both bands.

Favorite Tracks

  1. Dr. Ring-Ding and Vic Ruggiero – What it Takes
  2. Tim Armstrong – Inner City Violence
  3. The Slackers – Mind Your Own Business
  4. The Pietasters – G to F
  5. Bedoin Soundclash – Nico on the Night Train

Albums Worth Mentioning

Some of these listed here are being noted for being torch carriers in other revivalist genres; and some for adeptly mixing various traditional sounds. It’s this that I look for in music, Jamaican influenced or not.

  1. Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings – 100 Days 100 Nights
  2. Antibalas – Security EP
  3. Beastie Boys – The Mix Up
  4. Manu Chao – La Radiolina
  5. Ozomatli – Don’t Mess with the Dragon

Comments (0) Jan 02 2008

Cut the Chit Chat – 06 – Even Newer Ska

Posted on November 13th, 2007 by JJ Loy

Way back before Episode 01 of Cut the Chit Chat I had scoured the internet trying to find the newest bands and the newest tracks. But I always felt the episode still wasn’t reflective of the unique time/space location that is late 2007. Luckily for me, the episode opened some doors with several prominent labels. Since the begining of this series, I’ve been swamped with samples from bands that I’ve never heard of.

New Skool and Traditional Style Ska are seeing a huge push in Europe and South America. Not to be counted out, the old USAok has it’s share of Traddy bands dotting it’s wide landscape.

Let me tell you a little bit about each band featured on this episode:

Downbeat Alley – Django Kill – Born from Royal Roost this group delivers heavy organ Reggae.

Deal’s Gone Bad – Rough and Ready – Chicago’s up and comers with a cut from the new album.

New Town Kings – Fire In the Hole – Do the Dog Records sent me this song, it’s fast, it’s rockin’ but it’s not typical.

The Dualers – Money – I found these guys on MySpace and was immediately impressed by their unique sound.

Bedouin Soundclash – Trinco Dog – See? I like them.

Miss Mad-e Ruthless – Dia De los Muertos – This fellow ska enthusiast has decided to lay down some tape of her own with this pretty song about scary things.

The Pepperpots – Be My Baby – Less of a band and more of a Ska Review, The Pepperpots prove their slickness with this classic cover.

3 Minute Warning – Sussed Out – Another Do the Dog offering seems to blaze past in an flash of high energy.

Green Room Rockers – Divided – A Soul Reggae group from West Lafayette, IN of all places, unplug their instruments and criticize foreign policy.

Rebelation – Minor Incident – This instrumental track takes it’s time and allows for so many solos; it might be my favorite cut on their whole cd.

Lord Mike’s Dirty Calypsonians – Rub My… – Classic Calypso tune- raised from the dead by this Chicago Revivalist group.

Ticklah/Victor Axelrod – Mi Sonsito – If you don’t have this cd- get it! A member of Easy Star All-Stars and many other dubby projects, Ticklah is Axelrod. But is the converse true?

The Slackers – Wanted Man – Vic and the guys cover the result of a Johnny Cash/Bob Dylan team-up.

Kingston Kitchen (Dr. Ring-Ding) – St. James Infirmary Blues – Another classic cover, with the Doctor taking on a very Tom Waits style voice.

The Pietasters – G to F – One of the best songs of last year. Great album great song.

The Toasters – Run Rudy Run Redux – I talk a lot of shit about the silly side of ska. But I’ll let you in on a little secret: I have a huge soft spot for cheezy spy-style ska. Run Rudy Run was on the second ska album I ever owned and this reworking of the classic Toasters track is really fun.

As I state on the show, this will be the last episode of the Cut the Chit Chat series. However, it is not the end for Ska Blah Blah. Expect a new interview series in January, and the blog will continue throughout. So keep your subscriptions active and you won’t miss a thing.

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Comments (3) Nov 13 2007

Fellow Podcaster Keeps Me Honest

Posted on October 2nd, 2007 by JJ Loy

In my recent, somewhat critical, write up on Bedouin Soundclash, I ruffled the feathers of one of my fellow ska podcasters. It seems that Gabe from Pressure Drop Soundcast and MusicalOcupation.com is a bigger fan of the Bedouin boys than myself. Much like the Open Season chat battle, of years past, Gabe and I aired our differences of opinion with some good natured rib jabbing.

From such sources as blog comments and email, the conversation in it’s entirety:

JJ
Original Post


Gabe
Whiney Boy Hipsters??
C’ mon man?!!(and later)
Had to hassle you about the Bedouin Soundclash post!
Those guys are amazing. To get them you gotta understand their many influences, that’s what makes them so great.
I would recommends listening to Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros, followed imediatly by The Maytals, Maytones, The Clash or The Police. Then it’ll all of a sudden make sense!

Keep up the good work

JJ
It’s only because you’ve been very complimentary and supportive in
the past that I’m not going to get hurt feelings on this one. You
think I’d start a Ska blog and not know about Strummer or the Maytals?

Okay, so I’m not that hurt. But honestly, that wasn’t a direct
comment on the band (for the record I’ve never heard these guys
whine) but rather pointing out that their slick sound, especially the
vocals, remind me of the whiners that are popular these days.

The Police are a great comparison, and I wish I’d have thought of
that. I tend to favor the bands that are doing it themselves, have a
strong sense of revivalism, and shun Big Music. Bed. Soundclash have
two of those characteristics, but I fear they’re headed to the top
40. Even the amount of money being put into their videos is
evidence of the direction they’re heading. I personally agree with a
more Ruggiero style of success, by cultivating fans thru hard work,
and staying off of Mtv.

Maybe I’ll edit the post to clear up a few of my points. One of the
best parts of doing this blog, is encountering people like you, that
care equally as much. I didn’t want to make a show that turned
people onto ska in the first place, but one that people who love ska
already, would turn to. You’re going to make me stay on my toes.

If you’d like to keep this going (as a friendly argument) then just
say some shit!

Gabe
I had to harass you!
Just friendly banter man.
I know what you mean about their sound and direction. However, I think they honestly make music from the heart, and if that sound is infectious enough to catch the attention of a mainstream audience, then so be it. They deserve to make money at something they are good at and love. At least they are doing it their way and not selling out to make their music marketable to a certain demographic. And they certainly portray that by the way they present themselves in the many interviews I’ve read and watched.


Ouch. He makes a good point, doesn’t he? Has commercial music ruined me for commercially viable music? Am I being a musical bigot? Perhaps, I fear that if the record companies start paying attention to ska, again, the result will be worse than before.Please add your own thoughts.


Comments (0) Oct 02 2007

Ska Online: Bedouin Soundclash

Posted on September 30th, 2007 by JJ Loy

I’m not sure everyone’s opinion on Bedouin Soundclash; I’m a little conflicted, myself. The first time I heard them, I was very turned off by their clean, radio-friendly sound. I gave their brand new record, Street Gospels, a shot and ended up liking a couple of tracks, which lead me back to Sounding a Mosaic, their penultimate album. While the vocals still remind me of the whiney boy hipsters that are popular in the current indie scene, the songs and rhythms come from a very rootsy place. I gotta say, they’re winning me over more and more.

Here’s an online live concert by AOL Music Canada Link (not a direct link, choose Bedouin Soundclash from the list of bands. A GoogleVid search Link Some of my favorites:

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Bedouin Soundclash Official Links: Website MySpace Wiki page Amazon List

Comments (4) Sep 30 2007