Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Jimmy Cliff To KIck Off 'Celebrate Brooklyn' Concert Series With A Free Show

Reggae legend Jimmy Cliff will kick off the Celebrate Brooklyn summertime concert series with a free concert at the Prospect Park Bandshell on Tuesday June 5th. Cliff.  Noted for classics like 'Sitting in Limbo' and 'You Can Get It If You Really Want,' Cliff is touring with Tim Armstrong of Rancid and a new backing band (featuring J. Bonner, Scott Abels (Aggrolites, Hepcat) and Dan Boer (Sandollars, Dynamic Pressure), behind his recently released EP 'Sacred Fire.' He and Armstrong are currently putting the finishing touches on a new album that will be released this spring.

Cliff is an inspired choice by the organizers, as 2012 marks the 50th anniversary of Jamaican independence and Cliff’s performance will pay tribute, not only to his origins, but to the large West Indian population that calls Brooklyn home.  Cliff started recording as a child in the early 1960s with producer Leslie Kong. In the late 1960s, he moved to Britain where he enjoyed considerable success with the song 'Wonderful World, Beautiful People'. He became a massive star after starring in 'The Harder They Come', the 1972 low-budget movie based on the exploits of Ivanhoe 'Ryghin' Martin, a gunman who terrorized sections of west Kingston in 1948. The film's soundtrack contains songs that are Cliff standards, including the title track, and 'You Can Get It If You Really Want'.

New York's own Deadly Dragon Sound System will be spinning at an after party immediately following the show. Formed in Chicago over fifteen years ago as a way to share an appreciation of Jamaican music, Deadly Dragon Sound System has become a well-respected force in the reggae community nationwide. As collectors and curators of Jamaican music, their love is reflected in the diversity of their projects including a radio show and a Manhattan-based record store.

Before the free show, Celebrate Brooklyn's organizers will hold their annual fundraising gala, so if you've got $325 (or more) to burn, step right this way. (Proceeds go to fund the annual lineup of free events.) And for $50, you can get a season-long membership, which gets you a reserved seat up in front of the stage, and access to the after party.

Below are three tracks from 'Sacred Fire' including The Clash's 'Gun's Of Brixton,' Bob Dylan's 'A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall,' and Rancid's 'Ruby Soho' to get you in the mood!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Beat In Black & White From Nottingham, 1982

beat013 - Version 2

The photos you are looking at were shot by Jon Jackson in 1982 during a show The Beat played in Nottingham, U.K.  Jon’s son, who is a Redditor, posted a short back story about his Father and the genesis of the photos:
My dad was born in Cambridge in the 50’s, growing up very close to David Gilmour and other members of Pink Floyd - he has always followed the Cambridge music scene very closely and has seen many of their influential concerts. He lived in London during the 70’s and early 80’s, experiencing the cataclysm of culture and music which living with certain people during that time became. He toured with The Clash, The Beat and Bob Marley, there might be more but these are the ones I know about.
I selected a few shots of The Beat below (featuring candids of Dave Wakeling, Ranking Roger, Andy Cox, David Steele and Dave Blockhead) from Jackson’s Flickr set, but you can see the rest here. For those who are technically inclined, Jackson used an Olympus OM2 with a 24mm lens and Ilford HP5 film to capture these photos of the band backstage and performing live.

beat011 - Version 2

beat006 - Version 2

As a bonus, Jackson also captured The Clash in July, 1982 during the Brixton Academy stop of The Clash’s “Casbah Club Tour.” You can view those here.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

I'm A Member Of Roddy Radiation's Backing Band The Skabilly Rebels!

Well, not exactly!  Though I surely consider myself a Skabilly Rebel, metaphorically and philosophically, I am not an ACTUAL member of the crack band backing Roddy 'Radiation' Byers of The Specials as he tours the Western U.S.

However,  if you live in the San Jose, CA area, and were checking out the show listings on earlier this week,  you would have seen a picture of me (in a Skabilly Rebels t-shirt no less) with a few friends -- Nik Torp and Drew Stansall of The Specials, my fellow Gotham-based ska blogger Steve Shafer (Duff Guide To Ska) and Sid Reitzfeld of New York ska bands The A-Kings and Thick As Thrives -- taken during the New York Ska Festival in April 2010.

It would seem, that whoever pulled the listing for this show together, was half asleep or out-to-lunch when they went searching for a picture of Byers (who is quite a music icon) and his band.  Further proof that you shouldn't believe everything you read or see on the Interwebs...

Friday, February 24, 2012

Reggae Meets Ska Part V With Bigger Thomas, Rudie Crew and Pidgin Droppings: A NYC Ska Show In NYC!

Here is a heads-up to anyone looking to experience an actual ska show in Manhattan!: Reggae Meets Ska Part V featuring Bigger Thomas, The Rudie Crew, Pidgin Droppings and Ini Mighty Lockdown is scheduled for Friday March 2, 2012 at Cin-M-Art Space in Lower Manhattan. My fellow Big Apple ska blogger Steve Shafer (Duff Guide To Ska) will be spinning a mix of vintage, 2-Tone and modern ska in between band sets.

The Reggae Meets Ska series began with shows in New Jersey with, as the title suggest, a mix of ska, reggae and dancehall bands along with DJ sets.  This will be the first show in New York City, and its long overdue.  Sadly, the once burgeoning ska show scene that took root in Manhattan in the early 80's at CBGB's and The Continental and then moved to Wetlands in the 1990's and finally The Knitting Factory in the early 2000's, has moved, liked everything else, to Brooklyn.  This is a show for all of you who have been resistant to head out to Brooklyn.  Hopefully,  it will be the first of more ska shows at this venue and others in Manhattan.

Cin-M-Art Space is located at 43 Murray Street (between Church Street and West Broadway) in downtown Manhattan.  Its easy to reach for both Jersey-ites and Brooklyn-ites via PATH or the 1, 2, 3, A, C, N, and R subway lines). The show starts early (8pm) and goes late. Not a bad deal for $10.

If you're in the NYC area, I hope to see you there!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Roddy 'Radiation' Byers of The Specials Kicks Off U.S. Tour

Did you miss The Specials when they played Coachella in 2010 or when they made quick show stops in Los Angeles and New York?  Well I have great news for you!  The band's iconic guitarist Roddy 'Radiation' Byers is kicking off a solo tour (dubbed '2012 Rebellion America Tour) of California and other cities around the Southwest U.S. TONIGHT!

Best known for his work as the lead guitarist of the Specials and as author of the band's hit songs "Concrete Jungle," "Rat Race," and "Hey Little Rich Girl," Byers will be backed by an All-American version of his U.K. band, the Skabilly Rebels featuring Danny Dean (guitarist of Rockabilly band Danny Dean and the Homewreckers).  The band will be performing Byers' favorite Specials tunes, as well as his own original songs and rockabilly classics in a set that will showcase the ska/punk/rockabilly sound he has become recognized for inventing.

Here's a taste of a few of Byer's solo tracks from his latest album 'Blues Attack':

Heartbreak City

Lonesome No More

The tour kicks off tonight, appropriately enough, in Las Vegas, and will run through March 11th, 2012.  Check the dates below and grab a few tickets!

February 23rd
The Aruba Hotel and Casino
Las Vegas, NV
Doors at 7:00pm/$14.00/18+
Tickets @

February 24th
The Blank Club
San Jose, CA
Doors at 9:00pm/$13.00/21+
Tickets @

February 25th
B. Ryders
Bakersfield, CA

February 26th
Cargo at CommRow
Reno, NV
Doors at 8:00pm/$10.00/18+
Tickets @

March 1st
The Rhythm Room
Phoenix, AZ
Doors: 7:30 pm / Show: 8:00 pm Tickets $15.00 - $17.00
Tickets @ The Rhythum Room

March 2nd
The Casbah
2501 Kettner Blvd, San Diego
Doors at 8:30pm - $10.00 in advance - $12.00 day of show
Tickets @

March 3rd
The Tiki Bar 1700 Placentia Ave Costa Mesa
Doors at 8:00pm
Tickets @

March 4th
The Red Devil Lounge 1695 Polk Street
San Francisco, CA. 94109
Doors at 8:00pm
Tickets @

March 8th
The Mint 6010 W. Pico Blvd
Los Angeles
Doors at 9:00pm
$15.00 in advance $17.00 day of show
Tickets @

March 9th
Saint Rocke
Hermosa Beach, CA
Doors at 9:00pm/$15.00/21+
Tickets @

March 10th
The Malibu Inn
Malibu, CA
Doors at 9:00pm/$10.00/All Ages
Tickets @

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Specials To Help Close 2012 London Olympics

The Specials will join New Order and Blur at a special concert to mark the end of this Summer's 2012 Olympics in London. The huge concert will take place in London's Hyde Park On August 12th 2012 and will see Blur (whose lead singer Damon Albarn is a huge fan of The Specials) headlining.

This is a huge feather in the cap for the band and establishes their status and reinforces the success they have enjoyed since reforming in 2009.  It could be the only chance for those of you living in the U.K. to see the 2-Tone band play in the this year after a successful UK tour in 2011. The band are slated to perform shows in the U.S., Asia and Australia if statements the band made at the end of last year are true.

The Telegraph in the U.K. has an interesting article that seems supportive of the bands chosen to play the show, praising the organizers for not going with safe choices or for bands from the 60's and early 70's period of U.K. rock.

Tickets for the show go on sale this Friday (February 24) at 9am. For more information and to buy tickets when the go on sale go here.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Dead 60's - The Black Sessions Capture The Band At The Peak Of Their Powers

I periodically get requests for re-posts, but they are usually few and far between.  However, the recent and repeated clamor for a re-post of The Dead 60's 'Black Sessions' post from three years ago has become a bit of a roar! The band's inspired combination of dub and reggae infused with rockabilly and ska, plus their use of organ, bass and drums always hit a chord with me.  Apparently it did with a lot of you too! You have spoken and I have heard you!

I originally learned about the band when they were profiled back in 2005 in the free Am NewYork newspaper they used to hand out for free on the New York City Subway. The review compared them to the musical love child of The Clash and The Specials, two of my favorite groups of all time. I HAD to do some further investigation. I was not disappointed. Their most memorable track, "You're Not the Law" is like the best remix of The Specials' "Ghost Town" you never thought you'd ever hear. That alone sold me on the band during those years before The Specials re-formed. In fact, the band served as an excellent substitute for many of us pining away for The Specials during the mid-2000's.

The core of the band formed during their teens under the name Rest Home, a 5-piece pop-punk band which played cover versions alongside their own original material. Eventually stripping down to a 3-piece, they changed their name to Pinhole and their first release was the 4-track "122 Duke Street" EP (named after the address of Liverpool bar The Pit, where the band played many of its first shows). The Dead 60's eventually morphed out of this period and hit an incredibly creative period between 2005 to 2007 recording and promoting their self-titled album "The Dead 60's", a dub remix of their self-titled album and "Time To Take Sides" which was released shortly before they went their separate ways.

Even though the band is no longer with us, you can listen to an amazing bootleg of a live performance the band performed at the height of their powers in October 2005. The show was recorded as part of the Black Sessions, which are live performances broadcast on the French Radio station France Inter. The Black Sessions are the brainchild of the well known French radio DJ Bernard Lenoir (Lenoir means black in English). Lenoir is a radio pioneer (essentially the French John Peel), and the Black Sessions are high fidelity, live recordings for his show. Unlike the "Peel Sessions" the band's play live, in one take and in front of an audience of 200 people.

This 12-song recording of The Dead 60's live set gives you a sense of how tight and talented the band were and how they could have become the new face of ska in the 21st Century. Enjoy!

The Dead 60's - The Black Sessions
Recorded on October 3, 2005
Paris, France

01. just another love song
02. a different age
03. red light
04. tv and magazines
05. control this
06. train to nowhere
07. we get low
08. riot radio
09. intro song
10. the last resort
11. loaded gun
12. cold soul
13. you're not the law
14. intro reprise
15. riot radio

The Dead 60's - The Black Sessions

First International Reggae Poster Contest: Competition Pays Homage To The History Of Jamaican Pop

The look and visuals of ska and reggae music have been as much an inspiration to me as the sound of the music itself. As such, I was excited to learn about the First International Reggae Poster Contest for which a winner will be named in early April.  As a frustrated graphic artist I have always been moved by the inspiration as well as the science behind graphics and visuals, particularly as it relates to music. I’m sure students in graphic design college are able to relate.

Jamaican-born and U.S.-based creative activist Michael Thompson is the creative force behind the launch of the competition (read a great interview with Thompson here).  His vision of the competition is to build awareness around the historical, cultural and social impact of reggae music and the global achievements of reggae musicians. The jury of six graphic and creative artists he has selected is looking for talent and vision and wants to see what designers can come up with in their original poster designs that will capture the energy and vibe of Reggae covering any one of the genres; Ska, Rocksteady, Roots Reggae, Dub, Dancehall and the unique Jamaican Soundsystem.  Check out some of Thompson's stellar reggae inspired graphic arts work at his Flickr feed.

Thompson and his colleagues hope to field as many as 1,000 posters by the time entries close at the end of March. To date they have received entries from Australia, Belgium, Greece, Norway and Brazil. Many of the submitted images have been of Bob Marley, but others have included reggae icons like dub master Augustus Pablo, music producers Duke Reid and Clement Dodd and Deejay U Roy.

The Poster competition is part of a bigger vision to establish a Reggae Hall of Fame in Kingston, Jamaica. Thompson's goal is to auction off the 100 best posters from the contest with all funds going toward the world-renown Alpha Boys’ School which helped train many of the best and brightest Jamaican musicians who helped to invent Ska, Rocksteady, Dub and Roots Reggae.

The entry period has already begun and ends on March 30th, 2011. The first prize winner will receive and Apple iPad 2 along with a suite of other prizes.  There are also prizes for second and third place.

Click here to learn the design specs for entering your own reggae-themed poster design.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Untouchables To Perform In Los Angeles With Original 'Wild Child' Era Line-Up!

I just learned that Los Angeles ska and mod icons The Untouchables are performing a show TONIGHT featuring their original 'Wild Child" era line-up at an O.N. Klub Reunion party at Los Globos Night Club on West Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles!

According to the band's Facebook page, original members Chuck "The Ska Father" Askerneese, Clyde "The City Gent" Grimes, Herman "The (OG) Flea" Askerneese,  Jerry "The EQ" Miller,  Bennet 'Caine' Carruthers and The Mighty Lamp will perform together again!

The Untouchables 'Wild Child' album was released 27 years ago during the spring of 1985.  It remains one of the earliest and most popular examples of purely American-styled ska mixing in soul, pop and funk. The success of The Untouchables and their giant step from local Los Angeles ska/mod heroes to a major label deal with Stiff Records in the U.K. is a classic story about how old fashioned DIY marketing, self-promotion and good luck used to work in the music business (now all you need is a YouTube video!). Read more about the recording of the record here.

The band were a huge inspiration to me as a young ska and 2-Tone obsessed teen and a show I saw them play opening for UB40 at Fordham University here in New York City in 1985 helped convince me to start my own ska band.  I've had the honor and pleasure of interviewing both original band vocalist Kevin Long and keyboardist/organist Josh 'Acetone' Harris who both played key roles in the initial success of the band in Los Angeles (Long) and its later international success for Stiff Records (Harris).

As background, The Untouchables exploded out of the O.N. Klub in Los Angeles in 1981 and soon provided the soundtrack for the ska/mod revival that spread like wild fire across Southern California in the late 70's and early 80's.  The band quickly outgrew the small confines of the O.N. Klub as word of their live show grew and they sold out several self-released 7" singles. According to a 1985 Billboard story, the band raised $15,000 from private investors (who were paid back with interest!) and recorded the well-received 'Live & Let Dance' EP on the indie Twist Records label. Next they invested an additional $7,000 to produce a video for the song 'Free Yourself' which started to generate television airplay. As a result the EP sold 40,000 copies and the video won the 1985 award for best independent video from Billboard Magazine.  The band also made memorable movie cameos in 'Repo Man' and 'Party Animal'.

If you live in or near Los Angeles and want to see some American ska history, get yourself to Los Globos! Oh, and if you do go, please video the show!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Jimmy Cliff Posts Video Detailing Progress On New Album With Tim Armstrong

Jimmy Cliff posted a short video today (titled Re.Birth Summer 2012-- could that be a hint at an album title?) that shows him at work in the studio with Tim Armstrong of Rancid on the new ska/reggae album that they have been collaborating on together. The pair released the 5-track EP 'Sacred Fire' late last year to critical acclaim and they are booked to perform a number of high profile shows this summer including Coachella, (with Madness!) that should help put Cliff and his new songs back in the musical spotlight.

Given the pedigree and bon fides of both Cliff and Armstrong and their mutual love of ska and reggae, this is one of the albums I am most looking forward to hearing. It is already my personal front runner for one of the best ska and reggae albums of the year!

Thanks to Jason Lawless for the tip!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Ali Campbell Unveils His Version Of 'Purple Rain': Track To Appear On Radio Riddler Reggae Tribute To Prince

I'm a huge Prince fan. As such, I've been waiting very patiently for the release of the Radio Riddler Productions reggae tribute to Prince and the 'Purple Rain' album in its entirety.  Radio Riddler Productions is Fast and Frank Benbini of Fun Lovin Criminals, who are reggae remix producers in their spare time (check out some of their remixes).

The album release has been delayed in part to complications in getting publishing approval from Prince and his camp, who are notoriously picky about anyone recording covers of his back catalog. That said, all indications suggest its just a matter of time before some of the tracks begin to see the light of day. And now they have! Former UB40 singer Ali Campbell has just begun to perform his version of 'Purple Rain' from the album live in concert.

In addition to Campbell's version, the album (which was originally to be released in 2011 but has been delayed) will feature a variety of artists and singers including members of The Specials brass section, members of Madness, Sinead O'Connor (performing a reggae version of her own Prince cover 'I Would Die 4 U') and many more. It certainly doesn't hurt that Benbini is originally from Leicester in the U.K. and is well connected in the British reggae music scene.

Though originally from New York and best known here for their tune 'Scooby Snacks', Fun Lovin' Criminals was never fully embraced by American audiences, though the UK and most of Europe really took the band to their hearts. The band members in turn always seemed to understand and tap into a uniquely European, and especially British, sense of humor.

Having worked to produce reggae remixes for a variety of artists, the Radio Riddler 'Purple Rain' project is a extension of their love of all things reggae and of Prince in particular. According to an interview that FLC drummer Frank Benbini did in 2010, the album is a true labor of love that originally came about as a lark and took on a life of its own.
Yeah, across the board. It was one of those things where we love reggae, and we have a reggae remix outfit called Radio Riddler. We’ve remixed a lot of people…Lily Allen, Coldplay…you know, we’ve done a lot of remixes for a lot of people. So we thought, what can we do? He went – “Why don’t we do the soundtrack to ‘Purple Rain’?” I was like – “That won’t work, that won’t happen, it just won’t work”. He was like – “Well, let’s give it a go”, and he did the first one, ‘Purple Rain’, he got the beats ready and sent it to me, and I was like – “Fuck! It sounds great!” Then I got a lot of my hometown players, brass sections, people from The Specials playing on there. I sang all the songs but then it was like – “Let’s get some guest artists on it”. So I started to approach different people and one person I approached was SinĂ©ad O'Connor. She hasn’t sung a Prince song since ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ which was an international number one so I didn’t think she’d go for it. But she did, and did a version of ‘I Would Die 4 U’. Amazing. Then we’ve got Plan B, he’s doing one, Madness are doing one, the singer from UB40’s doing one. So, yeah, that’s a great little project we’ve got going.
So what do you make of the Campbell cover?  Personally I like it and I think his band does a great job of performing a notoriously difficult song live, particularly the trombonist who gives the song an edge.  That said, Campbell's version seems to have split hard core Prince fans down the middle.  Some like it and some absolutely detest it.

London Is The Place For Me!: City To Host Two Ska Festivals In 2012

As Lord Kitchener sings in his beautiful calypso tribute to the Big Smoke, "London is the place for me." And so it will be for fans of ska and early reggae, as the city prepares to host not one, but two ska themed music festivals -- The London International Ska Festival which runs from May 3-6th, 2012 and The Heritage of Ska Festival on July 7-8th, 2012.

The 2012 four-day edition of the London International Ska Festival has been finalized and the line-up, features an eclectic mix of early ska and rocksteady icons like The Pioneers, Dandy Livingstone and Dawn Penn, 70's and 80's ska heroes like Rico Rodriguez, Neol Davies of The Selecter and Fishbone and contemporary ska bands like The Dualers and Ska Cubano.  Now in its 3rd year, the shows will feature in two, high end London concert venues  --  the O2 Academy in Islington and the O2 Academy in Shepherd's Bush Empire.  It is a must attend for any ska fanatics who can make their way to the U.K.  Read a great detailed overview of the 4-day festival posted on Alt Sounds.

The Heritage of Ska Festival is a newcomer and a nice complement and counterpoint to the London International Ska Festival. The promoters behind it have smartly timed it just ahead of the London Olympic Games when the city will be packed to the gills. While no bands have been announced yet for the open air concerts that will be staged in Brockwell Park, promotional materials for the festival state it will celebrate the multiculturalism of the U.K. that showcases music that has been inspired and motivated by ska including artists from dub, electronica, hip hop, reggae, ska, dubstep and soul.  I'm intrigued by the concept, but until acts for the festival have been announced, I'll reserve judgment. A launch party for the festival is scheduled for Friday March 9th at the Ritzy in Brixton featuring The Estimators and a variety of support acts and DJs.