Sunday, January 29, 2012

Madness Confirmed To Play San Diego on Tuesday April 17th

News out today should warm the hearts of Madness and ska fans across the U.S.,  Humphrey's By The Bay, a well known concert venue in San Diego, has announced that the Nutty Boys are confirmed for a show there on Tuesday April 17th. Tickets for the show start at $48 and there are dinner show and premium suite packages that range from $115 to $499!   If you live in or near San Diego, I suggest you move quickly to get tickets as I suspect this will sell out FAST!

Hopefully this announcement means that more shows (and more shows outside California -- hint hint don't forget New York City kind Madness booking agents!) are in the works for the long anticipated Madness tour of the U.S.  Its been seven years since the band toured here under their alter ego The Dangermen.  It looks like the long wait may be over...

Saturday, January 28, 2012

UB40 Preview Wille Nelson's 'Blue Eues Crying In The Rain' Live: Song Slated For New Album

UB40 are proving to be a resilient lot.  Despite some negative press around the news that members of the band had to declare bankruptcy this past fall, the band are currently on a short European tour and are putting the finishing touches on a new album of original tracks and at least one cover (it wouldn't be UB40 without a cover right!) that should be out this Spring. People who have earned music degrees from accredited online colleges must be familiar with UB40’s covers.

The band previewed that cover track, Willie Nelson's 'Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain' last night at a show in the Netherlands and its caused a stir among the hard core UB40 faithful known as 'Loonies'.  The song became Nelson's first number one hit as a singer in October, 1975, and at year's end was the third-biggest song on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain" #302 on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

UB40 have given the Nelson classic a nice spin through their well oiled reggae riddim machine and the Campbell brothers (Robin and Duncan) harmonize quite nicely a la a blue-eyed reggae version of the Everly Brothers.  Its all topped off with a nice bit of slide guitar over the band's patented loping bass and drums, making it a serious contender for a new fan favorite among the band's many popular cover songs.  Its got crossover radio radio hit written all over it, but alas, who still listens to the radio these day?

Have a look and listen and let me know what you think.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Fishbone To Perform on ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live! Monday January 30th

Life is good for Fishbone in 2012! The band have a new EP 'Crazy Glue' out, a February tour and a band documentary, 'Everyday Sunshine' about to finally be available to the masses.  To celebrate all this well deserved good fortune, the band is slated to perform live this Monday, January 30th on 'Jimmy Kimmel Live' on ABC.  If you live in the LA area, you can be part of the studio audience by reserving free tickets online.

In addition to this exciting news, in celebration of Black History Month during February, 'Everyday Sunshine' will finally become available for digital download via iTunes starting February 1st, 2012 and the DVD with over 100 minutes of bonus features will be released on February 21st, 2012 through all major retailers nationwide including Amazon, Best Buy and more. Pre-orders are now available directly from the filmmakers on the documentary's website. Read my interview with the filmmakers from 2010 when the documentary was first released in limited release.

Check out video for the insanely catchy 'Crazy Glue' below:

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Madness Release Ska Collection 'Forever Young': Features Two Unreleased Tracks

In what is likely a teaser for the long awaited announcement of U.S. tour dates this spring,  Madness has announced an early April release date for 'Forever Young - The Ska Collection'.  The 24 track album will feature ska and ska influenced tracks from across the band's entire massive catalog, with an emphasis on many of their classic Nutty Boy anthems ‘Baggy Trousers’, ‘One Step Beyond…’, ‘Night Boat To Cairo’, ‘The Prince’, ‘Swan Lake’ and many more.

While Madness branched out from their initial embrace of ska to become a massive mainstream pop act and the most successful singles band of the ‘80s, they have always kept ska close to their hearts (e.g., see Suggs solo singles and Lee Thompson's Ska Orchestra) the genre can be heard on every single one of their studio albums including their most recent, ‘The Liberty Of Norton Folgate’.

Of particular interest to hard core fans will be the inclusion of two previously unreleased tracks; a cover of Jimmy Cliff’s ‘Vietnam’ and a rollicking version of Edvard Grieg’s ‘In The Hall Of The Mountain King’.  As a bonus, the album includes a special fold-out poster booklet and liner notes featuring new interviews with Chrissy Boy and Lee Thompson.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Dave Wakeling of The English Beat Records Two Songs For An Episode Of Scooby Doo!!

In case you missed this rather amazing bit of 2-Tone-related ska news from earlier this month, Dave Wakeling of The English Beat has revealed that he and his California-based band have just finished recording two songs that will be used in an upcoming episode of Scooby Doo!

According to an interview Wakeling conducted with the San Francisco Examiner, the tunes, will feature in a ghoulish battle-of-the-bands episode pitting a zombie ska band versus recurring Scooby Doo musical combo the Hex Girls. “This was my first opportunity to do anything for television as a gun for hire, and I actually managed to record and mix two songs in 12 hours. It was like running at double speed with no brakes, but it was exciting, and Warner Bros. really loved them. So the zombies have a song called ‘You’re Dead Right, Mate,’ and the Hex Girls have one called ‘We’re the Good Bad Girls,’ which has a definite Ramones-Runaways vibe to it,” says Wakeling. “But frankly, I’m really happy I did it, because I’ve always loved ‘Scooby-Doo." 

Check out a picture of Wakeling in the studio taken during the Scooby Doo recording session:

In other Wakeling/English Beat news, the band are readying a re-release of their entire back catalog.  The General Public back catalog is also slated for a re-release.  This begs the eternal question -- will Wakeling and Ranking Roger follow in the steps of The Specials and join forces one again for a reunion?  Only time will tell.

In the meantime keep you eyes open for that ska themed episode of Scooby Doo!

Mr. Anonymous Teams With Ranking Roger & Ranking Jr. Of The Beat On 'Champion Sound'

It's a long way from the jam band environs of Boulder Colorado to Birmingham, England, but Mr. Anonymous (AKA Jeep MacNichol) has made the physical and musical journey to create and record a new album 'Champion Sound' with Ranking Roger and Ranking Jr. of The Beat.   Calling the project, "...a mix of The Clash’s Black Market Clash and Miles Davis’s Kind Of Blue meets The Police's 'Regatta De Blanc," the album is the third in a trilogy of records that MacNichol has recorded and released with a variety of his ska and reggae music heroes. His first self-titled CD called 'Mr Anonymous' was released in 2005. The second 'Mr Anonymous 2' came out in 2009.

MacNichol cut his musical chops as the drummer for The Samples in the 1990's when the band was at its peak and building a large and loyal audience from its regular slot on the HORDE tour and its sold out national tours across the U.S. (featuring an unknown opening act named the Dave Matthews Band). Though The Samples fell more squarely into the jam band scene of Phish, Blues Travellers and Dave Matthews Band, MacNichol brought a strong ska and reggae sensibility to the band that can be heard throughout their music.

After leaving The Samples in 1997, MacNichol recorded two solo records and toured the U.S. four times. His second solo record included Michael Rose of Black Uhuru on two tracks and this gave him the inspiration for the Mr. Anonymous project. MacNichol tracked the first 'Mr. Anonymous' album during a ten-week period in 2003 that involved three separate trips to Jamaica. Teaming up with music legends Sly and Robbie, Bounty Killer, Black Uhuru's Michael Rose and Dave Wakeling from The English Beat, he created a unique blend of reggae, trip-hop and dub. He followed the first CD up with volume number two which fit nicely into the footsteps of its predecessor featuring an eclectic and creative endeavor that fuses reggae, dancehall, dub, hip-hop and electronica in unique and surprising ways.

I've always been a huge fan of the understated majesty of 'Good Vibe' that MacNichol crafted for the first 'Mr Anonymous' album with Dave Wakeling and Michael Rose of Black Uhuru. It sounds like a lost track from 'Special Beat Service'.

MacNichol's latest, 'Champion Sound' explores new musical territory, blending trippy, psychedelic vibes, with the combination reggae chatting style of Ranking Roger and his talented son Ranking Jr. There is a fresh organic feel to the songs that feature only live instruments and that touch on reggae, dub, soca, and jazz.   MacNichol has also decided to make 'Champion Sound' (and all his music for that matter) free.  In a post to his web site, he explained, "I tried the traditional route with my first 2 releases, hired publicists, signed to 2 different labels and solicited every other record label in existence, management companies, and booking agencies and the result was me staring at boxes full of cd’s in my living room with less than 400 sales(no joke). They made great coffee tables, and I named one of them “Kevin”, but things ran their course. And now since my music has been free, I’ve had thousands of downloads(just hit 12,000) and there’s been a smooth free flow of my songs going directly to the ones who REALLY want to check them out."

I urge you to give 'Champion Sound' a listen (download link below). MacNichol clearly loves ska and reggae and true to form he is constantly looking for ways to expand the sound by injecting other sounds into it.  While its not straight up ska or reggae, there is enough going on musically to capture the attention of open minded fans of those genres.  Long-time fans of The Beat and Ranking Roger will also certainly enjoy hearing the iconic toaster and his son Ranking Jr. expanding their own musical boundaries with a sound that comes close to some of the musical experiments the original version of The Beat (see 'Psychedelic Rockers, 'Hit It') tried out.

Mr Anonymous - Champion Sound

Friday, January 20, 2012

Radiation Across The Nation!: Roddy 'Radiation' Byers of The Specials To Tour U.S.

If you missed The Specials during their quick stops in New York, Los Angeles and Toronto during their 2010 tour, I have some great news for you! Roddy 'Radiation' Byers, the iconic lead guitarist of the Specials and the songwriter of 'Concrete Jungle,' 'Rat Race,' and 'Hey Little Rich Girl,' has just announced a limited engagement 'Rebellion America Tour' of California and the Southwestern U.S. this February and March. He will be backed by an American version of his band, the Skabilly Rebels, that will feature Danny Dean of The Homewreckers.

Byers is slated to play a total of 12 shows on this leg of the tour, that will feature a mix of his favorite tunes by The Specials and many of his own songs written for The Skabilly Rebels, that showcase the ska/punk/rockabilly sound he invented with The Specials. The tour kicks off on February 23rd, 2012 and will go until March 11th, 2012. More dates and venues will be announced this week, and will include stops across California, Reno and Phoenix. Rumors are that Byers may plan to hit the East Coast of the U.S. later this year.

Tickets are on sale right now for shows on March 2nd at The Casbah in San Diego, March 3rd at the Tiki Bar in Costa Mesa, and March 8th at The Mint in Los Angeles. Fans can receive up to the minute tour date information at

Friday, January 13, 2012

Madness and Jimmy Cliff To Play 2012 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival!

In news that will warm the heart of ska and reggae fans across the U.S., Madness and Jimmy Cliff with Tim Armstrong of Rancid have both been announced as part of the 2012 Coachella Valley Music & Arts festival.

In a stroke of genius (and a way that allows more fans to see the festival line-up) the 2012 festival is taking place over two weekends in April--and the exact same line-up for each day will play twice in a row over the two weekends. So, Madness and Jimmy Cliff will appear together on April 13 and April 20th. Tickets go on sale this weekend. Make plans now to have Article Writing Services write content for your site while you are at Coachella.

Prior to Coachella, Madness are playing the Vive Latino Festival in Mexico City on March 23-25, 2012. Other Madness North American dates are rumored to be in the works and with a week long break between the two Coachella dates I would expect, at the very least that a few more West Coast dates will be announced. Here's to hoping the band decides to make a stop in New York City on their way to or from California.

Cliff has been on a whirlwind tour of television and radio shows across the U.S. the last few weeks to promote his new 'Sacred Fire' EP which features Armstrong.  Armed with just his acoustic guitar he has been playing a mix of his iconic origins, new tunes from the EP and his cover of The Clash's 'Guns Of Brixton'.  Watch a few performances below.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Marco On The Bass Back On Line!

Greetings to all Marco On The Bass blog readers. Apologies that I have been quiet for a few weeks. Life has been a bit hectic but I have lots of ska and reggae goodness to share so stay tuned as more posts will be on line this week!

Thanks for your patience!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Marco On The Bass Takes A Look Back At The Year In Ska 2011

Happy New Year to all readers of the Marco On The Bass blog!  While 2011 was a stressful year for most people (continued job losses, mounting unemployment rates, continued home foreclosures) it's going to be very hard to top when it comes to ska. There was an unbelievable cornucopia of 2-Tone era band tours, shows, books, media coverage and new albums and music to enjoy. In fact, the amount of ska related developments came so fast and furious at times, it was hard to keep up because there was so much to write about. So in that time honored tradition of looking back at the year that was, here is my totally subjective, top 11 Marco On The Bass ska highlights countdown of 2011.

11. King Hammond visits New York City!
Ska renaissance man Nick Welsh revived his King Hammond moniker in 2010 and since that time has been prolific releasing three albums (The King and I, Jacuzzi, and Showbiz) and two vinyl EPs ("Riot in London Town" and "Hey, Mr. DJ") of some of the best skinhead and dirty reggae around. Welsh made a quick trip over to New York in early December to show us Yanks what we have been missing.

10. The Toasters celebrate their 30th Anniversary
The Toasters celebrated their 30th anniversary in 2011 with a tour of the U.S. While the band are known around the world for carrying the ska torch and Bucket long ago moved his home base to Spain in order to tour Europe more easily, New York still remains the band's spiritual home and its where Bucket often honors the band's legacy. To mark the occasion, the band played a show in Brooklyn earlier this year and was was joined by its former toaster/vocalist Coolie Ranx (who appeared on the Dub 56 and Hard Band Fe Dead albums) for an extended version of one of their most popular and iconic tracks 'Run Rudy Run' taken from their first 'Recriminations' EP (which was produced by Joe Jackson). The band is about to embark on another U.S. tour.

9. Books, books and more books about ska!
Was it me or were there more and more books about ska and ska bands available to read in 2011?   Librarians with librarian degrees should make sure these books get into libraries. Pauline Black of The Selecter set the bar high with her no holds barred autobiography 'Black By Design' which recounts her experiences growing up as a bi-racial child adopted by a white family in 60's era Britain. It also takes an unflinching look at her life and times in the early days of the birth of 2-Tone and The Selecter. I was also a fan and regular reader of Horace Panter's blog on The Specials website titled 'Specials U.K. Tour By Sir Horace Gentleman'. The posts are detailed updates -- part travelogue and part tour diary -- of The Specials experiences on their very last U.K. tour (at least until 2013) and picked up where Panter's excellent read 'Ska'd For Life' left off.

Fans of 2-Tone can look forward to two more books in 2012.  Lynval Golding, the guitarist and prime mover behind The Specials successful 3 year reunion is collaborating with Paul 'Willo' Williams author of the definitive history of the band 'You're Wondering Now -- The Specials from Conception to Reunion'. The two have been meeting together for several months and are in the early stages of mapping out Lynval's story and perspective on the band and his life changing experiences playing music. The current working title of the book is 'Back In Time'.

Madness fans can look forward to a tome from lead vocalist Graham McPherson (A.K.A Suggs). The book is due out in the Fall of 2012. U.K. publishing house Quercus announced that they had purchased the world wide rights to Suggs' autobiography. This will not be Suggs first book writing adventure. He previously authored 'Suggs And The City: My Journey's Through Disappearing London' in 2009. The book was billed as the Madness frontman's personal guided tour of the unseen nooks and crannies of his London hometown.

8. Hollie Cook the new face of U.K. reggae?
After playing her eponymous album over and over this summer, I can say without hesitation that Hollie Cook (daughter of Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook) could be the new face of reggae! Her album, produced by none other than Price Fatty, was the soundtrack to my summer and is without a doubt the finest UK reggae set of 2011.

7. Meet America's Finest 2-Tone Band -- The Crombies!
Combining their love of ska, reggae, punk, and rock, The Crombies may be the finest American 2-Tone All-Star tribute band I've ever seen or heard! Founded by vocalist Mike Park (ex-Deal’s Gone Bad, Lord Mike’s Dirty Calypsonians) and Deal’s Gone Bad guitarist Dave Simon, the six-piece band perform fantastic, pitch perfect versions of songs by The Specials, Madness, Bad Manners, The Beat and more.

The Crombies have made such an impression on crowds around Chicago, that none other than super ska label Jump Up Records released a 7" single by the band featuring a fantastic 2-Tone inspired cover version of Niney The Observer's reggae classic 'Blood & Fire' backed with 'Mad At The World'. The song is a revelation taking the best of The Specials and The Selecter and mixing it with a hint of punk and reggae.

6. Stranger Cole & Patsy reunite for first show in 40 years!
Stranger Cole and Patsy! The names are synonymous with the founding of ska and rocksteady in Jamaica in the early 1960's. Some of my earliest memories of discovering original 60's ska are of hearing Cole belt out the lilting and anthemic 'We Are Rolling' and Patsy duet with Derrick Morgan on 'Housewifes Choice' from the raw and always sensational 'Intensified: Original Ska 1962-66' album that rarely left my turntable in college.  So I was beyond excited to be part of the crowd that packed the Bell House in Brooklyn in October to witness ska history. Nearly 40 years in the making (and nearly four years of persuading, pleading, and negotiating to set this show up) it finally came to pass -- Stranger Cole and Patsy reunited! Read a great review of the show over at the Duff Guide To Ska and watch footage of the show below.

5. The Saga Of The Selecter continues
While 2010 marked the 30th anniversary of the release of The Selecter's iconic 'Too Much Pressure' album, it also saw the emergence of two competing versions of the band led separately by vocalist Black on one side and lead guitarist Neol Davies on the other. In 2011 Black moved to take ownership of the band name ahead of the release of a new album 'Made In Britain'.

Though the reality of two version of The Selecter has always been intriguing on a certain level, its also been a shame that the original members have been unable to patch up whatever differences existed between them and come together to properly honor their legacy. With this decision, Davies, who has also been playing and performing under The Selecter band name will be known as Neol Davies AKA The Selecter for any of his future musical projects. Davies has been invited to perform at the 2012 London International Ska Festival.

4.  London International Ska Festival 2011
Featuring a who's who of notable ska legends and current up and comers, the second edition of the London International Ska Festival was so much of a success that the 2012 version was announced days after the 4 day festival ended.

The 2011 version was much more ambitious and broader in scope that the 2010 kick-off including a diverse mix of original artists from the 60's and 70's (Ken Boothe, Dave & Ansel Collins) as well as bands from the original festival in 1988 (The Loafers, Napoleon Solo, Bim Skala Bim) and ska mainstays like The English Beat, Dub Pistols, The Trojans and last minute addition The Lee Thompson All-Star Ska Orchestra. Special guests included Lynval Golding of The Specials, Rico Rodrigues, Rhoda Dakkar of The Bodysnatchers/The Special AKA and Buster Bloodvessel of Bad Manners and Jerry Dammers (who were both spied dancing in the audience).

The 2012 edition is shaping up quite nicely and will include The Dualers, Neol Davies AKA The Selecter and The Hot Knives.

3. New Madness album confirmed for release in 2012
Madness frontman Suggs has confirmed the U.K. ska/pop institution plan to release a new studio album in 2012! The new record will be the band’s first since 2009′s ‘The Liberty of Norton Folgate‘, which broke into the UK Top 5. The band showcased songs from their brand new, as yet untitled, tenth studio album, in all its glory during their 'rehearsal set' as part of the House of Fun Weekender in the U.K. this past fall. As with ‘The Liberty of Norton Folgate’ which the band performed live a full year before its release, Madness gave the new album tracks an early airing in their embryonic state for their most hardcore fans who attended the show. Quite a few of the songs have been played live during the band's summer tour, but it was the live debut for more than half the songs on the set list.

2. Jimmy Cliff collaborates with Tim Armstrong of Rancid on release of 'Sacred Fire' EP
In a musical collaboration that makes perfects sense, Jimmy Cliff teamed up with ska/reggae aficionado Tim Armstrong of Rancid (who cites Cliff as a major influence and inspiration) to release a 4-song EP of ska and reggae songs in November including a memorable and haunting version of The Clash's 'Guns Of Brixton'. A full length album is due out in 2012.

Its fitting that Cliff covered the song that Clash bassist Paul Simonon penned with a knowing nod to the classic reggae gangster film The Harder They Come that made Cliff an international star. Its also telling that the song, which depicts feelings of discontent that were building in the U.K. in the early 80's due to heavy-handedness of the police (leading to the Brixton riots in 1981) was released the week riots once again exploded across London and other cities in the U.K. in 2011.

Guns Of Brixton by JimmyCliffMusic

1. The Specials to soldier on!
The good news is that The Specials have decided not to call it quits after all following what was to be the very last show of their three year reunion in London in early November. The news represents a complete about face for the band, who announced the tour would be their very last. In fact, only recently, front man Terry Hall had announced that after this tour they’d call it a day. The decision to continue on was confirmed by Lynval Golding and the band are now hinting that new material may be on the way.

So what does this news mean for fans of the band? First and foremost it would suggest more touring, particularly in the U.S. and Japan which are markets where the band remains incredibly popular. It also means the band may have finally committed to writing new material as they have now taken the live show of the their two albums as far as they can. It also begs the question: What role will or won't Jerry Dammers play in the future? Stay tuned!

Below are my favorite songs of 2011

1. Jimmy Cliff - Guns Of Brixton
2. Little Roy - Lithium
3. Madness - You Can't Keep A Good Thing Down (Unreleased)
4. Blue Riddim Band & Big Youth - Nancy Reagan Remix 2011 Voice Of The People
5. Hollie Cook - Walking In The Sand
6. King Hammond - Rocking On Ridley Road
7. The Rudie Crew - Newscarrier
8. The Selecter - Back To Black
9. The Forthrights - Camp Birdman 7"
10.  The Crombies - Blood & Fire