Articles for the Month of March 2015

Have You Heard of Steady Legend?

I’m super stoked to be reviewing the self-titled debut album from the Austin based septet, ‘Steady Legend.’ Although this is their first release, Steady Legend, with its female-fronted line-up, has been rocking the scene since 2011. Let’s get this started…
1. “No Troubles”- Well, this isn’t a ska song, but I will give credit where credit is due. This is a fantastic soft rock number complete with horn solos and the subtle backing piano. Lead vocalist Deb Love’s voice is a true gem and certainly carries the tune. Grade: A-

2. “Wrong Road”- Steady Legend changes focus in this edgier rock song. With Deb’s more power vocals and super catchy horn lines, “Wrong Road” is a definite winner. Grade: A

3. “Catch On Fire”-What starts out as what seems to be another rock with horns song, quickly shifts to a ska/reggae feel. The organ finally steps out into the spotlight at one point with the already horn-driven number. Grade: A-

4. “Answers”-“Answers” starts with a piano and then to the stripped down vocal pairing of D. Love and Mike Mancuso. Skank-worthy in every way, this song has one killer trumpet solo. Try not clapping (or skanking) along to this one! Grade: A

5. “Longshot Redemption”- A slow grooving number is found is “Longshot Redemption.” The horns, along with the vocals give this song a nice sultry feel. I dig it. Grade: A

6. “Marble Swing”- As the name implies, this is a swing song. A decade too late, the neo-swing movement of the late 90’s could have used a female influence such as this. What can I say, this is a great song. Grade: A-

7. “Mirrors”- Rock meets reggae in this dark tune. I am a huge fan of horn sections, but I think it would have been overkill; so kudos for leaving them out. This song has a haunting feel and I love it. Two thumbs up! Grade: A

8. “On the Bright Side”- The harmonization between Deb and Mike is pure joy to listen to. There were even a few glimpses of Mike singing as a stand-alone which is a refreshing change. Call it reggae or call it more traditional ska, it doesn’t matter; it’s a solid song no matter how you slice it. Grade: B+

9. “Big Town Rock”- First the organ and then the horns build tension before getting into the punchy remainder of the song. The guitar shows off in the well appreciated solo which compliments the otherwise ska vibe. Grade: A

10. “The Best For Last”- Ironically enough “The Best For Last” is probably my least favorite song on the album. This is another swing number, and with an album with so many great tunes, they can’t all be my favorite. Deb’s vocals are spot on again and the horns are top notch as well. Grade: B+

To say that ‘Steady Legend’ is a ska band is not only misleading, but also an understatement. Certainly not to degrade those bands that stick within the confines of one genre, it is an impressive feet to not only play in various styles, but to play them well. Steady Legend does just that in this debut album which incorporates not only ska, but reggae, swing, soul and rock as well. This may seem like a recipe for disaster from a rather young band, but every song is arranged perfectly and is a pure joy to listen to. While it is true that I am a sucker for female vocalists, a lot of them tend to sound the same. Steady Legend bucks this trend as well. They have found a star in Deb Love who can deliver vocals that are powerful, sultry and sweet, all at the same time. Let’s not forget the rest of the band. While the horns are certainly the standouts in most songs, the guitar and organ set the stage. Pardon the cliché, but Steady Legend has a bright future and I can’t wait to hear more from these guys. Although this is their first release, this album will be LEGENDary!

Overall Grade: A-

Check out Steady Legend here:

http://www.steadylegend.com/

https://www.facebook.com/steadylegend/timeline

Hey buddy can you spare 12 cents for Marvin?

Ska veterans ’12 Cents for Marvin’ have released a new video for their song “Lie Lie Lie.” Clad in checkered shades and spikey hair, lead singer Tom Werge leads his fellow bandmates in a ska anthem for the ages. There was a time in the early ’90s and early 2000’s when every ska song sounded like this one. 12 Cents for Marvin has survived both the rise and fall of the 3rd wave and continue doing what they do best, and that’s deliver the upbeat brand of ska they are known for. Although this band is almost 2o years old, they harness the energy of teenagers run amok in this simple, yet extremely fun video. So hop in the van with 12 Cents for Marvin and go on a ska joyride you won’t soon forget. Grade: A-

The ’69 Reggae Bonanza” is here!

Playing more in the style of reggae vs. ska, I thought I would show some love to Boss Capone. Residing in Haarlem, (Netherlands?), Boss Capone is a 4 piece that have recently dropped their latest effort entitled “’69 Reggae Bonanza.” What started out as a solo project of The Upsession’s lead singer Boss van Trigt, has turned into not only a follow up to their debut album “Another 15 Dance Floor Crashers,” but also touring around Europe as well. Let’s take a little listen to “’69 Reggae Bonanza” shall we?
1. “Capone Come Strike (Reggae Time)”- A smooth rocksteady number is found in the first song on this album. What this song lacks in number of lyrics, it more than makes up for with Von Trigt’s vocals and familiar ska/reggae beat. Grade: B+

2. “Tight Spot”-The percussion and piano sounds add much to this song about a certain area of a women’s body. Again, there are not a lot of lyrics to this song, but the overall layed-back feel make “Tight Spot” and enjoyable experience. Grade: A-

3. “Mr. Jone’s Teahouse (Oh What a Calamity)”-Rock the tambourine! This track has a bit of Jamaican ghetto type feel to it. What impressed me most about this song is that despite this being a rather “stripped down” style of music, there is still a lot going on instrumentally. Grade: B+

4. “Jesse Fox (Virginia City)”-With its spaghetti western vibe, Jesse Fox is one groovy instrumental, while still incorporating the reggae style. This song’s biggest strength is found in the organ instrumentation. Grade: A-

5. “Cinderella”-I appreciate the backing harmonization and guitar solo in this one, but overall, I didn’t resonate with this song quite as much as some of the others. Grade: B

6. “Tommygun Reggae (AKA The Tommygun Skank)”- True to its name, this is a definite dancing song. Like other songs before this one, excellent use of backing harmonization is used. The overall whimsical nature make this just a fun song. Grade: B+

7. “Toughness Injection (Version)”-Although I didn’t really understand the intro, I dug the overall creepiness of it. All in all this is a pretty solid instrumental that showcases the talent of the organ player once again. Nice job men. Grade: B+

8. “Count Me Money”-A true upbeat reggae number; this song is great! This, my friends should be your new summer jam! Grade: A

9. “Don’t Love Me”-This is a slower song, much like “Cinderella,” but I found myself enjoying this one a little more. The smooth vocals contrast nicely with the harsher drum sounds and organs. Grade: B+

10. “Eat My Candy Sweet”-Hit the dance floor again! This song will get you outta your chair. Grade: A

11. “Boss Capone ’69 Reggae Bonanza”-Ahh yes, the beloved title track. This one seems to drag a little. Grade: C

12. “Rudeboy Galore”-Another straight up reggae number, but with unconventional organ melodies. Another solid track from Boss Capone. Grade: B+

13. “Funkey Donkey (AKA Do the Funkey Donkey)”- How can you not love a song called Funkey Donkey? To me this song is a cross between traditional reggae and early Motown. I love it! Grade: A-

14. “What a Grind (Oh What a Grind)”-Not really a standout song, this is still an enjoyable number which incorporates a lot of the sounds familiar to the rest of the album. Grade: B

To be honest, I really wasn’t sure if I was going to enjoy this after the first few minutes of listening. I typically like my music with more horns and this record had that “recorded in a tin shed” sort of feel to it which I normally can’t stand. As I listened on, I really began to appreciate this album for what it was; a stripped down version of reggae which is a departure from the fuller sound of the Upsessions. But just because the overall feel is more “tinny” and features fewer instruments, it did not take away from the listening experience. With 14 songs, “’69 Reggae Bonanza” will keep fans happy for quite some time. Boss Van Trigt’s vocals are easy on the ears and were a nice contrast to the paired down instrumentation. Speaking of instrumentation Boss Capone works nicely as a 4 piece, adding much variety to each and every song. The percussion and organs are the stars here, giving each song a distinct feel, all while sticking to the traditional reggae sound. Although putting out a decent record is serious business, there is nothing serious about some of the subject matter sung about. Boss Capone creates a lighthearted musical ride in such tunes like “Tight Spot,” “Funkey Donkey” and Eat My Candy Sweet.” These tracks are some of the best on the album and prove that music can be fun and at times even silly. I feel this album will grow on me even more, even after my already positive review. (Oh What a Calamity) it would be to be without this album, so check it out!

Overall Grade: B+

Check them out here:

http://www.bosscapone.com/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/BOSS-CAPONE/339810032797247

Are You Ready?

Are you ready to experience some Amsterdam Faya Allstars?  I must admit, up until about one month ago, I had not heard of these guys.  This is a 6-piece band from Amsterdam (obviously) and this past year they have released a new LP entitled ‘All Minorities are the Majority.  This follows an EP which was released in 2012.   This is exciting, so let’s not postpone this…

  1. “What a Hard Man Fi Dead”-Remco Korporaal and crew lay down the sweet rocksteady vibes to start things off.  They pay much attention to detail with the addition of backup singers.   Grade:  A

 

  1. “Love Mi Forever”-This song has a smooth, hypnotic quality to it.  Also, it will not make you want to jump out of your seat, but it will make you want to kick back and unwind.  If ever there was a ‘relaxing’ ska number this is it.  I also really enjoyed the use of dub, as it is not overdone.  Although it clocks in at over 6 minutes, it never feels old. Great job!  Grade: A

 

  1. “Intro Skasanova”-It’s always difficult to judge intros to songs, however, with its space-like feel, I dig it. Grade: A

 

  1. “Skasanova”-This is a really fantastic instrumental that will make you feel like you are sitting in a dark corner in a smoke-filled club.  Although the organ is the mainstay in ska music, it is refreshing to hear piano instead.  You will also fall in love with the saxophones in this number as well.  Grade: A

 

  1. “Nelson Mandela”-“Nelson Mandela” is more of a light-hearted, fun song, more so than any I’ve heard so far on the disc.  The instrumentation is pretty solid, as would be expected, but I did not care too much for the lyrics.  Grade: B

 

  1. “Harlem Nocturne”-Another slow and sultry song is found in “Harlem Nocturne.”  This song carries that overall ska/reggae vibe, while not being too over the top. Watch out for both the piano and saxophone solos.  I dig it!  Grade:A-

 

  1. “Swing It”-   The Allstars get the crowds jumping in the intro of this song and then quickly change directions to a more traditional ska number (or Jamaican jazz as they call it).  They also finish out the track with this arena rock feel.  Jump, or pump your fist to this one! Grade: A

 

  1. “Change Your Style”- Another groove of epic proportions.  From the rocksteady beat to the horns that accompany, this is one amazing song.  Grade: A

 

  1. “Christine Keeler”-What can I say, another great instrumental, with both rock and swing influences showing through.  Grade:A-

 

  1. “Cause I Don’t”-This ditty has jazz influences and some definite ska and rock as well.  Don’t stop dancing!  Grade: A-

 

  1. Nelson Mandela (Instrumental Version)”- I enjoyed this song more as an instrumental that with vocals.  Sorry Remco.  Grade: B+

 

  1. “Well You Needn’t”-Oooh, surf rock, I wasn’t expecting that.  This is another great example of a band mixing different styles and pulling it off in a major way.  Grade: A-

 

  1. “Faya in Dub”-This song has it all, from added percussion parts to flute solos.  Why did you not unleash the flute until now?  This is a killer way to leave listeners.  A+

 

All I can say is WOW!  This is an amazing album from start to finish.  Never before have I heard a recording that made me feel as if I was part of a live concert.  The kind of concert that I am imaging is not the type of ska concert that I am used to (a small venue with relatively few fans), but rather a huge event, much like those put on by music’s largest acts.  Overall this album has a lot going on, from its sheer size to its musical variety.  Clocking in at just over an hour of music, the Allstars have put together a musical package that is worth every penny.  During every song they stay pretty close to the Jamaican roots, but draw influence from a number of genres to include: rock, surf, swing, and jazz.  While there are a few songs featuring vocals, most of the numbers were instrumentals.  Normally I would get bored with a cd such as this, but in this case I was blown away.  The true talent shows during each and every song and these are some of the most enjoyable instrumentals that I have heard to date.  I must also add that this is the best saxophone work I’ve ever heard, PERIOD.  Ska fans in Europe may have been familiar with the Amsterdam Faya Allstars from quite some time, but I cannot say for certain that that is true here in the U.S. Hopefully American fans will catch on quick. So, If you know what’s good for you, you will pick up a copy of ‘All Minorities are the Majority,” but are you ready?

Overall Grade: A

amsterdamfayaallstars.com

https://www.facebook.com/AmsterdamFayaAllstars

Are you ready for the ‘Big Shot?’

The Nashville-based, Soul Radics are set to release their second full length album, entitled “Big Shot”. The Soul Radics are an 8-piece, female fronted band playing ska of the traditional/rocksteady variety. After thoroughly enjoying their 2012 release, “Down to the Hall,” let’s see if “Big Shot” can hold its own, or if it will fall into the sophomore slump…
1. “Walk Your Own Line”-In this opening track the Soul Radics give fans a taste of what they have been craving since their last release. The organs quickly set the mood in this up-tempo number, making you want to head “down to the dance hall.” Grade: A

2. “Chance to be With You”- Everything about this song is crafted so nicely, from the organs to the horn parts. Dani’s vocals are top-notch as usual which pair nicely with guest vocalist Boss Van Trigt of Upsessions fame. This is another winner! Grade: A

3. “One Time”- Instrumentally, the horn section takes center stage in this ditty, with a nice little guitar solo to boot. If this song does not make you get out of your chair, I don’t know what will. Grade: A

4. “Really a Mess”-Alright kids, let’s slow things down a bit. This song will not blow you out your chair because of its quick tempo or over the top horn parts, but do not be fooled. This stripped down song showcases the pure talent of the band, from the saxophone solo to Dani’s vocals. Vocally, I think Dani shows her range on this number, more than any other (on any album). One word-amazing! Grade: A

5. “Stay”- Time to pick things up again. Following the same rocksteady formula as most of the aforementioned songs, this is a great “sing along” song. I also really enjoyed the added ‘who haa’ parts. With so many great songs, how is anyone to pick a favorite? Grade: A

6. “No Fool”- I must admit, the first time I heard this song a few weeks ago, I wasn’t sure about it. It didn’t seem to pack as much punch as many of the songs on ‘Down to the Hall.’ Now I can’t get this one out of my head! It also fits nicely with the other songs on the disc. Grade: A-

7. “Banzai”- “Banzai” is more or less an instrumental. The Soul Radics have managed to great a Hawaiian/Oriental hybrid that will make you want to get out your grandparent’s learn to dance foot charts. Grade: A-

8. “I Wanna Know”-Ahh, here is the classic ska guitar we all love. While I love when Dani sings solo, this song’s greatest strength are the duets that take place during the choruses. The horns are also more blaring in this song, more so than any other on the album. Grade: A

9. “My Baby’s Mine”- A change of pace is found in this jazzy, swing number. While not ska or reggae or rocksteady, this song fits in nicely with the others, letting Dani really belt things out! Grade: A-

10. “Mash Dem All”- Now it’s time for a little reggae. Dani channels her inner Rasta as she switches between growly and smooth vocals. What can I say, it’s another great song. Grade: A-

11. “Thread”- I don’t know what it is about the song, but it reminds me of a lot of the soft-rock hits of the 70’s and early 80’s. This is not a knock on this song, as I grew up listening to these songs as a kid and they still resonate with me today. I love this song! Grade: A

It is anxiety producing to review a follow up to an album that you enjoyed so much. After discovering the Soul Radics on the Skannibal Party 12 compilation, I knew that there was something both refreshing and exciting about this band. Their ‘Down the Hall’ album had been one of the best ska albums I had heard in a long, long time. Fast-forward to today; would this highly anticipated follow-up be a disappointment, or be the “Big Shot” they say it is? Well, if you haven’t already guessed, based on my grades, the Soul Radics have hit a homerun with this new album. Although they stick to their ska and reggae roots with this sophomore release, it definitely has a different feel to it. While there are brief glimpses of the feisty rudegirl found on ‘Down to the Hall,’ ‘Big Shot’ shows more of a sweet songbird in Mrs. Radic. Overall, there is more of a polished feel to this album but to choose this album over their debut would be impossible, as they both bring something uniquely different to the table. Also to note, this album is just as enjoyable the on the first listen as it is on the 10th. The instrumentation, is once again top notch, using each instrument to its full potential. I absolutely love this album and I can’t get the songs out of my head even after the stereo has been turned off. If you only buy one album this year, it should be this one! Overall Grade: A

 

Check them out here:

http://soulradics.com/

https://www.facebook.com/SoulRadics

Will This New Album Be ‘Appealing’ to You?

Mr. Meacham and company, AKA ‘Monkey’ are set to release their newest LP on Asian Man Records later this month. This album is the first from these ska veterans since 2009 (“Lost at Sea”-Asian Man Records). Let’s take this for a test drive…

1. “You’re becoming a Jerk”-Clocking in at only 1:47, this is the shortest song on the album. What this song lacks in length, it make up in peppiness. This catchy little number will get you skanking for sure! Grade: A-

2. “Blind Faith”-Tight horns and the low rumbling of the organ make up this next tune. I also really enjoyed the backing vocals in this one. Although you hear the words “Blind Faith” over and over again, it never gets old. This song is a winner. Grade: A-

3. “The Epic”-To me this ditty infuses surf rock with a James Bond kind of feel. The vocals take on a slightly darker feel than the previous songs. While the entire song is fantastic, the sax solo near the end steals the show. Grade: A

4. “The Curse”-A more light-hearted tune is found in “The Curse.” After a few listens to this ditty, it’s almost impossible to get the chorus out of your head. Love it! Grade: A

5. “Can of Worms”-Both the ska guitar and organ set the pace in this slower number. I typically like my instrumentals of the faster side, but this is still a well performed song. Grade: A-

6. “Bicycle”-The saxophone gets another solo in this song, aside from the already catchy horn melodies. This is another fun, whimsical song. Grade: B+

7. “Bad Neighbor”- Reminding me of some of the songs by The Planet Smasher, I think the greatest strength of this song are the lyrics. Whether on your block or in your dorm in college, I’m sure you have all endured a neighbor that is less than ideal. The belting out of lyrics by Meacham makes you lament his situation even more. Grade: B

8. “Caffeine”- Not really a skanking song per se, but I do have the sudden urge to do the cha cha. This song has a little Spanish flare, while staying with an overall “brassy” feel. Also to note, I always enjoy non-traditional instrumentation added to the genre, and that is found in this song with the flute solo. Nice work. Grade: A-

9. “Lazy Boy”-“Lazy Boy” draws from different styles of music to include early rock and roll with a big-band horn feel. This is not my favorite song on the disc, but it is still a definite winner. Grade: B+

10. “Johnny”-While it’s somewhat cliché to end an album with an acoustic number, this is a solid tune. It has a nice “coffee house” vibe to it. Grade B+

It’s always exciting to review an album after it has been several years since a band’s previous release. “Will the band pick up where they left off” or “have they adopted a new sound” are thoughts that run through my head in this situation. I think in the case of Monkey’s “Bananarchy,” the former vs. the latter is true. This album will appeal to not only older Monkey fans, but those that are just getting into traditional ska as well. The instrumentation is excellent, as would be expected from a seasoned band. Meacham’s voice is also enjoyable to listen to, as he never tries to pull off anything out of his range. A few of the songs pull influences from other genres of music, however they never stray too far away from the ska sound they are known for. Bananarchy’s greatest strength lies in its simplicity. This is not to downplay the quality of the instrumentation, but overall, Meacham and gang keep everything light and fun during the entire experience. If you like your music to be laden with strong political stances and to address heavy subject matter, then this is not the record for you. On the other hand, if you are looking for a “get-up-and-dance, carefree, good time” while experiencing your music, then I cannot recommend this album enough. In short, this album is bananas! Overall Grade: A-

Check them out here:

https://www.facebook.com/Monkeyska

http://asianmanrecords.com/

 

Good Riddance to Good Advice

While many bands wait several years between releases, Kill Lincoln has dropped their follow up to the 2013 album “That’s Cool… in a Totally Negative and Destructive Way” with its latest offering “Good Riddance to Good Advice.” Kill Lincoln is a ska punk outfit from Washington DC and is currently on tour.  Let’s give this a listen…

 

  1. “Ronald…Help Me”-Starting out in true punk fashion, “Ronald…Help Me” is a great start to this album.  Both the guitar parts and the horn lines remind me a lot of the “Pezcore” and “Losing Streak” albums by Less Than Jake.  Grade: A-

 

  1. “Good Riddance to Good Advice”-Loud pounding drums and catchy horns meld into the classic punk ska number.  This song rocks on all levels.  I dig it!  Grade: A

 

  1. “Days I Spent Inside”-Whether backing the lightning fast punk guitars or standing alone, the horn parts, once again, make this a memorable tune. Kill Lincoln does not shy away from a more poppy sound on this song, which is its biggest strength.  Some bands try to sound “too hard” and this seems to take away from the overall enjoyability of the song.  No sir, not here; this is a solid tune: Grade: B+

 

  1. “Fire Starter”-The first 30 seconds of this already short song sounds like a rehearsal session.  After this they take a dramatic turn in styles with more hardcore, screaming type lyrics.  I am not a fan screaming in music, which is not a knock on the “musicianship” of the song, just personal preference.  Whenever a band strays from their usual style, it will resonate with some listeners and not with others.  I just happened to be one guy who did not like this song as much as the others.  Grade: D

 

  1. “$8 Beer Night”- Kill Lincoln goes back to familiar territory with “$8 Beer Night.”  Containing a harder edge than maybe some of the other songs, none of the musicianship is lost along the way.  This is another great song!  Grade: B+

 

  1. “I’m Getting Too Old for this Shit”- Using the same formula as most of the other songs on this album (with the exception of “Fire starter”), this song isn’t very distinguishable from the others.  That being said, this song is still a winner, as Kill Lincoln sticks with what they do best.  Grade: A-

 

When reviewing an album, it’s almost impossible not to draw comparisons to other bands.  It’s a good thing that Kill Lincoln sounds like a combination of two bands that I really love; Less Than Jake and New   Found Glory.  Aside from one song above (I think I have harped on this enough), Kill Lincoln has honed their craft in the ska punk niche with this EP.  Overall, the production value is top notch, making every instrument stand out, as well as the vocals.  Despite the more mellow tone of the saxophone, it never drowns out the rest the horns, and works very nicely during every song.  All in all, I really enjoyed this album and it took me back to my college years, when the only ska, in my mind, was ska punk.  When it comes to ska punk bands, Kill Lincoln deserves to be at the top of the heap, and with “Good Riddance to Good Advice,” they have created an album fans will ‘Kill’ for.  Overall Grade: B+

 

 

Check them out here:

http://killlincolndc.bandcamp.com/

So what did you think? Share it my friend!

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