Here Come the Bluebeaters!

Have you heard of the Bluebeaters? Even though they have been around since 1994 (that’s right, 20 years), I must admit this is my first exposure to their music. They have just released a new LP entitled ‘Everybody Knows.’ I think it’s time we had a listen…

1. “Somebody Has Stolen My Girl”- ‘Everybody Knows’ opens up with your classic rocksteady tune. Sweet saxophone solos and sprinkling of piano make this opening track an instant winner! Grade: A

2. “Hungry Heart”- Unless you have been living under a rock, you have heard this song. Originally done by Bruce Springsteen and covered by countless other acts, it is difficult to perform a rendition of this song that can be taken seriously. The Bluebeaters give this song the ska-meets- piano- bar treatment. I dig this rendition! Grade: A

3. “True Confession”- this is an obscure song performed also by the Silvertones. It is pretty close to the original in the sense that it is a traditional ska song. This aside, this version breathes some much needed life into the original. Catch the organ solo halfway through. Grade: A

4. “Roll With It”- Until I looked it up, I did not know that this is an Oasis song. Despite never being a huge Oasis fan, this song is great on all levels, from the backing horns to the ever present organ and smooth vocals. Grade: A-

5. “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere”- this song blasts the pure Jamaican sound, complete with falsetto vocals. Neil Young & Crazy Horse would be proud of this slow-skanking rendition. Grade: A

6. “The Model”- Originally performed by the electro punk? Group Big Black, this version is a big improvement. Keeping some the darker tones of the original, this ditty was in definite need of a ska makeover. Also the trumpet gets its time to shine in this one. Grade: A

7. “Catch That Teardrop”- Another obscure song, done first by the Five Royales, is covered nicely by the Bluebeaters. There are not a lot of changes musically over the original, but it is given a well-deserved modern feel. Excellent horns show up once again. Grade: A

8. “Girlfriend in a Coma”- Sure I’ve heard of the Smiths, but I never had heard any of their music. After previewing “Girlfriend in a Coma, it fell a little bit flat with me. So I figured any cover had to be an improvement. While the original is somewhat monotone, the Blue Beaters inject just the right amount of Jamaican pep into the song. So far this is my least favorite track on the disc, not because of the lack of musical talent, but rather what they had to work off of from the original. Grade: B

9. “Glad”-What would a ska album be without a toe-tapping instrumental. Each instrument gets its time in the spotlight. The piano is the real scorcher in this song. Grade: A

10. “Teenage Kicks”- Although the original version of this song was performed by the Undertones, which sounds like the name of a ska band, it is actually more of a rock tune. I really like the use of the mellow saxophone and the vocal falsetto. This new version is a skankin’ good time! Grade: A-

11. “Toxic-One Drop Version”- Instead of covering lesser known bands and songs, The Bluebeaters switch things up by covering a singer that everyone knows; Miss Britney Spears. Typically I don’t like covers of super popular songs, but with its swanky feel, this version is fun, fun, fun. Grade: A

12. “I Don’t Know”- “I Don’t Know” has that classic, old time swing or big band feel. Musically it is on par with the rest of the album, but with an old-fashioned flare. Grade: B+

13. “End Titles”- What can I say. Right here you have another fine example of how an instrumental should be done. Grade: A-

14. “La Mia Geisha”- As the name would suggest, this final number blends ska with Asian flavor. Musically, there is a lot going on here. This song does not disappoint. Grade: A-

As you may have guessed from my scores given to each song, I really loved this album. In general I am really leery about cover songs, done in any genre. This holds even more true in the ska world, as it is almost cliché that if you are a ska band, that you have to play at least one cover song (usually from the 1980s). No matter how much I like a remake, I typically still enjoy the original more. This was not the case for this album. Where this album truly shines in my opinion is that the Bluebeaters picked songs and bands that that average music listener may not be familiar with. In the few cases when they did cover a more popular band or singer (Oasis and Britney Spears), the songs are so well done that you forget about the originals all together. If punk ska is your thing, this is definitely not the album for you, as the Bluebeaters have perfected the traditional ska sound on every song. Instrumentally, every song is well arranged and the horn section is crisp. There is also great use of piano in most of the songs as well. Many times the vocals can make or break a band for me. That being stated, these boys can sing! The smoothness of the vocals is pure audio candy. This is a fantastic album that should be in everyone’s collection. Do not miss a (blue) beat and give this disc a listen!

Overall Grade: A


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