Skabadip is back



SkabadiP feels the need to give this notice to all of the musicians & general readers of this page.
Until now, we intentionally refused to review and discuss works we considered below average, although they are the result of the greatest efforts and the greatest passion of their creators ever.
The average we're talking about is related to the whole history and the almost entire legacy of 40 years of activity and productions of Ska music - not a worthless thing, that's for sure - but now, since we think it is better for a group to have a review, even if not so pleasing, than receiving no consideration at all (after all, we talk about products anyone can listen or judge on his own), it is our duty to state "inna diplomatic stylee" the following points.
Anyone must be aware, when reading, of the fact that reviews are simply nothing but the single judjement of the subscribing reviewer.
We are not and we don't claim to be the standard for the rating of musical bands, the audience is the one and only ruler; in whatever manner and with no false modesty, our judjement can be considered qualified, at least for Ska, and therefore, it will try to be positive and constructive - and we believe it's been so until today - and a useful stimulus to every artist to always do the best and to learn more by going deeper and deeper inside this fabulous music.
Once told that, we are going to review anything the bands (we thank you for always being there sending your own records!) will be careful (or will have the cheek) to send.
Please, do not expect a good review for any of your sad sad sucks-to-death record of
That's not Skabadip's style, folks!



Capitan Jive - "Non dormire...swinga!" 
(CD Album - Etnagigante - Italy, 2004)

After a few years gigging on all kind of stages, the Capitan Jive have finally risen from the ranks and they now seem to be a big name in Italian swing: the Sicilian Roy Paci (you might have caught him on “Markette” with Chiambretti, on tv channel La7) wanted them to join his label, and the far-sighted Renzo Arbore got them in his last tv show “Speciale per me, meno siamo meglio stiamo”.
They ironically refer to themselves as “swing philanthropists”, “jazz renegades” and “pentagram terrorists”, and you can feel they love swing music, they enjoy themselves (and entertain us) playing it, and they know and appreciate the roots of swing music.
Their first work with Etnagigante label, “Non dormire…swinga!”, is very rich in sound effects you won’t easily find in other albums (like trains at the station, chirping birds, a loud speaker from a supermarket…), but they fit great in the 12 songs, that sound really original and funny.
The above mentioned Roy Paci enriches the opening “Swinga” with his trumpet, then we call at the desk where we can find “La più bella di Pordenone”, in which they state where they’re from, with a nice piano solo and a refrain you’ll keep humming all day long. The beautiful lady theme comes back in “Bimba”, with a strings and voice duet, and love is still the main character in “Solo un bacio”, ending with a big smack and leading us into “Tutti su Marte”: this is one of the best songs in the album, with a very vague ‘60s flavour in both music and lyrics. If you’re a movie lover (probably even if you’re not) you’ll like the ending.
Back down on planet Earth, we better take refreshment with “Jivitamina”, another catchy and very danceable song that takes us at the first cover, “O baby kiss me” (the original version was by Gorni Kramer), with an accordion that goes well with the sax. The atmosphere gets noir in the following one, “Nel cuore della notte”, that could have a somewhat less-than-perfect refrain, which repeats the title over and over again. The same thing can be said about “La stagione dell’amore”, but the monotony of the refrain is typical in swing music from the gold eras; anyway, we get back to dancing right away with the syncopated and very fast rhythms of “Come uno swing”.
The second cover is “Canto anche se sono stonato”, a welcome homage to the great Lelio Luttazzi, and penultimate song in the album; the conclusion comes with “Eccoci qua”, an all-round song that introduces the band, where the nice little chorus holds the solos of trombone, sax tenor and contralto, piano, double bass and drums, that alternate each other very fast till the ensemble finale.
A final 20 hidden seconds of old fashion jazz, to close the album with the usual ironic mood.
On the whole this is a good piece of work, and if we insist on finding something wrong we can say that the originality and eccentricity of sound effects and some of lyrics are not truly reflected in some rhythms, maybe because there isn’t even one trumpet in the band; but if you woke up sad this is definitely the album you wanna listen to, ‘cause “Non dormire…swinga!” is not only a suggestion, it’s an order!

Marco Morandi - translation Marco Morandi




The Brian Setzer Orchestra - "The Dirty Boogie" 
(CD Album - Interscope Records - US, 1998)

Brian Setzer is a great. Unruly blond forelock, leather jacket, carrying his guitar everywhere… In 1979 he founded the Stray cats, a ‘50s rock n’ roll band, then after a few years he left (but not definitively) his two colleagues alone to begin his soloist career. In 1994 he started the orchestra named after him, pushing himself towards swinger melodies, but still playing his guitar, No doubt about that! The third album with his orchestra is one of his masterpieces, I believe. In “The Dirty Boogie” swing and Rockabilly melt together in a perfect way, and if you love only one of these two genres it could sound bad, but if you like ‘em both you’ll love this album. It isn’t by chance that this is his only album that have reached the U.S. Top10…
Here swing atmosphere prevails, from the cover graphic to the sound, ‘cause “The Dirty Boogie” follows the swing wave that enjoyed great favour once again (dear me, it happened almost only on the other side of the Ocean) during the second half of the ‘90s, thanks to bands like Cherry Poppin’ Daddies and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.
Let’s get to the songs: good old Brian throws himself headlong into “This cat’s on a hot tin roof”, and you immediately understand his style: this piece of work is made for dancing hard , between guitar, a lot of wind instruments and beating basses; next we logically find the song named after the album, and its best description is really given by its own title, repeated again and again by both chorus and singer. “Let’s live it up” is a catching pearl mounted between two of the seven covers in this album: “This old house” and the very romantic “Sleepwalk”, the last one is instrumental; then we find the excellent version of “Jump jive an’ wail” (the original one was made by Louis Prima, one of the greatests) with double-bass, wind instruments and chorus alternating in a nice crescendo, and “You’re the boss”, where a still little known Gwen Stefani give us the best song of the album in a duet with the protagonist, showing herself not only as a very hot chick, but as a good singer too. A sexy purring Gwen brings us to “Rock this town”, another version of the 1982 Stray Cats’ song, but this time it’s the orchestra to lord it over; another cover is the tuneful and melancholy ballad, “SinceI don’t have you”, but pitch continues to rise thanks to “Switchblade 327”, where Brian struts his stuff on both the guitar and cars; “Nosey Joe” is a pretty one, with a nice double entendre about this guy’s nose between the singer and his girlfriend. Very old swing style, “Hollywood nocturne” is maybe a little too slow, but the last cover, “As long as I’m singin’”, is a great finale with various solos worthy of the best swing bands and a Mardi Gras ending which is unfortunately too short.
13 songs, 50 minutes full of dancing, whether foot-loose-and-fancy-free or cheek-to-cheek. I do recommend it – and that’s the word of a guy who can’t dance!

Marco Morandi - translation Marco Morandi




Enjoint - "Do You Wanna Dance?" 
(CD Album - V2 - Italy, 2006)

A powerful opening, with a fusion of international punk-rock and ska, called - as it should be - “Ska Attak”, this the “visiting card” for the album “Do You Wanna Dance?” of the band Enjoint, group from Padova, solid and authoritative voice of the ska music from some ten years.
I can remember that I wrote a positive review on their first demo quite long ago, since my impression to their first listening was that they had very clear ideas of what they were laying and the kind of music and sensation they wanted to get through; so I’m pleased to hear that I wasn’t wrong and that the band is still standing firm and still belongs more to the grounds of SKA than Punk-Rock, as it is well shown also by the second track “Irene”, where the Enjoint pass to Hard-Core feelings only through the short bridge and towards the ending.
The Enjoint play a modern ska, powerful and fast (but never exasperated beyond measure), whose Rocking spirit comes out also by the two hard-working guitars and from the missing keyboards, but still with peculiar strokes like a taste for swing appearing in the title track, the strong-beat ska “Commissario Burton”, and n the softer “Strano il Destino”.
The Enjoint are funny, never cacophonous nor predictable, as the interesting arrangements show, they sound likely and real to listen kind of everywhere, but in particular in the fast-time of “Incubo”, last track, and in some of their valuable ska punk like “Allarme Rosso” where the passage to reggae/ragga is made beautiful by many vocal lines and like in “Ferragosto” wih its “ska-pachanka-like” bridge where everyone couldn’t help to be thankful to horns and guitars, and again, in the catchy “Pensiero Preferito” to which even the feedback back-vocals from the band Ooooi can be excused! e, in conclusion, like the incomparable reggae called “Lo Strano Gioco” that I loved from the very first moment.
The lyrics , instead, are based on love and sentimental themes, they are introspective or purely dancing ones, among all of them, I would point out “Lo Strano Gioco” as the one most f all convincing and that I liked best.
Finally, one more score for the band is surely the good Front-cover of the album, properly framed also by the band web-page of the group standing as a proof of their solid professional profile beside their well-tested and defined esthetical and musical styling.
“Do You Wanna Dance?” will find sure appreciation though a multicoloured audience going from ska and reggae lovers e to every melodic punk rock devoted fan looking for something different.

Sergio Rallo - translation Paolo Della Mora




New York Ska Jazz Ensemble - "Skaleidoscope" 
(CD Album - Brixton Records - Spain, 2005)

Last summer the NYSJE’s last album “Skaleidoscope” was released. Here is my review, even if I’m a bit late.
Leader Freddie “Rocksteady” Reiter is still convincing with his great qualities as a polyinstrumentalist solo and singer, but “Skaleidoscope” isn’t his best album really.
The cd starts with “Ska’s The Limit”, which isn’t a cover of the English Rude Boy’s popular track, with the flute leading the way. The following song is called “Joelle” and is sung in the Scofflaws style.
I immediately liked “My Blue Ska”, a brilliant ska/jazz song; its beginning and its break are 100% jazz. Freddie is fabulous – as usual – playing tenor sax and he’s excellent in his trombone solo. However, this track will make skinheads turn up their nose.
I wasn’t very enthusiastic about the cover of “Obla Di Obla Da”, maybe because it’s too common, even if the accompaniment is rolling enough. I prefer “La Maison Loic”, a reggae song written by new guitarist Leventhal and by trombonist Mikkelsen. The beautiful cover of “Makin’ Whoopee” is sung by Sharon Jones, a good singer I had never heard before, who’s also performing the short afro/burru “Isn’t Funny”.
“Making Love”, a rocksteady track passionately sung by Reiter and Jones, is a good song, but it’s not as enthralling as the following instrumental track “Stardust”, taken from the popular American magazine; it’s characterised by ska’s elegant gait (and here, as elsewhere in the cd, the trombone was recorded in a lower volume than Reiter’s sax, so that it seems to be really far away. I don’t understand this choice and don’t agree with it!). The track that closes the listening of “Skaleidoscope” is a good “meditative” rocksteady, with the best melody of the whole cd; it seems to take its inspiration from some ‘70s songs by Rico Rodriguez and it’s called “Partners In Time”. To me, it’s the third most beautiful track in the record.
For those who generally love ska jazz and instrumental music.

Sergio Rallo - translation Silvia Cavenaghi




Prince Buster with Determinations - "Prince of Peace - Live in Japan" 
(CD Album - Rock A Shaka - Japan, 2003)

After something like 36 years (I’m writing in 2005 but the album was realized in the year 2003) from the far debut (and only one, that I ever knew) live in the 1967, Prince Buster even goes to Japan to meet again his ska fans directly on stage! Follwed from the good old Determinations (the absolute traditional ska band made up of some members interconnected and associated with the japanese label Drum & Bass which printed some collectionsof true ska/rocksteady/reggae rarities called Rock A Shacka and of which “Prince Of Peace” represents the volume 1) Cecil Bustamente Campbell, aka Muhammad Yousef Alì, aka Prince Buster, aka Voice Of The People, turns on his evergreen classics. Songs and instruments that any good skanker all over the world shold perfectly know. Le first three tracks of the album are two instrumental pieces plus a song sung by the Determinations in person, taken from their last (as I’ve always known) and noticeable album “Chat Chat Determination” (Universal J, 2002). Believe me, listening to the different versions of the many many bands that recorded lOrange Street, They Got To Come, Burke’s Law, Hard Man Fe Dead, Big 5, Blackhead Chinaman, 30 Pieces Of Silver is something truly different from hearing them from the very voice of the true Ska legend in the Mods formerly and in the Skin lately! The instrumentals Al Capone, Dance Cleopatra, One Step Beyond e Prince of Peace (6 min. e 39 of wild ska) closing the orgasmic live-concert with their smashing intensity - capture forever the positive excitement and vibrations created by Prince Buster through the sold-out hall. The recording, don’t blame me, friends from Japan, could have surely been better than what we have (I think there is a little bit too much delay) but that’s not surely a good reason for Prince Buster’s innumerable admirers to stop searching and getting albums and/or DVD (this is only for extreme pure pleasure seekers searching for visual and acoustic emotions!!).

Sergio Rallo - translation Paolo Della Mora




RedSka - "Mi Son Sbagliato Nel Confondermi" 
(CD Album - Sana Records - Italy, 2005)

Melodic Ska/punk, almost well-balanced in its components and quite sophisticated, is the favourite kind of ground and the daily practice of Redska, a band I’m hearing now for the first time.
Yes, ok, non è it’s not my kind of music but "M.S.S.N.C." flows and works as well as it should during all of its 13 tracks, without leaving me with the impression of triviality and with the "already heard" sensation that I happened to feel with groups sharing the same groundfield.
The Redska, effectively, are really eclectic and pulled through by the evident intention of not bore the people, as the really variegated tracks testify like "Non Stare ad Ascoltare", "Dubby Un Dub", the funny cover of "In the Mood", the Hc of "Diverso" o "Snob" intermingled with strokes of ragga or, once again, reggae with excellent ska on the ending of "Vivo".
They can be considered part of the committed musical movements, the Redska, taking their strength by their convincing musicians and their leading voice, show surely all their weakness, on the other hand, with their lyrics, whatever the arguments can be (opposition to the covernement, legalization and general feelings), they have “no grip” except for the last song we mentioned, the reggae "Vivo", following, as it seems, the guidelines of the positive and hoping lyrics by Jimmy Cliff, full of his characteristic encouragements to get over the difficulties of every day. As it is, this is the track la that I liked best.
"Mi Sono Sbagliato Nel Confondermi" is surely an interesting album for "cross over" lovers with Hc, rock, ska and punky reggae mixed together that could also satisfy as well admirers of Shandon, Persiana or even Fishbone.

Sergio Rallo - translation Paolo Della Mora




The Ska Flames - "Real Step " 
(CD Album - Sunshot Records - Japan, 2005)

Here I am – finally! – to talk about the indestructible, extraordinary Ska Flames, the Japanese band I grew the most attached to as it was the first Near Eastern ska band I’ve ever had the pleasure to listen to (their album called “Ska Fever”, it was 1989). The Ska Flames are, together with English Potato 5, one of the first bands in the world who exclusively devoted themselves to Traditional Ska and Rocksteady.
Even if with this album – released on November 16th; sooner or later I’ll tell you about it - Kei Miyanaga (excellent bass player), Miyazaki Kenji (excellent guitarist and harmonist) and Ise Hirokazu (vocals; I quote only these among the 11 elements that form the band because they’re the only ones who haven’t changed since 1989) celebrate an anniversary that marks a very important goal – that is 20 continuative years of Ska music – I’ve never had the chance of reviewing one of their albums. Indeed, the previous one is “Damn Good” (with special guests such as Alphonso, Sterling and Aitken) that was released to celebrate ten years of existence of the band in 1995! In short, when their last album was released, SkabadiP didn’t even exist. Is their exasperating, little prolificness actually making them a “cult” band? Maybe, but I think it’s more correct to say that their extreme prowess and skill are the reasons why they’re thought of as a cult band. Those who have had the chance to listen to the above-quoted records or to the amazing “WailmSkalm” (or better: “Wail’m Skal’m”) knows well what I’m talking about. If you add 3 or 4 old 45 rpm, some tracks contained in several compilations and a mini 12” lp (“Spirit 11”), you’ll have their complete discography!
The Ska Flames obviously know very well that those who waited their new album such a long time are much more pretentious; so “Real Step” is obviously a really good record. Anyway, in my opinion it’s not as good as “WailmSkalm” and “Damn Good”.
The “cd box” is fully peculiar, as it reproduces the old carton envelope of a double vinyl lp. There’s even a real 33 rpm that’s as small as a cd (I had never seen anything like this before, believe me)! It was hard to listen to the micro record, I had to use an old Philips portable record-player of mine, which dates back to the ‘60s; so I could discover that the two tracks “Ska Fever” and “Rip Van Winkle” (from their first and penultimate album respectively) are taken from a live concert and are really beautiful. “Ska Fever”, in particular, has the quality of being the first modern cover of trumpetist Raymond Harper’s track. The performance by the Ska Flames in 1989 honoured the author of the song and the same thing can be said about the one I’m listening to now on the small disc: it’s really overwhelming! In short, “Real Step” is also a real gadget, for collectors and not. Remarkable.
The real cd, on the other hand, contains 13 tracks, 4 of which are sung in their mother tongue (but there is a written translation in English so you can learn some ideograms). I must say that the sound of “Real Step” seems closer to the one of the Ska Flames’ first album than to that of the two following records. It’s more “dirty”, the bass is more redundant and the wind section sounds are less “out in the front” than in the previous albums. The instrumental ska tracks are percussive and the bass is of a walking type, drawing inspiration from great Brevette; the rocksteady tracks are full, intense. Moreover, “Real Step” is the first record by the Ska Flames without Kohji Watanabe, the band’s legendary trombonist.
The first sung track is in the second place, after the fairly good instrumental track “Good Morning”, and is called “Kikoete Konaika”, that is “Can’t You Hear It?”. It’s a short song, dedicated to Jamaican music, and it’s a really good track. The following instrumental track, called “Stone River”, is peculiar to the Ska Flames: they really sound like the Skatalites of 1965 in a song that was never heard before. There’s a great guitar solo and the tenor sax is constantly on the upbeat.
You’ll never know the title of the first rocksteady track in the record (unless you have a friend who knows ideograms well!) because only the sung parts are translated. It’s an instrumental track with a rocksteady standard rhythmic in which the trombone is predominant in a very melancholic Rico Rodriguez style. The fifth track reveals another good instrumental rocksteady, called “Take It Easy”; here sax and trumpet are predominant in two well-chosen solos before the unexpected end. The second sung track follows. Rhythmically it is a reggae song in a ’70s style, the singer’s inspiration is certainly soul and the title’s translation is “Stars Keep Shining”. The dub bridge at the end is great and the conclusion is beautiful. The Ska Flames “ravish me” with a reggae/funk instrumental track called “Right Direction”, reminding of the ‘70s side of reggae music and led by the keyboards of great Nagai Masakazu, who must be a fan of Mittoo. The following track, “M Calypso” is a powerful instrumental calypso that may be useful to those who don’t know the genre to understand in what sense ska music derives from that. “M” certainly means “Mega”, because “M Calypso” is actually so, as it condenses the striking power of the most popular music genre of the Caribbean.
Not to reduce the tension, the Ska Flames attack the listener with another good ska track called “Santamaria”, that has a good wind instruments theme that draws inspiration from cool jazz and a trombone on the upbeat. The next song, a ska track that’s more relaxed than the previous one and whose theme is more of a classic jazz kind, is the istrumental track that gives name to the record and has a really good bridge and a nature that induces to smile. I get to the eleventh track of the cd, introduced by a trumpet solo gradually fading into a riff that continues for most of the track; the title is “Stolen Beat” and I can say that the Ska Flames make burru ska invented by Drummond and Knibb their own. The theme draws inspiration from the work of the trombonist, the drums rhythm is assured by the most famous surviving ska drummer. He that learns a trade, hath a purchase made, the saying goes...
I was surprised by “Meet Me” because it’s a genre I had never heard the Ska Flames play; indeed, it’s a classic slow soul track, it’s beautiful, elegant and it’s sung in Japanese despite the title in English. The singer is certainly a good interpreter with a good voice, but he doesn’t impress me much. The percussive end is unexpected.
Do you know what’s the Japanese for “sunlight”? It’s “Taiyo”, that’s the title of the last, fun track, characterised by a pleasant melody and by the perfect accompaniment, but it’s not one of my favourite songs. The singer raises his voice and I make the curtain drop on the review, hoping I won’t have to turn 45 to put the Ska Flames’ fifth album in my discography, damn!
For purists of traditional ska, of the sound of the origins and of instrumental music.

Sergio Rallo - translation Silvia Cavenaghi




VA - "Trojan Rocksteady Rarities Box Set" 
(CD Compilation - Trojan Records - UK, 2005)

Among the authors of the 50 tracks in the compilation album “Rocksteady Rarities Box Set”, there are almost all the most popular interpreters of this genre: the talented Silvertones, the Rulers, the Valentines, the Claredonians, the Tennors, Hopeton Lewis, the Tartans, the Three Tops, the Conquerors, Eric “Monty” Morris, the Crystalites, Roland Alphonso, Mc Cook, besides artists who would become popular only in the reggae period: Glen Brown, Dawn Penn, the Kingstonian, the Gladiators.
From all these great singers we can only expect beautiful music (listen to “Whoo Baby” by the Silvertones, “It’s Not Right” by the Tartans, the real masterpiece “Sock It To Me Baby” by the Valentines, or the alternative version of “Do It Right” by the Three Tops or “It’s Alright” by the Tartans or, again, “Won’t You Come Home Now” by the Conquerors, to convince you that this thesis is right), but there are also bands and singers I had never heard before, such as The Moving Brothers (“Don’t Play That Song”), Henry III, who sings Presley’s “With A Girl Like You”, Diane Lawrence who performs an overwhelming version of “Hound Dog”, Ewan & Jerry (actually, I had already heard of this duo!) with the beautiful “You’ve Got Something” or the Groovers who interpret “You’ve Got To Cry” or the excellent Charlie Kelly with his “So Nice Like Rice” or the equally wonderful Mighty Vikings in “Love Me Forever”: and they are the ones who leave the listener (including me) open-mouthed. They are variously accompanied by people like Tommy Mc Cook and the Supersonics, Lynn Taitt & the Jets, Bobby Aitken & the Carib Beats, Bobby Ellis & Derrick Harriott’s Crystalites, the Beverly Allstars, who also offer many remarkable instrumental tracks, such as Alphonso’s “Sock It To Me”, the more than excellent “Try a Little Merriness” by keyboardist Ike Bennett or the equally fun “The Emperor” by trumpetist Bobby Ellis; and I assure you that “Rocksteady Rarities”’s 3 records could have an entire geriatric ward dancing!
My exaggerations are confirmed by masterpieces like the Tennors’ “Gee Whizz”, instrumental tracks like Alphonso’s “Halls Of Montezuma”, or “train songs” after the manner of “Skaville Train” (successful trend between 1966 and 1969), that are beautiful and enthralling, like the Gladiators’ “The Train Is Coming Back”, and rarities such as the quoted version of the Three Tops’ “Do It Right”, arranged in a different way, or the great song “The Good You Can” by the veteran ska armonicist and singer Charlie “Organaire” Cameron and, again, hot and enveloping soul ska tracks such as “Anything You Want” by the unknown and great Dudley Williamson, as well as, finally, deep rocksteady tracks like Johnny & The Attractions’ “Coming On The Scene”, which becomes immediately my #1 in the “top 50” represented by the box set. Moreover, from the listening of such a big quantity of tracks that were all recorded between the beginning of 1966 and the beginning of 1968, you perfectly catch rockstedy fading into reggae, as in the beautiful “Don’t Say No” by the Silvertones, in the remarkable “Rain and Thunder” by the Soul Tops or in the equally beautiful “Think Twice” by great Eric “Monty” Morris, whose typical style and very recognisable voice can’t be unappreciated.
Thrilling music, from beginning to end of the three cds, which contain rarities that are recorded on a digital support for the first time in 40 years from their first appearance on vinyl. My sentence, even for these reasons, is without appeal: not to be missed.

Sergio Rallo - translation Silvia Cavenaghi




Laurel Aitken - "Live At Club Ska" 
(CD Album - Trojan Records - UK, 2002)

Aitken himself defined this album as “the best live album I ever had the pleasure of recording”. I’m a bit late in reviewing it, but I think it’s never too late to talk about a good record. Especially if it’s a ska record.
Actually, this live album is fun and passionate and very well recorded; Aitken is in a very good shape and the band plays with no imperfections, in spite of the Maestro’s improvisations.
The recording begins with a very lively version of one of his first Jamaican shuffle-style records, “Boogie In My Bones”. It offers an enjoyable “Zion City” (one of my favourite songs by Aitken) and the medley of “Mad About You” with “My Girl Lollipop”; here Aitken takes a break to let Rico play a cover of “Eastern Standard Time” with the band, and when he starts to sing again he proposes an enthralling version of “Bartender”. El Cubano’s strong point “Sally Brown” (one of the most beautiful ska songs in the history of this genre) gives the chance for another great medley with “Long Shot (Kick The Bucket)” by Pioneers, which I had never heard in a version sung by Aitken.
Live At Ska Club also contains one of the most beautiful versions of “Skinhead Train” and of the fun “Skinhead” that I’ve happened to listen to; skinheads will be happy, as Aitken has always found favour in their eyes (at the time when skinheads were more and more often identified as racist extreme right-wingers - 1989/1990 – Aitken ingenuously stated in several interviews: “I don’t like skinheads... I love them!”). Moreover, it is funny how Aitken personally reinterpreted Prince Buster’s “Al Capone”; maybe that’s because it’s one of the ska songs Aitken has always performed in the last ten years, but the one you listen to in this record isn’t a cover at all, it’s his own track, in which He plays mouth-organ in a style that’s similar to Roy Richards’.
Among my favourite tracks of all times there’s certainly “Sahara” (the classic powerful ska), and Aitken amazes me with an intense performance, especially if we consider that he was already 75 years old at that time! The accompaniment is powerful as well.
The listening finishes with remarkable rocksteady “It’s Too Late”, in which Aitken’s warm voice caresses the listener, and the excellent cover of the king of jive Louis Jordan’s “Caledonia”, interpreted with the freshness of a teenager and making the Artist’s deep r&b nature come out.
This is one of Aitken’s records that I’ve listened to the most since he’s gone, maybe because the freshness of the recording makes you think of him lively skipping on stage, maybe because I fully share every word Aitken wrote in the notes on the third page of the booklet: “Greetings to all my fans – This record is brought to you with love and pleasure in mind. The Godfather invites every one of you to listen, enjoy but most of all DANCE to the fantastic sounds of my music, my band and my old friend Rico”. Anyway, this is an album that every real fan of Aitken should listen to. I conclude quoting the Maestro once again: “So HIT IT from the TOP to very LAST DROP!!”

Sergio Rallo - translation Silvia Cavenaghi




The One Droppers - "Original Jamaican Boogie"  
(CD Demo - self produced - Italy, 2004)

“Original Jamaican Boogie” is a good demo. It contains 4 covers, placed between an opening intro and a final outro.
The first cover is Bob Marley’s “Simmer Down”; any self-respecting band has played it at least once. Simple.
The second cover is called “Stop The Train”. It’s not the cover of Peter Tosh’s “Stop The Train”, it’s the cover of Keith & Tex’s “Stop That Train”. I think The One Droppers got their inspiration from the cover by the Ocean 11 (this is what it seems if we look at the lyrics and at the title).
The third cover is Jackie Estick’s “The Ska”, which is, in my opinion, the best track in the whole CD; very witty and with an excellent intro.
The fourth cover, “Skammertime” aka “Summertime” by George Gershwin, is a Jamaican Jazz track, well done but with not much grit. I refer especially to Jonny, the band’s vocalist, who’s not very convincing in this song.
My advice for those who venture on songs in English is to improve their pronunciation. There are really a few cases of Italian singers who have a good command of the language.
As a whole, “Original Jamaican Boogie” is a good demo, as I’ve already said; The One Droppers get their inspiration from a refined Ska Original, showing they also have a good knowledge of it.
I hope to see them play live as soon as possible and I can already imagine how enthralling they can be.
I recommend this demo to all those who love Ska Original.

Francesco Spadoni - translation Silvia Cavenaghi




Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra - "Answer" 
(CD Album - Avex Inc. - Japan, 2005)

The only ska band in the world that, with its last album but one (“High Numbers”, same label, 2003) sold 450.000 copies and that, so far, after 16 years and at least 16 albums, as many singles, 4 or 5 DVDs, a huge number of live concerts all over the world, was able to sell at least one million, is the only, amazing, legendary Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra.
80% of the band is the same as the one of the beginning - besides the drummer and the guitarist, who migrated elsewhere, and “Cleanhead” Gimura, the former vocalist and guitarist, who committed suicide in the mid ‘90s – with the whole original woodwind and brass section, composed of the best brass players of the East, trumpetist “Nargo” Nagoya, trombonist Kitahara, the indefatigable sax-guitarist-dancer Hiyamuta, tenor sax Gamo and the amazing baritone sax Yanaka.
There are also the great keyboard player Oki and bass player Kawakami, who is now mixing so well with drummer Motegi as he used to do with Aoki until 1999; they’ve been there since 1990 and they’re essential to the band’s sound.
“Answer”, their latest album, deserves such an introduction as, as usual, none of the 14 tracks is stock or banal, poor or boring; on the contrary, they’re all attractive, bright, powerful, melodic and perfectly performed.
The beginning of the record, made of powerful and overwhelming instrumental ska tracks such as “Tongues Of Fire” and the more traditional “Nasty Blues”, is a real shake to your spine that doesn’t fade out when you listen to the first lovely song (sung in Japanese) “Map of the World”; on the contrary, its intensity increases thanks to the fast and powerful ska/rock “Left With the Dog” (sung chorally in English) that immediately catches the listener’s attention. For those who are in a more traditional mood, I suggest the soul “Stampade March”; for those who love latin hot jazz, I recommend the exciting “Stroke Of Fate”, while those who prefer funk music are gonna be surprised by the ‘70s funky style that goes along with ska in “Open Your Eyes”.
“Family Tree” and “Azure” are wonderful instrumental traditional ska tracks played in the band’s classic style, with amazing solos. The almost completely instrumental “Smoky Town” is amazing as well; it caused me an angina pectoris (my heart collapsed during the bridge!) and immediately became one of the songs I’ve listened to the most the summer of 2005.
In this record you find brilliant rhythmics, almost touching beginnings (listen to “Twilight Slider”) and sublime armonies... how can you not love them?

Sergio Rallo - translation Silvia Cavenaghi




VA - "Safe Travel" 
(CD Compilation - Pressure Sounds - UK, 2005)

Pressure Sounds is an English label specialized in reggae music that sometimes winks at people like us, who have a passion for oldies. In 2001 it had already released Derrick Morgan’s anthology of rare productions, called “Red Dumb Ball”, that I reviewed for
Now we have, and Pressure Sounds releases this dense anthology called “Safe Travel”. And I wonder: how could a travel be unsafe if it’s accompanied by rocksteady?
The producer is Phil Pratt, aka Gorge Phillips, singer and producer of some of the greatest and less known rocksteady songs (as the booklet precisely states). Actually, the singles contained in this anthology were originally released by Calton (famous producer Ken Lack’s label, aka Blondel Keith Calneck, who started his activity in 1966) and by Jon Tom (still Lack’s label, but personally supervised by Phil Pratt himself, who had called it that way thinking of trumpetist Johnny Dizzie Moore and of saxophonist/flautist Tommy Mc Cook, both former Skatalites and friends of his).
The accompaniment is by Lynn Taitt & The Jets and by Tommy Mc Cook’s Supersonics; the tracks were recorded between 1966 and 1968 at Federal Records Studios, West Indies Records Limited (WIRL) and Treasure Island Recording Studio. Besides Phil Pratt himself, you can listen to singers such as Ken Boothe, Larry Marshall, Horace Andy, the Claredonians (one of my favourite bands. There are 2 tracks that I’ve never listened to before, one of which is “Bye Bye Bye”, mockingly dedicated to Mr. Dodd, who was abandoned because he subjugated them) and Hamsley Morris.
23 tracks of great Jamaican rocksteady and I didn’t know one!
Travel safe: listen to Rock Rock Rocksteady!

Sergio Rallo - translation Silvia Cavenaghi




Laurel Aitken & The Cookoomackastick  
"The Very Last Concerts and Studio Recordings"   (DVD)
"You’ve Got What It Takes/That’s How Strong"    (CD Single)
(P&C BZrecords - Italy, 2005)

The great Cuban/Jamaican artist known as the Godfather of Ska, did his last Italian tour (and his last tour in his life) during 2003 with Cookoomackastick from Ferrara. They had such a good feeling that the band, with guitarist Marci Lee, and the Godfather kept in constant touch. Even during Aitken’s sickness they’ve been calling his sweet wife Sandra almost weekly. After Aitken got better he didn’t just appear in a few shows but he joined the band to record those who are now his last songs ever recorded. The outstanding last roars by the originator of Ska music.
Now let me state a few things about how Aitken has been a real record man in Jamaican music history. Just hope that good friend Prince Buster won’t blame me if I put some of these records by numbers: 1) “El Cubano” sang in the very early 78 rpm mento and calypso records recorded in Jamaica. 2) Those records were released by the first Jamaican producer, Stanley Motta, in 1956. 3) Aitken released the first ever r&b, shuffle or boogie or whatever you want to call it recorded in Jamaica: Aitken’s Boogie in ’57! (actually he wasn’t just the Godfather of Ska, but also the Godfather of Jamaican Boogie!!) 4) this record was released with the second ever Jamaican producer, Dada Tuari; 5) Aitken released the first ever record by the very famous label Island Records. It was in 1959 with the double A side single “Little Sheila/Boogie in my Bones”. 6) With this single he’s been the first local artist to reach to hit the charts at number one and 7) he stood at the top of the chart for nothing but 14 weeks; 8) he was the first to sing religious rasta songs (Roll Jordan Roll, Zion City) and 9) the first to mix r&b with African percussions; 10) he was the first Jamaican artist who reach success in the U.K. becoming the first among many other to play Jamaican Shuffle Boogie, which was very trendy in London clubs in the early 60’s; 11) he released the first 45 rpm on the legendary Blue Beat Records (“Boogie Rock”), the first ska record ever; many of his 7 inch records were also the first products by many other labels, like: 12) Ska Beat, 13) Nu Beat, 14) Dice, 15) Rio records, and other cult labels from this ska/early reggae period; 16) his was the first song about skinheads, so that “Mr. Cleanhead” will become a legend (“Skinhead Train”, 1969), 17) he did the only “rasta inspired” song that the young skinheads will dance to: Heile Heile (the Lion), 1969 and this was almost a miracle for Aitken; 18) he was the first original artist who reached the UK charts in the Two Tone wave (Rudy Got Married, 1980); once the two tone wave disappeared it is Aitken, along with the Potato 5, with his superb “Sally Brown”, that started the third wave of ska in the late 80’s. Sally Brown was recorded in 1986 and it became a great success within a few weeks and it still is one of the classics of the ska underground scene, played almost everywhere by the younger generations of ska fans. As you can see, it will be hard to find another man like Lorenzo Antonio in any other music genre. And what I just stated are just facts, as I didn’t mention any of the many aspects of his artistic career, as the Godfather’s discography includes some of the greatest melodies and some of the most powerful rhythms within the ska/reggae genre.
All this was to remember who his was; even for the next generations. And now, let’s talk about these two records.
The single cd was presented on the 19th of novembre 2005, along with a celebrating DVD, during a tribute night to the Godfather. The two tracks are two classic American soul songs “You’ve Got What it Takes” e “That’s How Strong (My Love Is)”. If someone told you that these songs were recorded after Aikens illness and after he’s been in coma, you simply won’t believe it. Even if his health was weak, the High Priest of Reggae gave 100% and simply become the High Priest of Soul giving me, once again some vibrating emotions. Cookoomakastick arrangements and Aitken’s performance are surely the best surprise I had for Christmas.
The DVD has the videos from his last shows, backstage, studio outtakes from the recordings of “Jamaica”, “She’s Gone To Napoli”, Pregherò (Italian version of “Stand by Me”) and the exciting Sinatra’s “My Way”. It is probably the best tribute we can have about Laurel Aitken. You can not only admire the Maestro singing a dozen of his tunes live in many places around Italy, but also during rehearsal of arranging songs, or simply having fun. It is pure joy; shows you the man in his happiness and gives you the idea of how exciting were his shows. Also shows you how professional he was in explaining the style of a song or which kind of rhythm he wanted to play. He was a real singing machine……whatever you may play and whatever rhythm your playing, he was there, ready to sing after it, still after 78 years. It amazes me thinking of Aitken dying only a few days before he had to go on stage on one of his many tribute shows, and just a few days after doctors told him not to get on a stage anymore in his life. Seems like without singing, his life had no more sense, and,maybe, that’s another reason why his heart stopped beating. Talking about his death, I’d like to write Ken Boothe’s words after celebrating Aitken as his first inspiring artist: “I know wherever he is gone to, music is there" (From the Jamaican Observer, July 22nd 2005)
Songs in the DVD are the same as in his live record released in 2002, Sally Brown, Al Capone, Mad About You, Zion City, Skinhead, Bartender, Caledonia e Boogie in My Bones and a beautiful and exciting cover of Stand By Me which is included also in a studio version sang in Italian: “Pregherò”. Those songs, along with the single ones and a couple more sang by Winsto Francis and by A.J. Franklin (former Chosen Few), will be published soon as Aitken’s last unreleased songs album.
Finally, let me say one more thing. I think it might be something to be proud of, for all Italian ska fans that those last songs were produced in Italy, in Ferrara, where a group of very special people let Lorenzo spend his last moments of a glorious and long career; loved, respected and esteemed. Really great, Cookoomackastick!

Sergio Rallo - translation Antonio Crovetti


The Aggrolites - "Dirty Reggae"  
(CD Album - Axe Records - US, 2003)

From Los Angeles, here’s the band that many consider as the best skinhead reggae band now: The Aggrolites.
Before talking about the album, let’s state immediately that the Aggrolites aren’t new to the ska-reggae scene, since they were already members of other West Coast bands, like See Spot, King Apparatus, The Rhythm Doctors and The Vessels (these last two bands were skinhead reggae bands, too).
Not only. The guests also are just as good: from Deston Berry and Scott Abels from Hepcat to Matt Parker from The Adjusters.
Dirty Reggae is their first album, 14 tracks of the finest early reggae from the late 60’s; no remakes; “scratchy”, dirty and a bit funky sonances.
Drums, guitar and organ create this atmosphere already since “Hot Stop”, the first track.
Much more soul "Jimmy Jack", "Keep it cool" and "Money Hungry Woman", second, fourth and sixth tracks of the album respectively.
Jesse Wagner’s voice is distorted but still warm and gives an awesome interpretation.
"The Stampede" is a wonderful instrumental piece in Rico Rodriguez style: after this wonderful song Dave Wiens, the trombonist (former Let's Go Bowling), takes off the certanties of all those who’ve always managed to recognize Rico’s sound at once among a thousand trombonists. Dave Wiens is the brass section: don’t start to look for other brass, sax or trumpet solos, because you’re not going to find one.
"Pop The Trunk" is one of those moving songs. It’s the West Coast party song, it’s one of those songs that as soon as you listen to them you’re in the middle of the dancefloor. You can also find the video of this song on the Aggrolites website or directly on the Sluggo Productions website (
Jesse Wagner’s rough and hoarse voice recurs in “Joe Grind”, along with riff of bass and keyboards, but it’s from great Brian Dixon’s guitar that the theme solo comes out. A beautiful and tense song.
The keyboards, masterly played by Roger Rivas in a Jackie Mitto style, come out from the two instrumental pieces “Reggae Wonderland” and “Lunar Eclipse”.
”Dirty Reggae” is the song concluding the album; once again Wagner proves to be incredibly able to interpret a skinhead reggae that I’ve heard only few times to be interpreted so well.
I recommend this album to all the fans of the Symarip, of Clancy Eccles & The Dinamites, of the Upsetters and of more modern bands, especially two Spanish ones: Los Granadians and the Aggronauts.
They’ll be again on a European tour next Spring-Summer, fortunately also in Italy this time. Don’t miss the chance.

Francesco Spadoni - translation Claudia


Arpioni - "Malacabeza"  
(CD Album - Alternative/Venus - Italy, 2005)

Arpioni are the longest-lived ska band in Lombardy, which is a good reason to take off your pork pie as a sign of respect.
Exactly as good wine – of which we’re both lovers - Arpioni take more shape and more insight as time passes by, and it is definitely not a misused manner of speaking to claim that "Malacabeza", their latest effort after some years of record silence, is sure their best album ever!
Arpioni widely show, with "Malacabeza", a quality that distinguishes them from many other groups singing in Italian (even much more famous than them): they are able to say things with airy gaiety and, even when they are committed, they do so very well, without any slogans or yellings.
This was about the contents. As for music, Arpioni had a great time presenting even other genres, along with a dose of more than brilliant ska songs, doing so in a self-possessed natural way.
Actually "Malacabeza" opens with a deep powerful soul track (which wouldn’t be bad in an Italian version of the Commitments!) called “Basta!”; it goes on with the more than enjoyable ska version of “Una storia disonesta” (“A Dishonest Story”) (“due amici ‘na Chitarra e uno spinello...”) by Stefano Rosso with Stefano Rosso (Red, exactly as wine!) as a more than esteemed guest (very funny himself and surely amused); it continues with Proietti’s song “Er Tranquillante Nostor” (which obviously refers to wine!), revised in a still ska style that will sure impress a foolish smile on your face while listening to it or dancing it also because of Rosso’s final remark; it gets to the title track, which would be really right as a summer hit (choruses and wind instruments arrangement included), still with Rosso; it presents the track called “Incendio” (“Fire”), which is the most beautiful sentimental ska song that I’ve happened to listen to lately, with a very peculiar ‘60s mood and that won me over immediately; it arrives halfway with the powerful and protest melodic punk track called “Colpo In Canna” (“Shot in the Barrel”), which is a good punk music lesson given by Arpioni to some bands who can only distort guitars but can’t put a few words together (and even if punk is a genre that I’ve never liked and that I’ll never like); it goes on with “Salsa Obrera”, a real hot and fun full marks salsa, with beautiful lyrics and music; then we find “Diciamo” (“Let’s say”) (don’t miss the intro), another of “Malacabeza”’s most fun and spontaneus songs; finally, another one of the tracks I’ve enjoyed the most and which deserves being quoted is rocksteady/reggae “Equilibrio precario” (“Precarious Balance”).
Everything was recorded with the best attention, with a lead singer (Kino) who’s a great tenor, a precise and clean rhythmic, a wind instruments section which “remains in section” as in the best soul tradition and with a perfectly ska feeling (listen to the title track to agree immediately), with enjoyable choruses and series of highly respected guests: besides Stefano Rosso, even Roy Paci (what a solo in “Salsa Obrera”!).
This album is more than fine, with videos following non to be missed and to be supported.

Sergio Rallo - translation Silvia Cavenaghi


The Blaster Master - "Tuffer Than Roots"  
(CD Album - Grover Records - Germany, 2005)

I guess I can remember The Blaster Masters had a debut cd out a few years ago, around 1997, but this is this first time I have the chance to listen to one of their cd’s. And what an cd!!
I loved this Tuffer Than Roots from the very first moment.
All 12 tracks are brilliant and Blaster Master’s style is closer to German 80’s ska, rather than to traditional ska (but there’s where roots always be!!). Could be because the lead vocalist reminds me the Blechreiz singer, or maybe because of those catchy rythms that Blaster Master put together.
This Finnish band is extremely cool in mixing together powerful rather than easy, slow, funny, fast, ironic and crunchy tracks. Could easily be called the Madness from up north!
The album starts with a good instrumental called “Intro” and goes on with a slow ska with a typical two tone mood with a piano accompaniment that reminds me of the Camden Town boys called “Brixton”. “Jhonny the Bastard” is the third track, a faster one.
“Litmanen” is in a more Caribbean and original style and it’s just before the cd title track, which is another two tone style song. “Tuffer Than Roots” sounds like it could have been released in the eraly 80’s with the singer that reminds me a bit of certain Mark Foggo’s songs, just to remain in northern Europe.
“I’m In a Hurry” is another fast ska song and it’s just bifore a song that realy drove me mad! “Little Sunflower” is a catchy instrumental with loads of brass, cool guitar, piano and a brilliant melody. Great music to travel with!
Punky reaggae songs like “Got a Minute”, ska songs like “Ghost” and excellent stompers with a rock structure like “Foreign Bodies” will be Liberator and Chikenpox fans favourites!
Excellent album!

Sergio Rallo - translation Antonio Crovetti


The Cookoomackastick and Winston Francis - "Suspicious Minds"  
(Mini CD - BZrecords - Italy, 2005)

Yes, you’re reading right : The Cookoomackastick and Winston Francis, the great Jamaican crooner, “Mr. Fix It”, already known for being the singer in Carlos Malcom and His Afro Jamaican Rhythms’ band, but more famous in the second half of the ‘60s for some amazing Soul/Rocksteady (“Same Old Song”, “Venus”, “Mr Fix It” etc) and for the cover of his song “Too Experienced” the Bodysnatchers did in 1980. What the hell is he doing with the great band with a neverending name, which, with its music, brings prestige to such a beautiful town as Ferrara?
It’s evident, guys, Soul music made them meet, Da Profet gives his word. Soul and Blues, two music genres, two states of mind, two energies and one only underlying theme: the feeling. You can be really good at playing the guitar, but if you have no “feeling” you’ll never transmit good vibes to anyone; that’s what the feeling is about, that’s what Soul music is about! Ska, Reggae and Rocksteady drip Soul and Blues, actually they are among the best Soul and Blues’ “by-products”. Hence, the union between Marco Bianchi’s band (Marco Bianchi, aka Marci Lee; in the archives of this column you find an enthusiastic review of his great debut album “Rocksteady Vibration”) and Winston Francis could only result in something dripping Soul.
Just to be moderate, “Suspicious Mind” is an amazing four of a kind that will sure please the incipient spring. It contains 5 tracks; the first two are sung by Francis and the last ones by Cookoo. “Now I Know” (by Harris “BB” Seaton), the title track, an American Soul classic whose first and unforgettable interpreter was Elvis, “God Is Love” (by Toots Hibbert) and “Push Wood” (by Jackie Opel) that are, by sheer coincidence, three Jamaican Soul classics. In addition, there’s the instrumental version of “Now I Know” (which I liked as much as the original one) and the “Suspicious Mind” video in a format that I wasn’t able to watch with my PC, but I’m really bad with computers.
When I first listened to this funny mini-cd I was dumbfounded: Cookoomackastick did an amazing job (choruses, solos, ska, rocksteady, reggae rhythmics, everything is excellent) letting me also listen to the beautiful voice of Winston Francis performing for the first time Elvis and a refined song by “BB” Seaton, besides some recordings dating from 40 years ago. In addition, “Suspicious Mind” announces a much thicker collaboration between the Ska Men from Ferrara (who are, among other things, the first band that came back to collaborate with the Godfather of Ska, who has almost totally recovered)*; a word to the wise.
Maybe many of you already know the songs, but what you don’t know is the great performance Winston Francis and Cookoomackastick make of it.
Indeed, even though I’ve listened to “Suspicious Mind” several times, I’ve never even realised that only the first two songs were sung by Francis! On the one hand, this can mean that I’m growing stupid; on the other hand it shows that “Push Wood” and “God is Love” are performed in such a passionate way by the Cookoomackastick singers that they seem to be Black!
This is pure Jamaican Soul, it’s “feeling”, and there’s no need to go to Chicago or to Kingston to look for it, all you have to do is dropping in Ferrara!

Sergio Rallo - translation Silvia Cavenaghi


La Ghenga - "Promo CD (Tuamadreamoremio)"  
(Promo CD - Studio Syncropain - Pisa, Italy, 2004)

Im gonna review maybe the best Promo CD i have ever heard. Surely the best an italian ska band has ever done.
Quality, potentiality and swing in four tracks:
'Jamaica Farewell'. A classic ska covered song. Composed by an unforgettable Irving Burgie (aka 'Lord Burgess') and then recorded by Harry Belafonte (1956, 'Calypso') is one of those songs that signed the folkloristic scene of the '50s-'60s. Played and sang by many artists, the version La Ghenga spread us is a nice ska-rocksteady. Intro, taken from Skatalites 'Hot Cargo' bring us some years after, calypso atmosphere is gone and this time is the lovely voice of Elisa to tell us of the magic of Kingston Town. Good interpretation, great voice (in 2005 Elisa collaborates also with Arpioni recording their album 'Malacabeza').
'Like Duke'. Jamaican Jazz and solos a go go. The authors of this track, Francesco and Gianni, show us what La Ghenga is able to do. If i said that Alexander is playing the piano, Ranglin the guitar, Drummond the trombone and Alphonso the sax you would believe me. Comparison as crazy as the title track. But it's a great instrumental song anyway, it's of course one of the best instrumental songs that Italy can remember. Skatalites style.
'Il Mare'. Singer, guitar player, composer, this track shows us all the swing Francesco 'ghiaino' Bottai has, great artist who makes us fly away listening a rocksteady as well as pleasant and soft. Good the brass section. Easy melodia.
'The Sidewinder'. Composed during the first '60s by the greatest trumpet hard-bop player Lee Morgan, has been skillfully played without any problem. Really up-time, jazz just a little. Strong but not so much. I remind the Rotterdam Ska Jazz Foundation version, where guitar and keyboard make rhythm more frenzied and crazier. Great the brass section.
A 'Ghost Track' titled 'Cacciucco Blues' bring us to the end. Also here Bottai's lyrics, talking about Pisa and Livorno, two hostile cultures. Blues and funny.
The songs choice is impeccable. The brass section has marked every tracks. The old ska and jamaican jazz lovers will appreciate. Highly recommended for any Skatalites fan.

Francesco Spadoni - translation Francesco Spadoni


K-Mob - "Cushdy"  
(CD Album - Elmo Records - Germany, 2005)

Great musicians here in this band; the K Mob, a totally unknown band here in Italy. Cushdy, a brilliant and vital record, is without a doubt one of the best cds recently released by Grover’s sister, Elmo Records.
Tho it’s quite hard to describe K Mob’s style, I can say they surely got a pop/soul mood in their melodies, along with solid, original and traditional rhythms. K Mob have two vocalists (male & female), which makes them quite unique; both are excellent and catchy voices. Superb keyboard player who does a great job with tons of riffs and goes perfectly along with a cool rhythm section. A fact is that K Mob are not a ska jazz band; their nature is rather soul!
Cd has 18 tracks, but three of them are roots/dub spots (“Dark Night” is a cool track with a unique calypso style guitar). So among the other 15 tracks, I think the ones that drive you ska crazy are with no doubt the ska/country rock piece “Harem Heat”, the jumpy early reggae “Tickle”, the fascinating ska/soul “Festival of Satisfaction” and the really enjoyable “Don’t Cry”. Top of the album is my personal favourite song “Liquor Store”, while I got some cool vibrations from the soul song “Keep Waiting” and from the reggae stylee “All I Know”. Good ole Dr. Ring Ding appears in two tracks as a really welcome guest star. The only thing that didn’t really satisfy me is the recording sound. Really didn’t like how “it came out” so to say.
In a modern and tasty style. Ska/HC fans keep out; could be interesting for fans of the likes of Ngob Ngobo, Robustos, Very Big Jahbrass Band, Adjusters.

Sergio Rallo - translation Antonio Crovetti


The Moon Invaders - "Breakin' Free"  
(CD Album - Grover Records - Germany, 2005)

News from Belgium state that the group called the Moon Invaders is actually breaking out and burning down the whole Belgian nation to the point that they already have no less than three gigs in the capital city every month. No, it’s not that Belgian people are all going crazy, but Moon Invaders are decidedly too good with their music, as it is evident to everyone who listened to the first-rate music contained in their amazing new album called «Breakin’Free».
One thing that has always revealed to be true in the Ska-world, and that’s exactly what is happening to Moon Invaders too: I believe their second album is pretty much better than the clear good impression I had with their homonym debut album with Grover records almost two years ago.
Breakin’ Free contains 14 tracks almost entirely written by Nicolas Leonard and with no cover pieces; that is really that kind of record full of good music which is not just a mere filler in our discography.
What they use is the typical radical-traditional style of music and the sound is deeply warm, soft and round while the rhythms are strong and steady-rolling; the same thing is true for the melodies of both their ska-songs and powerful early reggaes, their compositions seem to get their inspiration from the great rock steady bands as Ethiopians, Termites, Carlton and the Shoes, the Cables, and so on. You only need to hear the brilliant and rootsy-rock steady Al The Bets Are Off, (it seems a thing come out of Joe Gibbs Studios) to realize the truth of what I‘m saying.
Undoubtedly, the black music’s typical feeling and sensation along with the bluesy side featuring all ska/reggae music (fortunately) represent the more attractive elements for the musicians of the Moon Invaders. You can tell it by the hypnotic songs like “Consciousness” and those rhythms taking you back to the Upsetters like in “Here We Go Again”.
Listening to “Don’t Touch The Dog”, I discovered a great instrumental early reggae (also this one mesmerizing, but acid), and some wind instruments and keyboards that are simply irresistible. The irresistibility is the distinctive feature of the music of the Moon Invaders; that is what you can find in every single track and particularly in the so called title track. Bella canzone.
For what concerns the instrumental pieces, besides the dark and intense ska, which starts your listening to Breakin’ Free, “Lion Of Panshir” (obviously dedicated to the greatest hero of the Afghan resistance movement, the legendary Ahmad Sha Massoud, killed by cowardly suicidal religious fanatics a few years ago), you have a track called “Number Eight”of the same kind of “Congo Square” (on the first album). This song gave me so much pleasure, though I prefer to that the forceful ska/reggae “The Day We Met”.
Behind so much good music and in addition to the valuable musicians of the Moon Invaders, we have, also this time, Victor Rice, now the veritable “guru” of ska recording sessions. Otherwise, what should be the reason for always having his name on the records of some of the very best groups around? Is it not so?
All the people who love Jamaican music since 1960 to 1969 could not help to appreciate and enjoy Breakin’ Free, the brilliant work of one of the best groups now playing in Europe.

Sergio Rallo - translation Paolo Della Mora


Rotterdam Ska Jazz Foundation - "Sunwalk"  
(CD Album - Grover Records - Germany, 2005)

With such a promising name, this dutch band couold just produce excellent track from the beginning to the end in this beautiful second cd called “Sunwalk”, released a few months after their ep “Black Night…Bright Morning”.
Eleven tracks of great ska jazz caught live in studio, with most of the tracks written during the three weeks recording session. RSJF show their love for this rhythm and this genre along with an amazing ability with their instruments, played with the ability of long time jazz maestros.
Those trumpet melodies by Robert Bogaart, the trombone solos by Arjen Bijleveld and the power of the rhythm section by Jeoren van Tongeren (guitar), Dimitri Jeltsema (drums) e Matthieu Cleijne (Bass) are enough to make you love this band!
The title track “Magyar Posta”, the great cover “Blues March” (excellent musician that Hidde Wijga, keyboard player and author of that amazing rocksteady “Illegal Operations”), the cool “Black Night”, the vibrating version of “China Town” and the also vibrating cover of Skatalites’ “Life Wire” are the tracks that I mostly liked. I’d like to say that arrangements are brilliant, but that word is simply not enough. I simply keep listening to this record over and over and I gues I won’t put it away for a long time.
Only a fool could miss the chance to see this band live and listen to one of the best ska jazz records ever.
A must.

Sergio Rallo - translation Antonio Crovetti


Two Tone Club - "Turn Off"  
(CD Album - Grover Records - Germany, 2005)

Two Tone Club, from France, are one of the most appreciated transalpine groups and their thrilling last album “Turn Off” reveals the reasons for such an approval.
The album contains 14 tracks ( three of which are bonus tracks consisting in two dub versions and a live instrumental one ), besides a video taken from one of the band’s live concerts which shows the band on stage while performing ska/reggae “King of Dance Hall”.
Never monotonous, TTC are real highly respected Ska Men: as their name suggests, they take their inspiration from the golden age of European ska and some of their passages, such as the fun “Turn Off The Television”( one of the most fun ska two tone I have happened to listen to lately), “12O’Clock” (great, something between the Madness and the Clash) and “Ugly Boy”, fully confirm.
Neither do TTC dislike reggae/rocksteady rhythmics and definitely more soul sounds, as you can hear listening to the really beautiful “Talk About Love” or “Catchy Rocksteady” or the more instrumental Skatalites style, such as “Beware of the Tiger”, doing so with masterly skill.
The semi-instrumental “Tribute to Lloyd”, which begins the listening of “Turn Off”, is really beautiful and gives the immediate perception of the excellent ska music the band presents.
Perfect performances, pleasant solos, ‘60s influences, instrumental tracks, immediatly catchy melodies, really great choruses and sounds inside “Turn Off” (what a sheer coincidence: Victor Rice is the sound mixer!) will certainly make you fall in love with a band I’m really looking forward to enjoying live!
Don’t miss it.

Sergio Rallo - translation Silvia Cavenaghi


VA - "Up Your Ears Vol.4"  
(CD Compilation - Grover Records - Germany, 2005)

The key of the success obtained by Grover Records “Up Your Ears” collections is surely not the amount of inedited tracks (2, as it is for the case in point I’m going to discuss here, or 3 every time), but instead the great calibre of the groups which are produced and/or distributed.
So, as in the preceding episodes, you have only to take your pick among all the ska, rocksteady and reggae of whatever sizes and styles you can listen while running the 21 selected tracks (for the most part picked up from the Grover catalogue.
Only two of the bands, indeed, come from outside: the very traditional Open Season whose “What Have I Done Wrong” is one of the most beautiful songs of the collection, and our national Mr. T. Bone, represented with his track “Easy” taken from “Sees America”, is also credited with being the best Italian trombonist.
Among the inedited pieces opening the CD, there is a live-version of “John James” by the Maytals but played by Soulfood International (ex CJC) with a really fearsome Dr. Ring Ding and the rocksteady/pop style of K-Mob, the band (unknown to me) has got a touch of soul and we’re given notice of their new album coming up soon with Elmo, parent label of Grover.
There are present nearly all of the groups whose good music we got used to with Grover Records: there you have the Intesified, Adjusters, Rotterdam Ska Jazz Foundation, King Django, Dr. Calypso and the Hotknives, Stingers ATX and the Eastern Standard Time, the High Notes and the Moon Invaders, Two Tone Club, Elvis Jackson, Blaster Masters and Lo & the Magnetics with tracks taken from their very last albums, except for the Hotknives, taken from their single like the Loveboats offering a very beautiful cover of one of the best songs ever by the late lamented Justin Hinds, “Everywhere we go”.
A collection surely not unnecessary, but funny, a record that one must dance from beginning to end, adnd… it will surely leave breathless anyone ignoring ska rocksteady e reggae!

Sergio Rallo - translation Paolo Della Mora


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