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The Babyshakers - "Shake The Baby"  
(CD - Skanky'lil Records - Holland, 2000)

At last something really curious and interesting! I’m talking about Dutch Babyshakers’ debut CD.
Indeed, “Shake the Baby” is a peculiar mix of ska, rockabilly and r&r, with Mark Foggo’s voice and guitar (both pretty “punky”) as a common denominator! The Skasters are alright, don’t worry! They just took a deserved break to let “megamouth” Mark express his madness.
And right here, right now, we have the Babyshakers, Foggo’s newest music project, with 12 tracks of very fun music to dance, starting from the first ska/rockabilly track, “Women Drivers”.
“Shake the Baby” is an unusual record because the Babyshakers are an unusual band themselves (at least an unusual “ska” band).
The Babyshakers are actually only 4. Besides Mark Foggo, who plays the guitar, there’s a contrabass (played by Anna Wodka), a keyboard which is sometimes used as a piano as well (thanks to “keybeater” Andre Stuivenberg) and drums (played hard by Rene Beaart). In short, apart from the keyboards, a typical “Rockabilly” band. The funny thing is that “Shake the Baby” is still a 100% “Ska” record, with the keyboards predominating, which is always good.
“Rollin’n’Ridin’”, “Peggy Sue Got Married” (the only cover in the whole cd), “Victim Of A Serious Crime” and three more songs like “Sick Of It”, “Cybergirl” and the worrying “Punch” are the tracks I liked the most for their rhythms, their lyrics, their rough sounds and their various vocal styles.
I really like “Shake the Baby”; it’s a very strange and curious “first record” that shows once more Mark Foggo’s creativity and also that it doesn’t take a whole orchestra to play involving ska music.
So what are you waiting for??? Shake!!!

Sergio Rallo - translation Silvia Cavenaghi


Backdoor Stomp! - "Steps In The Alley"  
(CD - no label - Australia, 1999)

The Backdoor Stomp! play old style Ska for Rude Boys; they propose an “essential” kind of it: guitar, bass, drums, vocals and tenor sax, played by Australian Tom Mc Kenzie, who used to play with Funddicts in the Eighties (they disappeared almost immediately).
“Steps In The Alley” by German Blue Chateau (the first cover in the record, which contains 4 more) shows clearly the musical choice of this debut album: harsh Ska with vocal melodies between punk and r&r, walking bass and non-traditional drums and tenor sax in addition.
There are also five original Back Door Stomp! tracks: “Inspector Martens”, “Trouble”, which I really liked, “Breakin’ Up”, fast Californian style Ska, “What’s Goin’On?” (former Funaddicts success), successfully rerecorded, and “Hey Ho”, my favourite.
Among the covers, the classic “Tequila”, which is very short and is a good chance to appreciate Tom’s phrasing, Bad Manners’ “Lorraine” and “Just A Feeling”, which was rearranged by the Backdoor Stomp! and gave pretty good results.
Specials’ “Nite Klub” is pretty close to the original, while the “ghost track” (a techno version of “Breakin’ Up”!) is incomprehensible.
I recommend “Steps In The Alley” to Rude boys and girls wearing pork pies and red Martens and feeling nostalgic for Unicorn/Two Tone Ska. Heghidà!!!

Sergio Rallo - translation Silvia Cavenaghi


Bassistinti - "Bassin’core"  
(CD - Tube Records - Italy, 1998)

“Bassin’core” isn’t going to enter the history of Ska music as one of the best albums of this genre.
In the first track (“Madama”), Bassistinti reveal themselves as a band with a very Rock impact; but the second track is very predictable (Women, Sun, Sea...), it sounds like something we have already heard, even if the rhythmic is right. Going on listening, Bassistinti more and more remind of Fratelli di Soledad and of Strike.
Yet, we have to wait until track number 5 (“Bombala”) to have the best idea of the kind of music Bassistinti propose. Even if it isn’t very “Ska”, “Bombala” reveals the greatest creative skills the band has, exactly as the following track (“Balek”).
“Rudy” makes us very sad as it presents once again the image of “Luca addicted to drugs”. Then we have “Ultima Notizia” (“Latest News”), a Oi!/Ska song.
Finally, I wasn’t impressed by “Tony il Pazzo”, by “Reggae No More” and by the harsh and short instrumental track that gives its name to the whole cd.
“Bassin’core” is fully sang in Italian and should be considered as a “serious” record as the lyrics are about serious topics. As a whole, the record is cold and not cheerful at all and has no positive effects on people who have a sunny nature.

Sergio Rallo - translation Silvia Cavenaghi


Bim Skala Bim - "The One That Got Away"  
(CD - Beatville Records - Holland, 1998)

I’ve never known any B.S.B.’s fans. Actually, I’ve never known anybody who knew all of their huge production, even if they’re one of the longest-lived ska bands on the Planet (they started to exist in 1987).
This isn’t a “new” album as it contains rarities by this band from Sommerville (a pleasant small town in Massachussetts (USA)).
The record contains 13 tracks, 7 of which had never been released before. Two of these tracks were remixed “inna original dub version” by Mad Professor (Neil Frazer) himself, who in the ‘70s started to produce amazing Dub.
There are three more tracks that have already appeared in some compilations that no one has ever seen or bought (that’s why they’re rare!) and, lastly, the B-side of the only 45 rpm that has appeared in the States. 13 tracks altogether. “Line To You” is really beautiful, “Run Joe”’s rock-ska version is nice, but the best tracks are “Skaloop”, the only instrumental track in the anthology written by John Cameron, the beautiful “Rain & Pour”, which shows B.S.B.’s personal style and, lastly, “Rain”, a cover of the original song by the Beatles.
Once again, Vince Nobile with his trombone and Dan Vitale with his peculiar voice leave their mark on you.

Sergio Rallo - translation Silvia Cavenaghi


Blue Beat Players - "Torrid Rock"  
(CD - 2nd City/Stubborn Records - 1997)

For those who know something about Asian Ska, it’s not completely new to listen to great traditional - mostly instrumental – ska with very carefully made sounds and arrangements. There’s a huge influence from the Skatalites, who are highly respected in the East.
The title track is really torrid, while a “calypsonian” atmosphere prevails in the fun “Let’s Ska”. This track really made me stop writing this review to dance.
In the whole record 120 strokes per minute are never exceeded, so the atmosphere is relaxed.
The sixth track, “Rolling Thunder”, reminds a lot of the Skatalites. The following one is very nice as well, a real Ska hammer between traditional ska (rhythmic and speed) and Two Tone ska (colour). It’s one of the songs I liked the most.
Among the only 2 tracks that are sung (the other one is “This Girl of Mine”), “Space Summer” is very interesting from a musical point of view. Actually, it’s a Burru Ragga that underlines that Blue Beat Players, so as the other Japanese bands, look at that kind of music from a learned view, which is however never Snob.
The band is composed of only six elements (the typical rhythmic besides a sax and a trumpet) and this shows that it doesn’t take a dozen of people to have a full sound.
As usual, for those who have any doubts, my advice is to listen carefully to the elaborate “Sound Creation part 2”, the eleventh track for your torrid summer with “Torrid Rock” from your dj “On The Block”.

Sergio Rallo - translation Silvia Cavenaghi


The Bluebeats - "Dance With Me"  
(CD - Moon Ska Records - US, 1996)

Mike Drance is the Scofflaws’ ex vocals and ex baritone sax. He played in their first album – “The Scofflaws” – when Moon Ska Records was still Moon Records. That album and that band are to be considered as one of the origins of today’s traditional Ska wave that came to Europe from the US. The Scofflaws’ second CD – “In HiFi” – was pretty disappointing to me. I think this was due to the fact that Mike Drance had left the band.
Mike was struck dumb by Ska, Rocksteady and Reggae music and started a new band. “Dance With Me” is their first Cd.
The peculiar characteristic of this record is that the wind instruments are completely missing because of a precise artistic choice. The Bluebeats have a clean, sometimes a bit Pop sound, with a good mixture of guitar and keyboards rhythmic to fill in the spaces of the woodwind and brass section. A point of honour for the vocal harmonies.
Obviously on Moon Ska Records.

Sergio Rallo - translation Silvia Cavenaghi


The Bluebeats - "Live and Learn"  
(CD - Moon Ska Records - US, 2000)

You are ready to bet that a band doesn’t exist anymore, and then you find their new album. The pleasure and the curiosity are certainly increased.
For those who don’t know Bluebeats, well, the Bluebeats are from New York City, even if half of them have Italian surnames, this is their second cd, their leader is Mike Drance, former Scofflaws’ vocals. And they play great blue beat.
The peculiarity of this band is that they have no woodwind and brass section. The band’s melodies stand on Cary Brown’s keyboards, on Steven Prisco’s on the upbeat guitar, on Russ Sisto’s swinging bass and on Mike’s beautiful voice. The sound is close to the one of their first record, which was released 5 years ago. The 13 tracks’ common denominator is a pretty classis rocksteady, often verging on reggae, with some soul forays, that are however very danceable and easy to listen to. There are also some pretty upbeat, almost third wave tracks.
No solos and only a few frills. Mike Drance and Cary Brown are necessary and enough to let the cd flow, track by track.
The album starts with the fun “Boom-Boom-Boom”, followed by the Jamaican “Come What May”.
The Drancian touch fills the whole record. Those who know the Bluebeats will agree that our friend has a very peculiar voice. So, “Esmeralda” and “Time Has Come” have a mark only he could give.
Even in this album there are some mystical and religiouos lyrics, which I find a bit stock, as in “High And Mighty”, “Every Hour” and “In the Name of The Lord”.
Some reggae riffs are present in the album, without interfering too much. “Last Chance” somehow reminds of UB40’s very white reggae.
My favourite track is “Don’t Let Me Say”, with a cheerful Hawaiian guitar, warm keyboards and infectious choruses.
Johnny Cash’s cover, “The Long Black Veil” doesn’t impress much.
This record isn’t a milestone, but it’s very pleasant and conceived by great musicians.
You can also find an interview with Mike Drance here on SkabadiP.

Antonio Crovetti - translation Silvia Cavenaghi


Bob Marley & The Wailers - "Destiny: Rare Ska Sides From S.O."  
(CD - Heartbeat - USA, 1999)

“Destiny”. Destiny wanted some music genres to evolve into a new, thrilling beat and wanted it to evolve into a conspicuous figure of subgenres and, finally, wanted them to influence our beating world’s music.
So, Destiny wanted a particularly gifted people to have the chance of expressing some unusual talents. Destiny wanted this “sixth episode” about Bob, Bunny, Peter by American Heartbeat label to honour a conspicuous group of talents.
Much has been said and written about the Wailers. On the contrary, not much has been written about what they used to play in the mid-‘60s, that is: not much has been written about what I would have liked to read knowing the Wailers’ pre-reggae period well. Now I know them even better.
Listening to “Destiny” you get to the roots of rhythm, played by the musicians who created it (the Skatalites are present in their full line-up) and sung by the greatest Jamaican vocal group.
19 tracks, the last of which (a bonus track) is Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas”, a very refined rarity, interpreted by young Marley supported by Peter and Bunny’s vocal armonies. The title track is really joyful, “Rock Sweet Rock” makes you wanna dance, Tom Jones’ “What’s New Pussycat” is worthy of note in this review, at least for the fact that obscure Cherry Green appears in it in one of the few recordings he did with the Wailers. Then we have the beautiful “Wages Of Love”, in which young Robert already shows his amazing singing skills, and many many other songs that are as unforgettable as those that made the Wailers famous all over the world. A great anthology.

Sergio Rallo - translation Silvia Cavenaghi


Bobby Aitken & Friends - "Rocksteady Red Hot & Original"  
(LP - Trybute Reggae Records/Topbeat Records - 1995)

This was the first lucky strike of this label: 13 tracks that had never been released before. Once again many rarities by one of the most underestimated characters of the Jamaican music scene. Bobby Aitken, Laurel’s younger brother, is the author, singer, guitarist, arranger and leader of the band known as “Caribbeats”. He proposes 1967-1968 Rocksteady. Bobby, who later approached Gospel, surprises us with his very personal and distinctive singing style. Bobby’s style is closer to Delta Blues, it’s more painful, even if Rocksteady is typically influenced by Soul music. The instrumental tracks, with Val Bennett playing tenor sax amazingly, are great as well. They’re nocturne tracks, reminding of sweaty bodies moving rhythmically together.
There’s more. Aitken and the singers and musicians taking part in this anthology show they are precursors of some kinds of Reggae that didn’t exist yet at that time.
Rumour has that Bobby Aitken is now a preacher.

Sergio Rallo - translation Silvia Cavenaghi


The Busters - "Boost Best"  
(CD - Mambo/Sony Music - Germany, 1997)

One year after their latest record (you find the review in our updated section) the Busters propose a sort of compilation, that’s not a real compilation because the 15 tracks were rerecorded expressly or this album and were chosen among the most famous ones by this German band.
In “Boost Best” you can listen to some “old glories” that were rearranged and that are not very different from the original ones, like “Candy”, “Summertime”, the very vulgar and really fun “Ruder Than Rude”, Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” and Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry Be Happy”. But there are also songs you’ve never heard, such as the cover of “Pop Music”, properly called “Ska Muzic”, and that of “Rivers Of Babylon” and of “Wendy”.
For those who want to learn about 15 years of Busters.

Sergio Rallo - translation Silvia Cavenaghi


The Busters feat. Farin Urlaub - "Liebe Macht Blind"  
(CD - Dogsteady Records - Germany, 2000)

Here is the Busters’ new single, just recorded (between April and May), sung in German and destined (why not?) to be this summer’s hit.
Farin Urlaub, who wrote and sings the title track but also “Like This”, decided to write these two songs for them to have some fun.
Matched with a fun video clip full of sun and sea, “Liebe Macht Blind” is a joyful and powerful very catchy ska/rock tune; it’s very easy to remember even if it’s in German. “Like This” is in English and is a quiet classic rocksteady that shows how Farin Urlaub was struck by Ska music.
Finally, there’s also “Let’s Talk About”, taken from “Welcome To Busterland”, their recent and applauded album.

Sergio Rallo - translation Silvia Cavenaghi


The Busters - "Make A Move"  
(CD - SPV - Germany, 1998)

Reviewing a band’s new record, whose latest CD was your summer’s soundtrack isn’t very easy. The judgement is biased, not completely objective and probably negative because it’s natural to be more attached to the songs you’ve danced and that remind you of good memories.
Unless... Well, unless the band’s new record is “really cool”. It isn’t so for the Busters’ “Make A Move”. The title track is an elegant and very catchy Ska-trad, the very elaborate “Too Much Stimulation” and the beautiful “Love At First Sight” are as pleasant as the Reggae songs “Don’t Go Searchin’ For Luck” and “Make Up Your Mind”; my favourite tracks are “Come On” and the amazing instrumental “A Taste Of Honey”. But the general impression is that of something we have already heard. Finally, some tracks are sung in Italian, Russian, German, French and Spanish as a gift to all of their fans across Europe.
Marks: 7/10 for pronunciation, 5/10 for grammar. A word to the wise...

Sergio Rallo - translation Silvia Cavenaghi


The Busters - "Stompede"  
(CD - Mambo/Sony Music - Germany, 1996)

This is German Busters’ seventh album; it is produced by Sony, which shows the big record companies are still interested in Ska music.
“Stompede” is more Ska than their last record but one, in which the band had a more Pop sound, because Sony’s manager who was interested in them had listened to one of their old lives, “Cheap Thrills”, where the Busters played their typical high-speed modern Ska. So, “Stompede” is much closer to their old albums (“Ruder Than Rude”, “Dead or Alive” and “Couch Potatoes”).
This band was the one that made me understand that Ska music wasn’t dead after the Two-Tone wave. So. I really like “Stompede”, which is part of the Butlers, Skaos and El Bosso’s German kind of Ska.
The cd is composed of 15 tracks in which the Busters propose Ska music in all of its past and present facets: some Ska-Pop, some Ska-Rock, some traditional Ska, some Punk. Everything is very catchy and melodic. Excellent.

Sergio Rallo - translation Silvia Cavenaghi


The Busters - "Welcome To Busterland"  
(CD - Dogdteady Records/SPV - Germany, 1999)

I love bands like the Busters, that have started to exist in the’80s and are still able to surprise me, to give me that something that excites me about Ska music.
The Busters, with this “Welcome To Busterland”, excite me, exactly as their last album but one “Stompede”, with excellent Ska songs.
I like their spirit in interpreting Ska music: they convey the pleasure and the fun they feel while finding new rhythms and melodies. For instance, the only insrumental track in the record, “Konfuzius”, that is the amazing version of Drummond/Alphonso’s “Confucius”.
The first song, “The Rule Of Having Fun”, is thrilling, “Thinkin’ Of You” is swinging, “Let’s Talk About” is very peculiar, “Beast of the Night” is harsh and “Dinner For One” is soft (it’s a beautiful traditional ska/reggae song). There are also some excellent ska songs, such as “Birthday Song”, “Fish” and “Do You, Don’t You”, that are my favourite. Moreover, there’s a cover of “We Are the Champions” and a shuffle like “Hey Bartender”.
The Busters are good even when the tone becomes harder to please the “skate/HC” audience.
The booklet is worthy of note: there are fun notes about each member of the band, even if I think their first three albums’ sleeves full of comics were better.
This album is necessary for your Busters’ discography.

Sergio Rallo - translation Silvia Cavenaghi


The Butlers - "Fight Like a Lion"  
(CD - Grover Records - Germany, 2000)

We couldn’t expect anything better from a band like the Butlers, who were recently praised for their “instrumental ska” album “Wanja’s Choice”.
This CD is full of rebellion (its subtitle is “Rude Ska”/”Rebel Rock”, referring also to the lessons Bob gave).
“Fight Like a Lion” starts with a short intro taken from “Soul Rebel”, of which the Butlers propose the full ska version in the sixteenth track, that is a real cover and not a quick copy of the original version! It’s really harsh and, together with the Fishbones’ “Crazy Bald Head”, one of the best ska performances of a song by an icon like Bob that I’ve happened to listened to in the last decade.
With a mixture of great Soul music and modern Ska rhythms, the powerful voice of Wanja Glokler sings “Rude Girl”, a Ska/Soul track, followed by “Lion Rock”, a modern and harsh ska song with a powerful wind instruments accompaniment, the chorus of which is the title of the CD.
“Hip Hip Hurray” is much harder and much more powerful. It tends to ska core; still, it’s imbued with Soul. The keyboard is portentous.
The tension decreases with the first notes of “Brighter Days”, that’s a bit slower than the previous songs; its melody is the most predictable one, but it’s hammond and trumpet’s solos are amazing. At the beginning of “Bad Boys” (the rude boys are back in town) there’s another shake: another modern Ska driven by the wind instruments and characterised by an excellent arrangement that shows up in the bridge and in the repeat of the refrain.
“One Of Theese Days…” is extremely pleasant and full of atmosphere; it’s exaggerated, almost chaotic. Great effect, there’s no denying it.
“El Diablo” is the noisiest track; it’s an almost instrumental punk (Wanja sings improvising sounds) that gets its moment of glory with the echoed solo!
“All My Money” is classic and bright since its beginning; it’s another brilliant Ska/Soul with a very catchy refrain. The following track is the only one sung in German: “Kann es sein?”, much more Soul than Ska style.
On the contrary, “Go!” is totally Ska, extremely fast, typically Butlers-style; it vaguely reminds of the Butlers at the time of “No Doubt”.
“Crossroads” is much more punk and, consequently, I liked it less than the other songs. In my opinion, the track that’s worth the record is “Devil’s Rock”, the most Ska track in the whole album.
“Skintight” follows; it’s pleasant and has a beautiful vocal melody and a wonderful bridge.
Finally, before the last track I mentioned at the beginning of this review, the Butlers leave us with a good reggae song, “Romeo”.
Since the Blechreiz are gone, the Butlers are certainly the best Ska band in Berlin and they show this once again with “Fight Like A Lion”. Super.

Sergio Rallo


The Butlers - "Wanja’s Choice"  
(CD - Grover Records - Germany, 1999)

I think that the reason why I love Ska music so much is that it inspired the work of very promising musicians, especially that of the Butlers from Berlin.
The Butlers finally bury the past, represented by their debut lp “No Doubt”, released in 1990, thanks to this amazing completely instrumental record. Actually, they propose themselves to the Ska audience with a connotation that is very different from the one that has characterised their musical route so far.
In the studio the Butlers were helped by some fellows taken from famous bands, such as Engine 54, Yebo and Mother’s Pride; they recorded 14 very popular tunes (actually there are 15, and not because there’s a ghost track, listen to it and you’ll see!) taken from TV serials’ soundtracks, such as Perry Mason’s, Magnum P.I.’s, Star Trek’s, The Odd Couple’s and that of the cartoon Inspector Gadget. The tunes were all revived in amazing arrangements with various rhythmic recipes that we really love to listen to.
The effect of the first listening is one of distressed astonishment, starting from the first track, “Gotcha”, Starsky & Hutch’s theme song in an early reggae/soul-r&b/acid jazz version! Excellent. Magnum P.I.’ version is a very good Ska song, believe me. The Butlers’ music is meditative at times, strongly hypnotic and overwhelming. Don’t miss it!

Sergio Rallo


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