Tag Archives: Ska

A blazing tribute to 2 tone

2 tone, or two tone, is one of the reggae genres created in the UK in the 70’s. It’s closely tied to the short-lived label of the same name, and fuses the energy of ska and the attitude of punk rock with melodies from rocksteady and new wave.

The most well-known band of the genre is The Specials, who has had a number of big hits, including Rudy, A Message to You, Ghost Town and Too Much Too Young. There were of course other bands as well – The Selecter, The Beat and Madness certainly had their fair share of smash hits as well.

I guess the genre is still alive, but it doesn’t get much attention these days. But Phoenix City All-Stars – with an all-star cast including Sean Flowerdew from Pama International, Dave Barker from Dave & Ansell Collins and AJ Franklin from The Federals and The Chosen Few – has decided to pay tribute to the genre by going back to its roots.

Two Tone Gone Ska is an eight track celebration to one of Britain’s most iconic labels. And as a celebration Phoenix City All-Stars have taken some of 2 tone’s best and most well-known tracks and replanted them in a loud, sweaty and dirty club in Kingston, Jamaica, in the 60’s. The result is blazing ska in an authentic Skatalites style spiced with sweet rocksteady melodies.

2 Tone’s debt to the musical heritage of Jamaica is vast, and this album sheds light on the genre’s main influencers, but at the same time presents the songs in a brand new way.

Two Tone Gone Ska is now available on CD, digital download and LP, only 250 numbered copies though.

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Rocksteady is The Sidewalk Doctors’ Medicine

One of this year’s best releases is Alpheus ska and rocksteady set From Creation. Now there’s a new album in a similar style – Music is Medicine from London’s The Sidewalk Doctors.

Music is Medicine is their debut album and includes nine authentic rocksteady and ska-styles tunes fused with lead singer Nathan Thomas’ soft, almost whispering, voice.

This production is straightforward and non-polished. The organ is – as it should be – in the front seat on several songs, and the piano hook on With You is nicely borrowed from The Uniques’ My Conversation.

Music is Medicine might not be as great as From Creation, but it’s certainly a nice change to hear reggae that is not roots or dancehall these days.

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Prince Blanco does it ska style

Veteran singer Prince Blanco has just put out the ska-tinged EP Unify On The Hi-Fi. The EP is produced by Canadian dub master Dubmatix, with whom Prince Blanco won a Juno Award in 2010.

Prince Blanco has previously put out albums with various groups, such as The Skanksters and The Liquidaires. He has also performed alongside acclaimed singers Michael Rose and Freddie McGregor and contributed to the Joe Strummer tribute compilation Shatter the Hotel.

The new EP does not really sound as a Dubmatix production, even if the heavy bass lines are present. Unify On The Hi-Fi is a ska, rocksteady and early reggae love affair.

However, it is not mainly in the Jamaican tradition. It leans more towards the UK sound and artists and bands such as Dandy, The Specials and Pama International. It is reggae with lots of 60’s soul.

Three of the five tunes are in the ska vein and the pounding Ska Tissue, with some moaning horns, certainly makes your heart beat. The other two tunes include some nice and groovy organ work.

Highly recommended for everyone who is interested in expanding their one drop or dancehall horizon.

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Alpheus has a timeless taste



UK-singer Alpheus recently dropped his third album From Creation to wide critical acclaim. Reggaemani got a chance to talk to him about his love for ska, rock steady and legendary producer Coxsone Dodd.

Alpheus

Alpheus grew up listening to ska and rock steady music

I had never heard of Neil “Alpheus” Martin until I read about his third and latest album From Creation, produced by Spanish talent Roberto Sánchez. A bit strange since he has recorded for legendary producer Coxsone Dodd as well as French label Special Delivery.

From Creation is milestone in Alpheus’ career. He has given up on one drop riddims. Now his music will be all about ska, rock steady and roots rock steady. At least that is what he told online magazine United Reggae some months ago.

“I think I made a few people upset when I mentioned that”, laughs Alpheus on the phone from Roberto Sánchez studio in Santander, Spain, and continues:

“There is a new kind of reggae now. The new one drop. I mean there are good songs, but I prefer ska, rock steady and roots rock steady. It makes me feel good. And it stands the test of time. It doesn’t sound old or new. It’s just great music.”

Love for ska and rock steady
Alpheus met Roberto through Sergio from Heartical Sound in France. He set up a show in the Basque country and introduced him to Roberto and his band.

“Roberto and his group were going to back me at the concert and we had a good connection right there”, says Alpheus.

This was in 2006 and the first song they recorded was the groovy From Creation. Roberto wasn’t really into ska and rock steady at the time. He concentrated on roots from the late 70’s. Channel One style.

Alpheus on the other hand grew up on ska and rock steady. His mum used to play that kind of music and he says that he can easily find a melody to a ska and rock steady beat.

Worked with Coxsone Dodd
But From Creation is Alpheus’ third album. His first album Quality Time, put out in 1999, was a broader effort that included several reggae genres.

Alpheus says that he learned a lot from Quality Time and working with its producer Coxsone Dodd.

“It was better than fantastic to work with Coxsone Dodd. I was going through some sad times when I met him and it was the best thing that has ever happened to me musically”, he explains and continues:

“He showed me how to use my voice, arranging backing vocals, hooks and explaining stories.”

They met in New York through former Melodians singer Tony Brevett, who Alpheus had met in Florida.

“I lived in Brooklyn for some years and the Studio One studio was only about 30 minutes from home. I was there to learn and to write”, says Alpheus and continues:

“There is a different vibe in the U.S. In New York you have to do it in one take. You have to be prepared. It is much like Jamaica. In London it’s more laid back and not as much vibe as in the U.S. And in Europe everyone is happy to be in the studio with you. It’s exciting.”

From the foundation
And it seems that Roberto and Alpheus had an exciting time recording From Creation. It is recorded with an undeniable love for 60’s ska and rock steady and is based on both fresh and original riddims as well as relicks of some masterpieces from the 60’s.

You would expect riddims from Coxsone Dodd. Somewhat more surprising is that riddims from Phil Pratt get the Sánchez/Alpheus treatment.

“I am not much of a connoisseur and I didn’t know much of Phil Pratt’s music. It was minor key and I didn’t know of it. But it felt good and people told me that it was a big riddim [Dirty Dozen]. It’s nearly my favourite. It was lovely to write and lovely to sing to.”

New themes
On his previous albums love and relationships have been obvious themes. From Creation is more about upliftment and based on many different subjects.

“Love is a subject that concerns everyone. It’s everyday life. Love is relationships and something that everyone can relate to”, Alpheus explains and continues:

“The new album is broader and only four out of the 16 tunes are about love. Inside Out for example is about a person and that it’s the inside that sets the character.”

A FEW FAST ONES TO ALPHEUS

Favourite artist/group?
Don’t have one

Favourite label?
Studio One

Favourite album?
Really don’t know

Favourite tune?
Your Love – Larry Marshall

Favourite producer?
Clement Dodd

Favourite riddim?
Your Love riddim

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Roberto Sánchez knows vintage reggae

Trying to imitate or copy a sound without sounding dull is tough. Many have tried but few have succeeded. Roberto Sánchez from Santander in north Spain has however managed to produce records that are both foundation rocksteady and roots reggae. Reggaemani got a chat with him from his studio on the day Alpheus new album From Creation hit the streets.

Roberto Sánchez is a talented man. He is a producer, engineer, singer, song writer and musician. He also owns and operates A-Lone Ark Muzik Studio and A-Lone Productions (his label) as well as heads the Lone Ark Riddim Force, a live and studio band.

The label was created in 1997 and has since its inception released tunes from both veterans and newcomers.

Last January saw the acclaimed release of And God Said to Man from foundation singer Earl Zero. That album was in a style that Roberto Sánchez is most comfortable with – late 70’s roots.

The new album from Alpheus is a completely different story. From Creation is all about rocksteady and ska – Jamaican music from the 60’s – and is based on riddims from producers Coxsone Dodd, Duke Reid and one of the many unsung heroes of reggae – Phil Pratt.

“It’s like a old picture”
 “I’ve always loved Studio One productions and the productions just before Jackie Mittoo left for Canada. You know the tunes from Alton Ellis, Delroy Wilson and Ken Boothe. They’re amazing”, says Roberto Sánchez, and continues giving a comparison between two legendary labels:

“Treasure Isle has always had a more sophisticated sound. I love the rawness of Studio One. It’s warm and not a lot of clarity. It’s like an old picture”.

Rocksteady for the first time
But the album is not entirely based on other producers’ riddims. Roberto has managed to pen a few by himself as well.

“I wasn’t really into rocksteady before I did this album and I had never worked with this kind of riddims. My aim sound is late 70’s and Channel One”, he says, and continues:

“In the 60’s in Jamaica they were doing it U.S style. It was quality back then. Just listen to Lynn Taitt’s guitar play. In the 70’s it was rawer. In rocksteady they tried to be musicians in the full sense of the word”.

Started recording in 2006
From Creation has taken some time to record. Roberto and Alpheus met in 2006 and the first tune they recorded was Ultimate, a cut of Phil Pratt’s Dirty Dozen, originally performed by trombonist Vincent “Don D Junior” Gordon.

 “Already back then, we thought of doing an album together. The album was recorded between 2006 and 2010. It was finished last summer and it took some time to decide how to release it. We decided to do it ourselves”, he says, and continues to explain how he and Alpheus work together:

“We complement each other. Alpheus knows ska and rocksteady very well and I know minor chords riddims. And the results are amazing”.

Even though From Creation only has been out for about a week, critics have already praised it.

“We have had great response so far from media and radio. Many people seem to like the album”, he says and continues:

“I think people like it because it has original feelings. It’s from a golden era in Jamaican music. It’s also made with care and love. It has an amazing style and I think it’s Alpheus best work yet. It’s just pure loving’”.

More to come
Some of the finest music in the rocksteady era was made by vocal harmony groups like the Gaylads, the Melodians, the Techniques and the Uniques. Roberto is thrilled by the idea of making this kind of music again.

“It would be amazing to record a vocal group. The Viceroys are touring now and they would be my first choice. Tetrack would also fit on a rocksteady riddim”, he says.

But that is not in the pipeline. Not yet anyhow. Instead Roberto has plans to put out singles from Linval Thompson and Keith Rowe (Keith in Keith & Tex, responsible for hit song Stop That Train). Keith Rowe has voiced two riddims on the From Creation album.

“I’ve also started recording a showcase album from Milton Henry. It’ll be released next year. There’ll be no more albums from me this year”, he explains and continues:

“I also hope to do some more dub versions from the From Creation album. We also recorded a lot more than what’s on the album. Those songs will hopefully be put out as 7, 10 or 12 inches”.

A FEW FAST ONES TO ROBERTO SÁNCHEZ

Favourite artist/group?
Naggo Morris

Favourite label? 
Many!!! Observer

Favourite album?  
Johnny Osbourne – Truths and Rights

Favourite tune?
At the moment Little Roy’s False Talk

Favourite producer?
Dennis Bovell

Favourite riddim?
Studio One and Cornell Campbell´s Stars

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Skanking in the 21st Century

In the mid 90’s I was a huge fan of Californian so called skate punk bands. I loved the melodic intensity in songs like Bad Religion’s American Jesus or Pennywise’s Bro Hymn.

But these bands weren’t only playing punk. Some of them also incorporated elements of reggae, mainly ska. Kill All the White Man by NOFX and Time Bomb from Rancid are two great examples.

Slowly I drifted away from punk and instead started to explore my favourite bands’ reggae influences. That’s when I discovered Jamaican ska pioneers The Skatalites and the UK 2 Tone sound that emerged in the late 70’s.

I abandoned punk and begun collecting ska and, a few years later, reggae. Now I mainly listen to reggae and dancehall, but occasionally a great ska tune or riddim drops in.

My new mix consists of 15 contemporary ska tunes that have made it into my record collection. The tunes ranges from Mungo’s Hi-Fi’s digitalized Belly Ska riddim to Fay-Ann Lyons’ and Mojo Morgan’s tribute to the classic Rudy, A Message to You, originally performed in the rock steady genre by Dandy Livingstone in 1967.

Skanking in the 21st Century is made after the same recipe as my previous mixes – a continuous mix with no full tracks and some added sound effects.

All tunes are easily accessible on CD or mp3. If you like what you hear, please support the artists and the labels and buy the tunes.

Download Skanking in the 21st Century here (right click, save as) or listen in the player below. You can also check it out on Soundcloud.

So put on your dancing shoes and get in a dancing mood. Because this mix will move your feet to the skanking beat.

Artist – song title (label – riddim)

1. Marina P – Divorce a L’ Italienne (Scotch Bonnet – Belly Ska)
2. Ras Daniel Ray – Olympic (Scotch Bonnet – Belly Ska)
3. Ranking Joe – I Love Jah (Scotch Bonnet – Belly Ska)
4. Mungo’s Hi-Fi – I Love Jah Dub (Scotch Bonnet – Belly Ska)
5. Anthony B – Praise the King (Rootdown – Kokoo)
6. Louie Culture – Do Something (Rootdown – Kokoo)
7. Matthew McAnuff – Memory Hills (Rootdown – Kokoo)
8. Omar Perry – Ska Ta Fright (Corner Shop)
9. Fay-Ann Lyons – Lonely Girl (Supersonic – A Message to You Rudie)
10. Mojo Morgan – Rude Bwoy (Supersonic – A Message to You Rudie)
11. Skatronics Jamaica – Yah So (Skajam)
12. Burro Banton – Run the Street Red (Irievibrations – Work Off)
13. Luciano – Feeling For Love (Irievibrations – Work Off)
14. Jah Mason – Create A System (Irievibrations – Work Off)
15. Sojah – U R the Wife (Irievibrations – Work Off)

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Pama had it going from the beginning

UK dub fuelled ska, rocksteady and reggae outfit Pama International has released some really interesting records in the past years. The tune Highrise, featuring Michie One, was one of the best songs in 2008 and last year they released the soul drenched album Pama Outernational.

Now they’ve decided to re-release their self-titled debut, originally released in 2002. The sound on this album reminds a lot of their other releases – lots of ska, rocksteady and reggae fused with 60’s soul.

The production and mixing is a bit rougher on this early set. The bass and organ are in the foreground and hits particularly hard in Earthquake and Second Chance. The latter is a cover of a Lloyd Charmers tune performed by the great Ken Boothe. And singer Finny actually has a bit of Ken Boothe phrasing in his voice on this tune.

On the debut Pama International featured an all-star cast with members from legendary UK bands such as Steel Pulse, Galliano, Style Council and Special Beat. And they’ve managed to produce a great groove. But it has marks of its time and a bit 90’s feel on some tracks, for example the vinyl scratching in Earthquake and If You Want Me to Stay.

The album has been deleted for some years and this new version contains five bonus tracks taken from the Dub Store Special ep (also deleted) mixed by Groove Corporation.

Pama International has a distinctive sound and may not suit every roots reggae purist or dancehall aficionado. But if you’re interested in an upbeat and joyful sound with live instrumentation, you might just like this and other Pama International records as well.

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The Skatalites mer än bara ska

skatalites_coxson_2nd_from_leftFå grupper har betytt mer för den jamaicanska musiken än 60-talsikonerna The Skatalites. Kvartetten Jackie Mittoo, Tommy McCook, Roland Alphonso och framlidne Don Drummond satte på egen hand ska-musiken på kartan. Men The Skatalites är mer än stompig ska, det visar tre plattor från insomnade Motion Records.

Supergruppen The Skatalites har beskrivits som en institution snarare än ett band. De är en fulländad samling fantastiska musiker som både enskilt och gemensamt skapade odödliga klassiker som Guns of Navarone, Lawless Street och Eastern Standard Time.

Och det var just ju ska som satte gruppen på kartan. Det få vet är att The Skatalites spelat in några makalösa plattor omkring tio år efter att de gick skilda vägar 1965.

Runt mitten av 70-talet samlades nämligen stora delar av The Skatalites igen för att spela in basisten Lloyd Brevetts soloplatta African Roots.

Ungefär samtidigt träffades de även tillsammans med producenten Herman Chin Loy i hans Aquarius-studio. Resultatet blev instrumentalplattan The Legendary Skatalites som släpptes 1976. Men den här gången handlar det inte om ska, The Legendary Skatalites är roots ut i fingerspetsarna. Kanske något jazzigare än andra instrumentalplattor från samma period.

Plattan följdes av Herb Dub, Collie Dub med tunga dubversioner signerade King Tubby.

Fram till för ett par år sedan var de här plattorna endast för skivsamlare med plånböcker tjockare än Sverigesmotion_skatalites_heroes statsbudget. Men skivbolaget Motion har gjort världen en tjänst genom att ge ut plattorna The Legendary Skatalites in Dub, Herb Dub, Collie Dub och Heroes of Reggae on Dub.

The Skatalites var en samling av världens främsta musiker och det är nog ingen som någonsin skulle tvivla på att gruppen kunde spela mer än ska. Men fram till nu har det varit förhållandevis okänt att de kunde låta lika bra i dub- och roots-tappning.

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