Category Archives: Two Tone

The SkaSouls live at the Riverside Club, Staines

Knees up, trumpets down, shades on – let’s skavoovie!

After their phenomenal success, playing the hottest gig of the year, at The Hobgoblin, Staines last week – the SkaSouls went on to sell out the Staines Riverside Club on 17th Feb as well ( A charity performance in aid of the Joshua Deller Appeal).  We went along to find out what all the fuss was about.

On the glittery stage were six venerable musicians who all share a wide ranging musical ability, and each possesses the kind of musical experience and prowess that other bands merely fantasize about. Playing in various bands on the local and National scene before embarking on this Ska-shaped project back in the Summer of last year, these boys have since enjoyed a growing popularity as this town’s favourite 2-tone party band. And they already possess an enviable reputation for playing those authentically sweet Jamaican-style grooves and sweaty urban ska standards that you and I loved in the 80s – with covers of all your favourite songs from bands like  ‘The Specials’,  ‘Bad Manners’ and ‘Madness’.

After a raucous start at this Riverside venue, the band thundered and roared into their set like a Louisiana rainstorm – stopping for nothing – as they pelted out hit after hit. A large space was kept free to dance, and by the second song the audience was already up and dancing to the vibes. This band is wild. Those skutter-bus salt-chip shavings of sound soon start to set your world on fire.

Early numbers included ‘My Girl Lollipop’ (attributed to ‘Bad Manners’) but originally a doo-wop number for The Cadillacs’s before becoming a phenomenal hit for ‘Millie Small’ back in 1964 (as My Boy Lollipop). This song came alive with groovy flares of trumpet from Nick and thumping bass from Huw. But during the set we were also delectably teased with some delightful surprises like Chuck Berry’s  “You Never Can Tell”  or  Dexys Midnight Runners tribute to ram-jam Soul-Man Geno Washington “Geno”, upon which lead vocalist Lee sounds like vintage David Essex (in a good way, I must emphasise.)

But it is on the big tribal classix like “Gangsters” that this band really thrives and the audience becomes visibly alive.

This is two-tone heaven as the twin horns ( Nick on Trumpet and Allan on Trombone) flame and rip into your soul, the chuttering guitars frizzle your senses, the walkabout bass-lines juggle your brain and the ka-ching percussion rattles your emotions. And even creepy sound effects for songs like “Ghost Town” sound as genuinely disturbing, gritty and as ghoulish as you would expect.

Then we shoed-off for a skank doing the “Pressure Drop” (The Trojan-shaped hit from  Toots and the Maytals). This song and others in the SkaSouls repertoire feature those great wallowing Belushi-sized vocals from Lee and some impressive backing vocals from the other band members. Plus lumbering great chunks of trumpet and trombone and golden nuggets of pound-for-pound bass. Then we enjoyed “The Guns of Navarone” which was originally performed by ‘The Skatalites’ and later covered by ‘The Specials’. This tune was a thumping great success from beginning to end. And the amazing lead guitar from Ben shines out on this and other songs.

After an interval, to catch our breaths, the band raced into those endearing and catchy ska-pop standards we all loved – “Baggy Trousers” (Madnesss) and Lee Thompson’s tribute to Prince Buster “The Prince” – from which “Madness” took their name. And the incredibly structured “Night Boat to Cairo” (this song used to be a bit of an anthem for Lee’s much-loved old party band – FoulPlay.)

And in the final flourish we also enjoyed a thriving “Shame & Scandal” that started life as a hit for Lance Percival (of all people) before becoming an early ska-hit for Peter Tosh with the Skatalites – before being ‘re-born’ by ‘Madness’ during the new wave of British ska. And, of-course, we had the classic and superbly syncopated song “Israelites” (1969 Desmond Dekker.)

It was just a case of getting your knees up, trumpets down, shades on and skiffling and skadoodling the night away. Sheer bliss!

This is Lee Ridley’s dream outfit of a band, the vision he had wanted to create for years, but who would have thought that it could ever percolate into something as refreshing and uplifting as this?  Welcome to the chapel of living rhythm and holy beat ‘cos these madcap skasters are here to jump-start your weekend.  Do not take your eyes off this band …. and catch ‘em live as soon as you possibly can.

© Neil_Mach
February 2011

This concert was a charity show for the Joshua Deller Appeal – the event raised over £1200 for little Joshclick here to donate too

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Sally’s Hat – The Hobgoblin, Staines 6th May

Like their heroes “The Clash” Sally’s Hat experiment  with reggae, ska, dub, funk, rap, dance and rockabilly – creating a smooth pot-roast of greasy sounds. The band were playing the circuit some 15 years ago but recently reformed for what was meant to be a one-off reunion gig at the Ram Jam club in Kingston – but they reportedly had such a great time that they decided to try their luck gigging for the twenty first century boys (and girls).

Lisa Dimond is the lead vocalist with those sparkling sweet yet rasping high-tones and soulful, bluesy lows. Paul Worsley and Robin Dimond play guitars.The local Staines musician-cum-all-round hero, Ravi K, plays the bass and the great jazz/session player Dan Allsopp is on drums.  We catch the band at The Hob, Staines.

The result is a warming stew of heated hot patootie, yet level-headed, pitch-perfect grooves. You have those Aretha sounding vocals sprawled amidst some reliable Tamla chops. You have Cuban stomping. You have Dave Clark Five-sounding back-beats with Dusty Springfield sounding lyrical notes. And you get goose bumps when that sweet, sweet sound of reggae music bleeds through the amplifiers. You even get caught out by the skanky vibes of the two-tone Lee “Scratch” Perry type steam reggae . All in all this band is a great treat for those who adore sensible crepe shoes, neat creases in their two-tonic strides and earnest vocals from a legendary singer whose delivery is as smooth as butter and who has a range as wide as that enjoyed by Clayton Moore  (with Tonto.)

The first song out of Sally’s magic Hat was a groovy funk number, the second was a twangy Johnny Cash sing along song and after an enduring Franklyn cover I realized I was looking for a bit more passion and delivery from the band. I realize that the outfit is taking those awkward steps from practice session and friendly jam into ‘full on’ public performance – so I am happy to give them the benefit of the buzz.  Sure, this material all sounds nice and serious in sessions and rehearsal – but the punters want a performance- and The Hat don’t quite have the fizz or the frizzle to percolate our expectations.

Never mind. It was all reliable and resilient stuff.  Yes, maybe sometimes the performance lacked urgency or emotional involvement. But I cannot wait to see how this project progresses and I, for one, am glad to see this band back ‘in play’.

© Neil_Mach
May 2010


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Imperial Leisure at The Boiler Room

It’s hard to take your eyes off of Denis Smith, the singer and Imperial Leisure frontman, as he flails around the stage like an out-of-control gyro-copter with his Sideshow Bob hair twisting in the spotlight. This band is just about the most exciting
thing to hit the leafy Guildford streets in weeks – nay months!   Imperial Leisure are wrecking our home and things ain’t gonna be the same no more!

The band is justly famous for their energetic live performances.  I even heard rumors that they play the ‘big uns’ with two bass guitars, three horns, two MCs and a cast of ten other musicians. When I recently saw ‘em playing live in Camden there was a squad of eleven up there on stage. But here in Surrey (The Boiler Room) we have the stripped down lite version of this excessive party band – just six gang members –  but wow they could brighten your day without even trying.  It was like setting a swarm of hot hornets free in a  candy shop. Enough energy, buzz and electricity in the air to keep your hands high and your tippy toes moving with a uniquely gnawing anticipation.

Imperial Leisure recreate all those best loved vintage sounds with their style, attitude and finesse but their music is also casually shaken up with large shots of hardcore rap and rock  to create a subtle beast whose flavours and aromas may be largely poppy 2-tone sounds like Madness, but almost always laced with the sour punch of something new wave – like Rage Against the Machine. Some of their more recent works sounds like the band is making (an unwelcome) foray into indie post-punk sound too – but the greater proportion of their output is still as two-tone ska as ever.

This skalextric sextet pumped out some of their old-time sounds like ‘The Art of Saying Nothing’ with unifying offbeat tempos and those skacore attributes or the crowd favourite ‘The Beast’ with its ridiculous intro and juicy walking bass lines. AJ on guitar is white-lightning fast and devilishly clever, Scott on drums is rapid-city and that bone has  treble-the-grunt  of any other I have  heard,  and adds grind and churn to each Imperial Leisure tune.

Itchy feet skedaddled and slam dunked around that wickedly small stage as the crowd scoobied to the beat in unison … Den implored the happy sweating crowd to hop, bound and jump.  And move they did. Because this music is designed to lift you up and keep your tinkle toes twinkling in the air. Superb songs like ‘The Landlord’s Daughter’ and ‘Man On The Street’ were decorated with notes of yearning might-  blast-notes from the achingly gurnish bug-eyed maestro on trombone and layers of velvety smooth chords were pumped and sifted through by Stu on keyboards.

The gig was as fast and as furious as a ferret on the run from Susan Boyles underwear draw … and was over all too quickly for the crowd who moaned and wailed as we sailed to the end.  Highlights were ‘Alperton’ and ‘The Landlord’s Daughter’ with those smooth interludes showered with invigorating bucketfuls of skantastic sounds.

Six pints of juice and pure energy, a curious cure for apathy. Man, you gotta have some of this!

© Neil_Mach
March 2010


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