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