Easy*Life Ska Reviews


TOMMY McCOOK & FRIENDS - The Authentic Ska Sound of Tommy McCook
CD - 1998 Moon Records
review by johnny fantastic

An all-star project showcasing the work of Jamaican sax legend Tommy McCook, this album's contributors include, among notable others, King Bravo, Aston Henry, Lloyd Brevett, and even the Toasters's own trumpeter, Brian Sledge.

The recording quality is not the most sophisticated, but rather than detract form the album, it adds to its charm. Not surprisingly, the musicianship is top notch, though some of the textures (see "They Laughed") are very sparse. The almost gentle version of "Don Drummond" is a pleasure to hear, especially when compared to the pop-saturated Let's Go Bowling version. Beyond the music, the liner notes have some fascinating excerpts from a 1995 interview with Tommy McCook, providing his insights on topics ranging from jazz to skinheads to 2-tone to the future of the Skatalites. Even if the album were not as enjoyable as it is, I would still recommend it just for the insights within.

The stand-out tracks on the album were "Secret Love", "Blood Clad Eyes", and "Yelling King Bravo", a lively instrumental. "Secret Love" is a sweet song in a classic love-song style with a beat that is irresistibly danceable. The muted trumpet answers in "Blood Clad Eyes" make the song for me, while "Yelling King Bravo" is a wonderful instrumental with strongly musical solos. In light of the recent death of Mr. McCook, this collection is a wonderful remembrance of a musical pioneer.

CD - 1998 Mercury/Big Rig Records
review by sharky

Okay, to say this is an unbiased review would be a total lie. I love the Mighty Mighty BossToneS - they are my favorite band, ever. They could release a 2 CD set of Dicky Barrett clearing his throat and I would call it brilliant. That being said, Live From The Middle East is still pretty damn good. The BossToneS first live effort was recorded over five nights at one of their annual Hometown Throwdowns. It's a good mixing job because you can barely tell it wasn't recorded all in one night. The only problem with this is that you miss much of the interaction that Dicky has with the audience (although you do hear him give away some memorabilia to a lucky fan at one point on the CD). There's a good mix of old and new here so it doesn't scare off the new fans and doesn't alienate the old ones. A lot of my favorites made it on to the disc, but I won't list them off due to space limitations. Needless to say though, I was happy with the songs that did make it.

I don't want to beat this point into the ground, as it's been said by other publications, reviewers, and the band itself, but you don't get the full experience of a BossToneS show from this CD. But until they somehow figure out the technology to do that, LFTME works just fine. It's a good "greatest hits" collection from one of the hardest working bands in ska today.

MU330 - Self-titled
CD - 1999 Asian Man Records
review by megan

It's been a long time since I heard MU330, and I hadn't been a fan. But their new self-titled release is among the best ska-punk I've heard lately. Catchy, mainly original, and lyrically strong, the album manages to combine the best aspects of punk with a decent ska beat.

In the fine tradition of the Mr. T Experience, most of the songs here are about a girl, and are sweet, thoughtful, and often very clever. MU330 successfully pulls off metaphors in more than one case ("Favorite Show", "Stagnant Water"), which is impressive considering that most bands wouldn't even try. This is a band that isn't afraid to wear their heart on their sleeve, or to sing as much as they shout. They incorporate enough different styles into their songs to make them interesting, like the samba-ish intro for "Vow Vow", and to differentiate them from the mass of ska-punk bands out there. They also use their horns well ("Favorite Show"), having them do more than just follow the melody line. Make no mistake, MU330 can go nutty, all-out punk with the best of them ("Pool Party"), but this album is more than one-note. A pleasant surprise, this album is definitely recommended to anyone who isn't a strict traditionalist.


CD - 1996 Moon Records
review by johnny & megan

A mix of a steady rhythm section & various guest vocals/musicians, the NY Ska-Jazz Ensemble combine to form a credible alternative to the same old NYC ska "revival" scene. Heavy jazz flavorings help add excitement to an otherwise all-too-common horn intensive style. Be warned: the majority of the CD is instrumental. Even if that's not usually your thing though, NYSJE manages to keep it interesting and different through 14 tracks. Some of the best songs are the ones featuring guest vocalists though - "Teardrops From My Eyes", with Caz from Checkered Cabs, and "Mr. Pitiful" with Steve from the Pietasters. Overall, Low Blow is a well-rounded album that would make a perfect soundtrack to a good old-fashioned ska dance party.


ORANGETREE - Fixing Stupid
CD - 1999 Jump Up! Records
review by visser

First off, for those of you who don't know who Jason Nelson is, he is an ex-member of MU330 who sang vocals on Chumps On Parade. This mohawked freak started his much-anticipated project in St. Louis called Orangetree. Of course, his catchy style of singing rubs off great on Orangetree, as it did for MU330, which definitely makes this a must have for any MU330 fan or for anyone just looking for a great album that has variety and flavor.

This is Orangetree's debut album and from the way it sounds I expect many more to come. Even if you're not a huge fan of ska-core, do you think Orangetree would leave you hanging? I don't think so. This album has something for everyone, ranging from power pop to punk rock to smooth swing, and of course tons of wacky ska-core tunes to make you want to get off your feet and go crazy! Although this album sounds much like Chumps On Parade, with the same kind of in-your-face sound and sing-along feeling, it is a lot smoother and has some unique twists which separate it from other albums. This is one of those albums that grows on you the more you listen to it. Overall, you will definitely not get bored of Fixing Stupid and it is worth every penny!!

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