David Hillyard & The Rocksteady 7 – Plague Doctor

David Hillyard & The Rocksteady come rocking back steady with their first new album since 2018’s The Giver. The new release, Plague Doctor (Due summer 2022)  is brimming with traditional Jamaican rhythms, but nicely blended with Brazilian musical elements and themes. 

The sound and feel is as much new Rocksteady, Jazz Ska as it is 60s/70 Latin, Caribbean, and Cumbia. Admittedly I’m roundly ignorant of classic Brazilian music, but there are striking similarities to much of the Caribbean and Latin Ska and Rocksteady I’ve heard previously. 

Mid-tempo, danceable instrumentals are the bread and butter of this release, which makes for great direct listening as well as more casual ambient listening. If you were to throw this on the hi-fi at a swanky cocktail party, the guests and location would transport across a parallel universe where everyone, and everything, is super cool and chill. The vocal tracks are no less compelling with smooth Portuguese lyrics artfully interwoven into the almost hypnotic rhythm.  

David Hillyard is, of course, the saxophone player for the Ska stalwarts The Slackers. The band is rounded out with additional musicians of significant pedigree. “The Rocksteady 7 features some of the best players in the current ska/reggae scene, including members of NYC ska staples The Slackers and percussionist Larry McDonald (Toots & The Maytals, Gil Scott-Heron. Lee “Scratch” Perry).”

Technically “new”, this release was recorded a couple years back and is just now surfacing. “The album, Plague Doctor, was recorded in the summer of 2020. We were just out of the 1st covid lockdowns but the vaccine was still just a dream. Normally, with Rocksteady 7, we all get in a big room together and knock out tunes together in 1-2 days. This time, we started recording basic rhythms and saxophone being in different rooms of the same house. Then we added percussion, guitars, keys, vibraphone, marimba, trumpet, trombone, and vocals sequentially. Each person improvising and improving upon the work of the last person who had it.  

For me, there are a lot of emotions in the playing. There is the joy of making music together. There is the anguish of being unable to see the people you love in person. Overall, the goal is to make healing music. Music that heals a varities of wounds and ailments.” – David

If you’re interested in expanding your Ska/Rocksteady collection, I highly encourage checking out David Hillyard & The Rocksteady 7, and picking up a copy of Plague Doctor when it becomes available.

–Jerry Actually

Tracks:
A1 Plague Doctor Theme
A2 Closer To My Heart
A3 Maracatu Atomico
A4 The Frog
A5 Amanha
A6 Chove Chuva

B1 Wide Pacific Ocean
B2 Dedicada
B3 Was I Made For These Times
B4 Plague Doctor
B5 Boogaloo

The Amalgamated – Premium Quality


San Diego’s own trad-ska combo The Amalgamated are back with some Premium Quality recordings. Putting their soulful reggae ska spin on some legendary tracks. Step lively now and give it a whirl.

If you aren’t familiar with the band, here’s a bit of their bio:

The Amalgamated are a traditional ska/jazz band, influenced very much by early SKA styles, old reggae tunes, great jazz standards and soulful ballads in the vain of the late 60’s. A 10-member ensemble that includes vocals, two guitars, stand-up bass, dual saxophones, trumpets, trombone, keys and percussion.

About the album:

This is a tribute to the artists that influence and inspire the band. These crowd pleasing tunes done in the style of Traditional Ska, Rocksteady and Reggae will have you dancing all night long. Recorded in 2013 at After hours Studio Ramona, CA

The new album boasts covers as diverse as All of Me, Crazy, and Twistin’ the Night Away, all performed with The Amalgamated’s signature swagger. It’s a covers album, sure, but it’s the bands take on songs that influenced and inspire them.

Above all, it’s fun album. Get some.

Tracks:
01 – My Little Suede Shoes
02 – All of Me
03 – Crazy
04 – I Love Paris
05 – Run Down
06 – A Love I Can Feel
07 – Black Orpheus
08 – That’ll Do Nicely
09 – Cherry Pink & Apple Blossom White
10 – Twistin’ the Night Away
11 – La Cumparsita