Following Too Close
(Takeover Productions, 2007)
The days of giveaway demo CDs are over for the Big Takeover. The New Paltz-based sextet is keeping alive the tradition of roots/ska/reggae realness. Since its capacity-crowd album release/dance party at Bacchus in September the band has established a fast buzz, and was immediately tapped by Leah Boss of Upstate Reggae Productions in November to open for the legendary Wailers at the Chance in Poughkeepsie.
You’ll find it hard to believe that all the cuts on Following Too Close are originals, as they magnificently capture early rocksteady riddims with supertight songwriting. Lead singer Nee Nee Rushie, a native of Jamaica, leads her five bandmates in what is arguably one of the best Ulster County groups in recent memory. Big up to Sam Tritto on drums, Andy Vogt on trombone, Chas Montrose on saxophone, Johnny Klenck on guitar, and bassist Rob Kissner, who also engineered and mixed the album. The precise attention to detail comes right down to the eco-friendly packaging and choice of retro “vinyl”-looking disc. Do I and I a solid and go see the Big Takeover at your earliest opportunity, and, whatever happens, don’t leave without a copy of this CD, a massive debut that will bless your music player for months to come. www.myspace.com/bigtakeover.
—DJ Wavy Davy
The Designer Drugs:
By Rx Only
(Altercation Records, 2008)
Let’s face it: Times are bad, and in all likelihood they’re gonna get worse before they get better. The question is: How will music reflect this time of mortgage foreclosures and massive unemployment? The Great Depression provided songs of grim social realism ala Wood Guthrie’s Dust Bowl Ballads. Conversely, the post-World War I Weimar Republic in Germany was a haven for experimental music, as well as the dark satire and decadent themes of cabaret.
On their debut, By Rx Only, Albany’s Designer Drugs plant their flag in the devil-may-care decadence camp. With song titles like “Coke in the Bathroom” and “Shot Up,” it’s obvious this five-piece gang of musical miscreants is anything but the somber and introspective types. The Drugs’ sound is unsurprisingly in-your-face and frantic. The opening salvo is the aforementioned “Shot Up,” which, in the fine tradition of the Gun Club’s “She’s like Heroin to Me,” uses the time-tested Love-is-like-being-addicted-to-Class A-drugs analogy. The twin-guitar attack of Rodney Schyler and Dain Flacco propels the action and vocalist Emily Dee spews out a torrent of lyrics with a touch of the dominatrix diction of early Siouxsie Sioux. Some nifty barrelhouse keyboard courtesy of John Delehanty adds a bit of `50s rave-up to this punk stomper. Although glammy thrash is the bedrock of their sound, some wobbly elements of rockabilly emerge from time to time. Soccer-hooligan background vocals just add to the degenerate-gang vibe. It’s almost enough to make you forget about the recession. www.thedesignerdrugs.com.
Erica Lindsay Quartet Yes: Live at the Rosendale Cafe
(Artists Recording Collective, 2008)
Tenor saxophonist Erica Lindsay is a veteran of years of uncompromising work with a who’s who of jazz artists. Lindsay, who teaches at Bard College and keeps her chops honed in several bands, has a huge, expressive sound that doesn’t pretend toward fad or contemporary stylings, and her years as a composer and arranger have allowed her to create music perfect for her playing to soar. And soar she does in the eight originals here, offering a modern take on the music developed in the postbop era with perhaps a rare tinge of the underrated Jim Pepper.
Outstanding on this recording is pianist Francesca Tanksley, another Hudson Valley resident. Her deep harmonic and rhythmic insights seem to inspire Lindsay as much as support her, and her solos are swinging, thoughtful, surprising, and hard-driving, never failing to elevate the music. Bassist Otto Gardner is strong and supportive throughout, negotiating Lindsay’s compositions with lines thoughtful and melodic. Drummer Bob Braye is also wonderful, clearly enjoying his role and interplay with the compelling soloists and ensemble sections. (Sadly, Braye passed away in 2006.)
Often the nuance of a group’s interplay can be lost in a live recording but that never happens here. Surely the piano and bass lose tonal quality in comparison with the studio, but this live 2001 performance wins out for its energy, edge, and spontaneity.