RC Dub Strategy Album Review by Chuck Foster
"Mixing traditional with non-traditional elements (and vocal with dub) RC Dub offers an impassioned message-laden groove with their second release Strategy (Rougher Records).
Tight riddims, crisp harmony and a desire to change the world for the better mark this engaging and forthright work."
RC Dub Strategy
RC Dub Strategy Album review by John Powell
If you think Lincoln, Nebraska is not an appropriate place to indulge in roots reggae music, you’re missing RC Dub, the five-piece outfit behindStrategy. The album is a blend of dub and rock steady, busting into ska for the last track. The album has an organic feel, not feeling overproduced, and is filled out by classic usage of keys and horns.
Almost as a motto, the opener, “Step Into Action”, is heavy glockenspiel and bass played with gusto by Emily “Goldie” Madison, (called so because of her long gold dreadlocks!). How great is it to have a female bass player? Plus, she sings harmony and backing vocals, (the whole band does), creating a variety of voices. “Rich man always rule/poor man always slave,” it goes. “’Till the day we die/for no reason why.” It sounds like a downer, but the groove is upbeat and the chorus, “Step Into Action,” is a rouser.
RC Dub jumps right into old school with “Traveler’s Dub”, with Dave Hansen’s guitar ethereally riding over Loren’s trombone and Calen Olivetti’s trumpet. Steven Schwartz’s drum pattern makes the tune sound like it’s out of a 70’s spy flick. So, it’s not too synth’d or dubbed out soundboard-wise. It’s all organic but rides a sonic-play wave.
“Kali Dub” has a much more surfer-vibe, glimmery and shimmery. The bass, drums, and percussion really jive nicely. “One time/we have a smoke/and rewind/we paid a price for a thought crime.” The melody is windy and snakes through the killer horn lines.
A key track is “Show Some Love”, a start-stop bounce with quick lyrics, (admittedly the toughest to pick out- the bass is too loud). “Why won’t the people show some love?” It’s one of the instrumentally heavier tracks.
“Building Up Zion”, at nearly seven minutes, is also excellent. It’s a slow-paced groove with prettier lyrics like, “So tell me, future people/can you see tomorrow?” The reason the song is so long is that it falls into a trippy, stomping ska bridge and then blooms back into the slow groove, sounding slower after the speedy pick-me-up.
The best part about RC Dub is that they’re tight. The horn players leap between their brass and percussion. They all sing back up. Calin, on lead vocals, has a semi-deep voice that doesn’t try too hard, in a good way. It fits the dubby band’s sound.
Strategy comes out of nowhere. Literally. Where is Lincoln, Nebraska? But apparently it’s on the map and has great representatives in RC Dub, whose LP is great for any fan of roots reggae. Strategy sounds neither rehashed or too new. It’s right on track.
Bottom line: A solid roots reggae album, complete with dubs, ska, horns, and conscious lyrics.
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The Blue Riddim band takes over the stage in 2011 like it did in the 1980s--with authority.
2011 exists mostly sans grille-shades, Ronald Reagan, and neon, perhaps, but the current of some music is strong just the same. The stage front, only meters away from the water of Nelson Ledges quarry, felt only inches from the sun. It was the perfect setting for an overdue reunion of The Blue Riddim Band and the greater Cleveland area, and it had the feel of a reunion and the promise of a birthday party, with all the giddiness that goes along with either.
The raw pulse which forms the foundation of traditional music often gets buried under the clutter of "progress," but some buck the trend, cherishing music itself, its classic manifestations, and their timeless resonance. When The Blue Riddim Band stormed the stage this year at the 20th anniversary of Packy Malley's Mid-West Reggae Fest, Blue Riddim called up all its energy and unleashed a powerful new sound faithful to its roots and hot like the sun. The ground-thumping, tooth-vibrating bass, rock-solid drums, and piercing horn lines ran like honey in the humid summer air. The water of the quarry seemed to blister with the bubbling keys and while the guitar sizzled and sang and rattled through the trees looking to stir up bees.
Mid West Reggae Fest began, it's been told, as Packy Malley, as a small one day event. In 2011 the Mid West Reggae Fest expanded to 3 days at Nelson Ledges state park near Cleveland, and Blue Riddim was more than ready to take the stage with veteran members Steve "Duck" McLane powering the drums and Todd “Bebop” Burd stomping the bass.
BRB nailed down their own classic tunes while their musical reminiscences on the themes of old standards were flawless. Never getting a chance to get off their feet may have tired out the audience but they didn't show it, cheering for more right up until BRB vacated the stage. It becomes obvious after listening to BRB that they hold their own line better than most groups hold down carpet, and that BRB won't forget about the vast history of the music we share, a history embracing the music of the African and indigenous liberation movements, blues, R&B, rock and soul which extend, sadly almost unacknowledged, into today's society and the roots of today's pop music. It's refreshing that songs which are so important in our shared history aren't forgotten and that they're played by such talented people.
BRB's sound was as solid as it was fluid, and the unmistakably danceable rhythm and harmony wowed the audience in the afternoon heat, coaxing many of them out from the cool shadows in the trees and campgrounds into the hot sand by the stage to dance and sweat and sing, and prompting one breathless dancer to say "I heard Blue Riddim from all the way up in my camp and I knew it was them! There's no sound like Blue Riddim! I came RUNNING on down!"
Although part of BRB's lineup got stuck in other parts of the country due to scheduling conflicts, Blue Riddim's inherent strength made it easy to ask label Rougher Records to coordinate some stand-ins: Fearless Jeff Pritchett took control on keys, and Aaron “Rock” Jaben served up some clockwork guitar and sweet-as-can-be vocals on Peter Tosh's classic tune, ‘Dem Ha Fe Get a Beatin'’ and others. Rougher Records' RC Dub offered up its horn section, Calen Olivetti and Loren Rye, to help round out the sound.
From the iconic BRB standard 'Nancy Reagan' to Peter Tosh, from The Jamaicans 'Ba Ba Boom' to Cornell Campbell's ‘Stars’ and the classic ‘Artibella’, BRB filled out the afternoon in style and left everyone wanting more. The BRB sound has not mellowed in the years since its beginning; if anything it has gotten louder and more unmistakable.
The more things change, the more they stay the same--real reggae, ska, and rocksteady never went away, they just hid underground. While human nature dictates that some will forget where we've been, The Blue Riddim Band kept to the heart of their music and reggae culture and preserved that sweet music we've all come to cherish.
Blue Riddim, HQ'd in Kansas City, MO was formed decades ago, toured heavily to critical acclaim domestically and abroad, and made waves all around the world on the strength of their albums and live performances. Their unmatched talent and professionalism took an extended break in the 1990s due to some personal tragedies and lives taking new turns, but they re-emerged in 2009 stronger than ever, and have been burning up dance floors and ringing eardrums ever since. Although the music industry has traditionally been the drying ground for creativity Blue Riddim has remained strong and visionary. Their performance at the Mid-West Reggae Fest seems as much a show of power as promise to bring much more to the table.
-Don Victor; Cleveland Reggae Review Aug. 2011
Blue Riddim Band
FEATURED, MUSIC — BY NUG MAGAZINE ON APRIL 27, 2011
By R.J. Villa
For close to four decades now, the Blue Riddim Band’s music has been rooted in the beloved traditions of Jamaica and the 1960s and 1970s. Their latest release “Tribute” has been a long time in the making. It stands a true homage to their origins, fallen friends and band mates. Playing music out of Kansas City, Missouri, the founding members of the Blue Riddim Band were accomplished musicians with jazz and rhythm & blues backgrounds. First and foremost, they were enthusiastic students of the broad and deep history of reggae. The music that brought all these musicians’ paths together has gone by a few names over the years. It started as Rhythm Funkshun in the 70s and continued on as the Strategic Dance Initiative in the 80s. Today, they are reunited under the band’s true name as the Blue Riddim Band.
The Jamaican musicians who originated and developed the music in the 60s and 70s have always considered themselves among the Blue Riddim Band’s biggest fans. Their primary influences were built on the foundations of Coxson Dodd’s ‘Studio One’ label and Duke Reid’s ‘Treasure Isle’ label, the rocksteady compositions that became the basis for all subsequent Jamaican music. While other non-Jamaican reggae bands in America were falling in line to mimic the popular styles of Bob Marley or Peter Tosh, the Blue Riddim Band took their understanding of the jazz and R&B roots of Jamaican music to create their own polished sound. This was a key to unlocking a much diversified sound rooted in ska, rocksteady, and rockers reggae with regional switches to the latest soukous or highlife from Africa, or soca and Zouk from the Caribbean.
In the mid 1970s, the band began as Rhythm Funkshun in South Florida under the lead of multi-instrumentalist and composer Bob Zohn and percussionist Steve “Duck” McLane. McLane and Zohn’s early passion for Jamaican music was fueled by the Jamaican community in New York and their regular trips to Jamaica in the early 1970s. The Blue Riddim Band was born as the horn players Scott Korchak and Bob Blackett joined in 1977. As the band’s star rose, they found themselves touring and headlining their own shows with openings for major touring acts, including Dennis Brown, Big Youth, Culture, Burning Spear, Peter Tosh and Bob Marley.
Tragedy and the brutal meat grinder that is the music industry put a quick halt to the acclaims the Blue Riddim Band was receiving. Bob Zohn passed away in the mid 1980s, robbing us of the ska vocal styling he had mastered and taking what unwritten music he had left burning inside with him. A “farcical managerial arrangement” in the 1980s robbed the band of their name, so they moved forward as the band Strategic Dance Initiative. In 2008, singer and horn player Scott Korchak passed away, but their music continued on. The group’s determination to redefine itself had been encouraged by a younger generation of Kansas City musicians who were well aware of the Blue Riddim Band legend, taking the group’s accomplishments as a point of pride for the city’s scene and rich history.
Today, the Blue Riddim Band is comprised of charter members Steve “Duck” McLane on drums, Jack “Blackie” Blackett on tenor saxophone, Todd “Bebop” Bird on bass, Jack Lightfoot on trumpet, Jimmy Becker on harmonica, and Joe Miquelon on keyboards. New blood in the lineup includes Chris Bartak on trombone, Dan Bergner on keyboards, Jimmy Dykes on guitar/vocals, and Edward Turner on vocals.
It had been 14 years since they last hit the studio to record an album. That hiatus ended when the group pulled together in the studio in 2009 to record “Tribute.” It is homage to their fallen friends and the roots rocksteady music that created the Blue Riddim Band. Tribute is an album rooted in the beloved traditions of Jamaica in the 60s and 70s, yet adding a more contemporary production context to their recording. It was released in 2010 through the label Rougher Records. From their humble origins as pioneers of Jamaican music in America to the new blood that continues to fly its flag today, finally the Blue Riddim Band was back as true ambassadors of roots ska, rocksteady, and rockers reggae.
Q and A with Steve “Duck” McLane – Blue Riddim Band drummer:
The album “Tribute” stands as a true memorial to your fallen brethren, band mates and their influences. How does it feel to once again bring people rocksteady roots music under the name Blue Riddim Band for the first time in 25 years?
I guess I’d say it feels as natural as getting up in the morning or riding a bike. The timing feels right. For a while, we needed to give it a rest. But now, it is time to “make movements” as they say.
With “Tribute” being homage to the timeless past influences of the band, do you have any memories of the band’s history you would like to share?
There are a lot of good memories, but probably the three that stand out the most are when the band opened for Bob Marley and the Wailers on their Survival Tour on Dec 6, 1979 in Lawrence, Kansas at the University of Kansas Hoch Auditorium; playing Sunsplash in 1982 in Jamaica and getting a Grammy nomination for Best Reggae Album in 1986.
Even though we haven’t taken to the road yet, we have nothing but fond memories of playing for people, especially away from home because it is just a great way to meet people. When the band was on the road before, it was of course a very different time.
When Bob Zohn and I were living in Long Island in 1972, we were playing in what was mostly an R&B band. We had already been hearing reggae music for 2 or 3 years and, back then, the people we were playing with wanted to have bands that people would dance to, but we kept trying to tell them that we needed to incorporate some reggae into the lineup. The very first time we worked up a couple of reggae tunes, we were in Stoney Brook, NY playing a club. It was like a bet with the guys in the band to see what would happen. We pulled the two reggae tunes out, back to back, and instantly the dance floor was crammed, which ultimately gave us the motivation we needed to start a band that just played reggae. Shortly after that, we went to Jamaica for the first time in 1973.
You have close to 40 years of music under your belt, what was one of your favorite moments on tour?
Short of performing at SunSplash and opening for Bob Marley, our manager at the time, Neil Leff, had gone to his father who owned a band in Topeka, KS and said, “Dad, let me borrow $10,000, so I can bring this guy (Bob Marley) to Lawrence.” They’d already sent their opening act home and needed an opener. Neil sent him the 10k deposit and a copy of the advertisement. Upon receiving the ad, Don Taylor (the Wailers Manager) said, “There must be some mistake; we don’t have local bands open for us. If anyone opens for us, we select them. They’d better be good.”
Neil confidently replied, “You’ll be surprised.” So the show went on. When it was time to do the show, Neil was worried that “Simmer Down” was on our song list and said, “We better ask permission.” I said, “Nah man, they haven’t played that for years.” Neil insisted, “Well, I’m gonna ask them anyway.” They said, “Go ahead, fine.”
When we were on stage, about half of The Wailers were in the wing. As soon as we kicked up “Simmer Down,” they started dancing to it and the show went on without a hitch. They stayed a few extra days and came to our show at The Uptown Theatre in Kansas City. They sat in with us and played current top 40 hits from Jamaica. There’s actually footage of this.
How did you get the nickname “Duck?”
I’m flat footed, and when I came out of the swimming pool as a kid, the footprints looked like duck footprints. Animal nicknames seem to stick with musicians; I’ve known a dog, mouse, bird, and all kinds of things.
What is the marijuana culture like where you are based out of in Kansas City, MO?
Unfortunately for us, with the possible exception of Mississippi and Louisiana, we are in the most backward part of the United States. At this point, because law enforcement is so aggressive, what goes on here is pretty much behind closed doors and under the table. This isn’t California.
What strains of cannabis do you usually come across out there?
This is where the “Old Days” really shine because back in the day, it was the Thai Weed and good Jamaican. In the early, early days, Red, Gold, Black Bud and Colombian bring back the fondest memories. Modern day…Typically, we see the better Mexican, Blueberry Kush, White Rhino, Silver Haze…There’s so many of these names, but who is to say what someone is bringing to you.
What methods do you guys prefer to consume your cannabis?
For us, spliffs have always been standard fair. We also love to smoke from the Chalice of course.
There is a lot of talk about old timers comparing the potency of weed from back in the day to what is around now. Care to comment on that, being as you have toured the reggae scene for decades now?
Not only do the Thai, Jamaican, and African hold a place in our heart, it holds the number one spot in our brains. We’ve heard and understand there are strains that compete with and surpass these; we don’t have the personal experience to verify that.
Do you guys have any favorite strains you prefer to consume?
Hands down our favorite herb that any of us have ever had are the different African strains. The Durban Poison, Kenyan, and a Yoruba Nigerian strain – the ones that are more mental…as much mental if not more than anything else. What we prefer is the more sativa side of things.
Any upcoming shows, highlights or tour dates in the future you want us to call attention to?
We are hopefully going to be working on some dates with Bob Andy and Big Youth. We will also be playing the Prairie Vibrations Festival in Lincoln, Nebraska in May and the Midwest Reggae Fest in Cleveland, Ohio in August.
What are the Blue Riddim Band’s plans for moving forward? More recording sessions, albums, tours, etc?
We’re working on something with Bob Andy and also with Big Youth. We’ve got the Nancy Reagan remix with Big Youth on limited release vinyl on Rougher Records coming out soon. We’ll be touring with both of them.
I could not be more excited to announce some big news! The legendary Big Youth (one of the original toasters and DJ's who ruled the early 70's reggae scene) has teamed up with leading American reggae band Blue Riddim Band to release a remix of the band's classic 80's reggae anthem 'Nancy Reagan'. The song 'Nancy Reagan 2011 Remix - Voice Of The People' features Big Youth's classic DJ vocal stylings over the band's most well known rhythm. A limited edition 7' vinyl single will be released through Rougher Records as well as in digital format. The release date is set for May 3rd, 2011. Blue Riddim's latest album 'Tribute' has only been out a few short months, but has already made it onto some 'Best Of 2010' lists including mine.
I connected with Blue Riddim Band bassist Todd 'Bebop' Burd who filled me on all the details. According to Burd, "Myself and my partner, Emily 'Goldie' Madison started Rougher Records last year. We released the latest Blue Riddim Band album 'Tribute' and also signed another Midwest reggae band RC Dub. Their album is due out this spring. Now we are releasing this single with Big Youth on the A side and a remastered version of the original 'Nancy Reagan' riddim on the B-side." Burd also mentioned that the band is working on a single with Bob Andy regarded as one of reggae's greatest song writers which is due out later this year.
For the full article, please click here: http://marcoonthebass.blogspot.com/2011/03/big-youth-blue-riddim-band-set-to.html
The Blue Riddim Band - Tribute
They were one of America’s very first reggae bands and they’re certainly among the very best. They made an unprecedented impression on the early morning crowd at Reggae Sunsplash 1982, a gig that’s become legendary.
They’re the band known as Blue Riddim, and after a lengthy period of inactivity following their initial ‘80s success (a spell during which two original members passed away), they’re back and better than ever.
The 2009 CD Ska Inferno marked their initial return in truly blazing style, and for the follow-up Tribute, Blue Riddim rolls out updated vintage instrumentals and their own takes on classic riddims. Lovingly reproduced melodies that originally framed hits by folks like Alton Ellis, the Heptones, Cornell Campbell and the Paragons are rendered with just enough contemporary production to make the old sound new again.
Factor in more of a dubwise vibe than Blue Riddim has previously harnessed, and the results are a murderous sampling of great music that brings the ska, rocksteady and early reggae eras resoundingly into the present moment.
So “Skaravan Dub,” “Black Stick Rock,” “Queen of the Rub” and the rest are laced with a renewed freshness, and when vocals are added (as on “Ba Ba Boom”), the celebration kicks up an extra notch.
The entire disc (which has the cool look of a vinyl 45) is first rate, but I’d have to give top honors to “Ramble Dub,” a harmonica-laced rendering of Rico Rodriguez’ enduring favorite. A heartfelt and altogether satisfying Tribute indeed, one that comes highly recommended.
"One of the Greatest Reggae Bands of All Time..." -Big Youth
"With Their Appearance at Reggae Sunsplash '82, Blue Riddim Resurrected The Skatalites Career" -Lester Sterling, The Skatalites
"To This Writer, They Had The Potential To Be Bigger Than UB40, And More True To The Roots" -Roger Steffens