The Hi Hats
Ska Got Soul (Moon)
by Grant Thayer
The Hi Hats have been around Boston for at least six years, and if you haven’t seen them in a while (years), you might be skeptical about this CD. (When I saw them at the Channel, how shall I say it, they sucked.) Rest assured, they are NOT the Hi Hats of old. With the exception of the name and their two guitarists, Mike Higgins and the main songwriter/driving force (and album producer) Jeff Scannell, the lineup has changed completely. Their current seven-piece incarnation has captured the material (some of it several years old) on disc in a very worthy manner.
Obviously, a lot of time and effort went into recording and mixing this CD. Four of the songs are featured on various compilations, but three of these show up “new and improved.” Fuller sounding, bigger bass, and better horn presence, along with a faster, more upbeat tempo banish the older versions to sit on the shelf. The CD opens with a boxing referee calling for a “good clean fight” which segues into “Are You Ready?,” where the backing horns remind me of a James Brown or Blues Brothers showcase. Songs flow together so smoothly that sometimes you don’t realize you’re listening to a different song for the first few seconds. The new version of their “biggest” song, “She’s My,” comes alive with percussion (I like the cow bell) and tight blasts of horns that ride on the bass line. The different horns (trumpet/alto sax/tenor sax) in the mix are hard to distinguish, largely due to the tightness, but they do trade solos in “Hizuzi,” providing a glimpse of the individual players. “Just Askin'” is about seeking a dance partner when you “feel that beat… and just got to move.” It has a good continual horn progression with a driving bass and is perhaps the best of the new material.
I do like the sound effects and audio clips that are laced throughout the disc. That they include the lyrics is also a plus. After being around for quite some time, it’s great that this material really represents their best efforts and has thrust the Hi Hats into a nomination for best ska band of the year.