The Bluebeats – Dance With Me – Review

The Bluebeats

Dance With Me (Moon)
by Grant Thayer

When I first saw The Bluebeats two years ago, they blew me away with amazing vocals and a catchy rock steady style that puts the ska-core bands of today to shame. When I got the Roots, Branch & Stem traditional ska compilation (from Stubborn Records – highly recommended), I discovered that The Bluebeats’ cut, “Thinking of You,” was/is my favorite cut on the disc, and it didn’t leave my CD player for a month. Now that they’ve got a full-length CD out, I don’t need to set song-replay, although I will leave the disc repeat function on. As promised on the back cover, these six middle-aged guys from New York capture a “fresh take on authentic Jamaican Rock Steady, Ska, and early Reggae – all with a twist of soul.”

The title track, “Dance With Me,” starts the CD off with an old skool groove and soulful keyboards mixed with guitar licks that set a pleasing rock steady pace. Warning: This ska CD contains no horns, third wave ska, ska-core, or ska-punk, and it still fuckin’ rocks! A subsequent evolution of early-’60s ska, the entire album is built mainly on a rock steady foundation, but also explores a little dub experimentation. Mike Drance’s vocals guide the listener easily from track to track, or rather, stop to stop on a graceful train ride through a bright and sunny summer day. Formerly a sax player and founding member of the Scofflaws, a seminal NY ska band, Drance now focuses his attention on songwriting (penning six tunes) and vocal duties. Highlights include the catchy “Hardest Working Man” which describes the efforts of trying to stay on the dole and the how hard one guy works at not working. “The Fits is On Me” is a boppy, must-dance cut about being overwhelmed (by love) – “I cannot sleep alone, I need someone to comfort me `cause the fits is up on me.” The cover of “Down at the Train Line,” (a dub version also appears) is a slower, rootsy number featuring guest vocalist Refina Bellantese, who complements Mike’s cords nicely. Run and get this CD and expect to leave it in your player for quite a while.

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