Deals Gone Bad "The Rambler" (Jump Up Records)
I anticipated the release of this album from the band for what seems like years. And the album lives up to every expectation I had going in. The band helped to establish Jump Up Records as a viable ska label as third wave ska floated from popularity to obscruity in the 90's. Thanks to bands like DGB Jump Up is still around and still putting out great albums that deserve to be heard. Deals Gone Bad always played a mix of Jamaican ska/reggae with elements of soul, rock, and jazz. Their live show is probably where the band has always shined with their scorching originals about Pirates with covers from bands such as Judge Dread, Derrick Morgan, and Ken Boothe. With singer Mike Park the band released 3 albums on Jump Up Records. Mike left the band a few years ago (now he plays in Lord Mike's Dirty Calypsonians - Check Them Out!) and was replaced by Todd Hembrook who belts out his vocals like Sam Cooke and Otis Reddng. This album is a non stop pleaser with the first tune "Messin' Around" Todd's vocals stand out as this agonizing soul that has loved and suffered. Mike Corcoran on drums transitions from a foot stomping soul beat to a smooth rocksteady rhythm. "Movin' On" begins with a Pet Sounds sort of organ intro supplied by Karl Gustafon. This song is very reminiscent of Todd's old soul reggae band Heavy Step.
What I like most about this album is the music covers all styles of Jamaican music with ska, reggae, rocksteady and has a healthy dose of other musical delights. "Cry For Me" has Todd channeling his inner Motown and even somewhat resembles the feel of a certain Van Morrison tune. "One More Day" is a love ballad of sorts, the horn players add the perfect melody that floats and grooves in the pockets. Deals Gone Bad prove they are at the top of their game with "Things Are Gonna Get Better", which demonstrates the bands' ability to jump from style to style. A more rootsy reggae sound is present in "Rough & Ready" which the band quickly grooves to. Aaron Hammes wrote the song "Good Old Days" that sort of harks back the past without being sentimental, just realistic. "City City" is a catchy ode to Chicago… "The second city, beats the first / Keep New York, forget LA, Chicago is my curse." "Take Time" and "The Cost" are two more reggae grooves number that keep the energy on the disc sky high. The album ends with a Western (fitting in theme with the album art) acoustic number that is just spooky sounding "I was Wrong." This will be on the top of the list for this year's best releases. And if you get a chance do not deny yourself an opportunity to see this group live on stage. Doing what they do best giving the fans all their blood, sweat, and tears and ripping from song to song. Lets hope they never stop.