It’s time to get your retro on with The Uppertones – a side project of the indefatigable Bluebeaters trombonist Gigi ‘Mr T-Bone’ Gaspari. And you know with a band name that ends in ‘tones’ that this is going to be ska-related right? Right. Although in this case we’re going all the way back to the roots of the very earliest Jamaican ska (which owed a debt to the off-beat guitar sound of the likes of Fats Domino’s Be My Guest Tonight) and even a little bit before for Closer To The Bone – an album that broadly consists of shuffle ska versions of American hits from the 50s and is itself named after a swinging 1957 Louis Prima cut.
The band aren’t strict about keeping to the fifties though as the first track proper is a lively skankin’ version of Blind Willie McTell’s thirties blues hit Travellin’ Blues – although, as it happens, they aren’t even strict about keeping to something recognisably distinct from fifties rnb as Just A Little Bit, When You’re Smiling and slowie closer Crying Over You reveal by dispensing with that distinctive off-beat guitar (or piano) chop. When this LP is at its best however is with the cuts that most closely channel the spirit of the earliest material by the likes of Prince Buster. Such highlights include the aforementioned Travellin’ Blues, a take on Lloyd Price’s ’59 rnb cut Personality, the title track and monkey favourite, the band’s ska take on The Platters’ Great Pretender. There’s no pretending here though – it’s all straight-up fun.
(Out now on Brainlabgroove)