Primo Sonic Rhythms Vol 1 is an excellent collection of some talented ska and reggae musicians based in the Los Angeles and Inland Empire areas. The bands included on this are top acts like See Spot, The Allentons, and The Rhythm Doctors as well as up and comers like The Debonaires, Irie Beats, Kingston 10 as well as a few other bands like studio projects After Hours and Empire All-Stars. The release is on the Riverside, Ca based Rivercidal Syncdicate Records run by Inland Empire based show promoter, record producer, etc. Bernie Garcia, and its the second release from the the label (the first since 1998's debut album by the Debonaires - "Groovin After Sundown").
The album starts with an excellent song by After Hours which is an allstar band based around the songs of See Spots keyboardist Brad Pate. The song is called "Blue Over You" and shows off a real smooth rocksteady rhythm with soulful vocals courtesy of So Cal ska veteran Malik Moore who also sang for classic bands like Mobtown, Ocean 11 and the Irie Beats. After Hours contains members of See Spot, Ocean 11, Hepcat, Rhythm Doctors, The Allentons, Mobtown, Kingston 10 and the Soul Sonics. Pretty much every song I have heard by this group is amazing and I'm anxiously awaiting the release of their debut album.
The Allentons come on next with an instrumental ska song "AVI" which is pretty good with some nice soloing. They also show up here with a dub tune (mixed by Brian Dixon) called "Dreams". The dub track is in my opinion, better than the ska track, but both are good songs.
The third track is done by the Debonaires who give us a organ led reggae instrumental "Change Of Mood" by their keyboard master Ryan Tomazin (he really is a great keyboard player). This song, as well as their other track "False Prophecies" which is another reggae instrumental showing off nice organ and guitar work. Both tracks are very good and show the newer direction of the band since their debut release in 1998. One thing I wish they would have done though was add on a track with vocals to show off their new singer Kip Wirtzfeld formally of the Skeletones. Bernie tells me though that the reason they didnt used Kip songs was because: "at the time we recorded the 2 tracks, Kip was out on tour with The Skeletones".
The Dynamics have been around for quite some time and they show up here with their cover of "Summer Time". The song is pretty good but the vocals kind of sound wrong for this kind of song. Amber Longs voice seems much better for nice upbeat ska songs rather than this reggae tune. Her voice is much more soulful than other female singers in ska bands these days though who usually come off sounding too cutesy and poppy than the more soulful females of the Phyllis Dillon and Marcia Griffiths style. But anyways, this is a pretty fun song and it was nice to see them on this comp as I didn't know they were still around.
Following the Dynamics song is the first of four songs by studio allstar band the Empire All-Stars. This band contains members of L.A and the Inland Empires top ska musicians from bands like the Debonaires, Mobtown, the Skeletones and Skiptooth. The first of their songs is the nice organ instrumental called "A Fist Full Of Reggae" with Alex Solano on organ and piano. The song owes alot to the early Upsetters sound and is just as good as the bands song on The West Coast Chronicles compilation on Steady Beat. The next twos ongs by this band are "Rocking Step (into 1)" and "Rocking Step (Intro 2 Dub)" These songs are short and they beef up the All-Stars sound a little bit by adding horns. Im not quite sure who mixed the dub version but it could have been done by Bernie Garcia. Their last song is in the same vein as their first, "Torpedo" with nice organ.
One of the most welcome bands on this compilation are the Irie Beats who contribute two tracks not availible on their debut release "Downtown Reaction" from Steady Beat. Both the songs feature the dueling lead guitars of Robert Sotelo (formerly of the Allentons) and Noe Santana. The rhythms are straight roots rockers reggae and the second song by them "True Action" contains some great dub courtesy of Brian Dixon.
The Rhythm Doctors, who are often cited as being the original band on the scene playing strictly instrumental organ led reggae in the style of people like The Upsetters, are here with two tracks originally released on their "Reggae Injection" debut album. The first of these is "Jesses Song" which features excellent lead guitar of Jesse Wagner. This song is one of their classics as is definitly a crowd favorite. The second by them is the dub version of their "Tell Dem Seh" song titled "Dub Dem Seh" mixed by their rhythm guitarist Brian Dixon who really cant go wrong when it comes to mixing dub.
See Spot, who have recently reformed after 3 years to the great appreciation of their fans, offer a great ska instrumental titled "After Hours". The song features some nice sax work by Jubal Jones and Boogie Jones as well as a real nice xylophone sound on Brad Pates keyboard.
Kingston 10 has been around for a little while now and have definitly gotten much better since I last saw them. They are here with two great songs. The ska instrumental "The Element" and another ska song "City Rhythm". The solos on "The Element" are very well done and theres a fun organ line throughout the song. "City Rhythm" shows off the vocalists Sandra Horn and Sara Macias pretty well, but I would have to say that I like the instrumental better.
The last band here is San Diego based So. Cal. Shocks of Mighty. They play a sort of mix of ska and reggae and I wasn't very much into their style. Their singer has alot to practice and they just didn't have very much originality in their style. Their two songs are "Walk and Roll" and "Revenge of the Poon Poon" featuring the toasting attempt of their vocalist Michael Thompson.
All in all I would rate this much waited on album very well. Pick it up if you see it and if any of these bands come to your town be sure to check them out. I can't wait to see what Vol. 2 will bring.
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