David Hillyard's latest album Plague Doctor was mainly recorded during lockdown, so rather than recording it all live with the odd overdub this time around they sent the tracks round to each of the Musicians to build onto improvising their parts to the tracks to build into a whole.
The album opens with the slow very familiar sounding Plague Doctor Theme that lays out the bands love of early Ska and Rocksteady.
Closer To My Heart has an early Skatalites feel to it with a gently insistent repeating phrase that is built on and around as the horns lead everything with the vibes adding some cool background color.
Maracatu is the first tune that shows the bands roots in working in a Brazilian restaurant as this has more of a Latin flavor to the ska as well as some good fat and funky guitar that works as a pulse beneath the brass sections snaking rhythms and a cool battle between the brass section and the vibes player as they go back and forth almost trying to outdo each other.
The Frog is a re-working of the Brazilian classic A Ra by Joel Donato that they have taken and turned into a cool Skatalites style Rock Steady delight with great horns and a gentle organ, the sax solo has echoes of Cannonball Adderley's work on his Bossa Nova album. The great lilting groove is fine to whine and grine too, as the Vibraphone solo adds a touch of Hamptonesque magic to this very infectious tune that was also the lead single from the album.
Amanha is the only song on the album, it has a very Brazilian bossa nova feel to it, almost as if it wants to be an answer to The Girl From Ipanema. While they sing about the Carnevale.
Chove Chuva is a brass led dancefloor almost Rumba with a proper old school rocksteady beat and all the brass working around it.
Wide Pacific Ocean has the feel of a tune being played on a beach as the band stare at said ocean and the people dancing on the beach in front of them who are also drinking Planters Punch and Mai Tai's as the sun goes slowly down over the horizon.
Dedicada sounds like it should have an MC issuing shout outs to whoever has a birthday or special celebration in the audience while this plays behind him or her and as the mute trumpet blows through the air everyone can raise a glass in celebration.
I Was Made For These Times feels like it's an open lie, as this band has a sound rooted in the early 1960's Ska and mento with a bossa nova edge to it, thankfully this sounds nothing like living in the middle of a pandemic, with a mad dictator threatening everything with his Nukes, and then again the early 60's also had mad dictators waving nukes around, so maybe it really is the sound of our times too, as we all try not to have another missile crisis.
The full version of Plague Doctor expands on the opening Theme and takes us down to see the doctor and get some of that good medicine he has as we try to avoid the falling rain that the vibes make sound like a real downpour.
The album closes with Boogaloo that's just the sort of dance floor sensation the title hints at, although this isn't a disco Boogaloo more of a cumbia meets Bossa Nova style one to allow you to get nice and close to your dancing partner.
Find out more at https://orgmusiclabel.bandcamp.com/album/plague-doctor https://www.facebook.com/therocksteady7