Tuesday, December 31, 2013

STRANGER COLE Performs at 30 Plus Party in Queens

a review by Sheron Hamilton-Pearson

This review would not have been written had it not been for Mishibu di Riddim Queen who kindly provided a soundtrack of this concert – from which this written piece is inspired! Photo Credit - Riddim Queen.

Thanks to the 30 Plus Club for steadily putting together a stellar line up of those vintage artists still actively performing. One such artist that I was privileged to see in action was Stranger Cole. This man must be in his late 70s if not older, but his energy and zest for life was patently evident in the performance on December 21 at the Majestic Marquis Ballroom. His first track Koo Koo Do was a song that immediately evoked memories of my grandmother and her generation who bought these songs to remind them of the sun and a way of life they had left behind, having made an unwelcome and cold England their home.
Performers of that generation know that it is not just about the music, it's the total package and I've noticed that they never fail to disappoint, wearing their best outfits. By the way was that an Italian suit Stranger was wearing? Performing classics like Bangarang – even though he sang along to tracks, the spirit and essence of his prowess still shone through and more than compensated for the occasional lack of power in vocal delivery. The audience needed no prompting to sing along and give encouragement as they enjoyed this memorable and perhaps never to be repeated experience of singing with one of their idols. Still sprightly, he showed how he must have wowed audiences with some nifty footwork in his heyday. Performing as though he was playing to a stadium filled to capacity, his commitment to perform certainly endeared him to those who were in attendance. Sunday morning (me nah stop trying), Cherry Baby sang on the Love is a Treasure rhythm, confused some in the crowd – but they soon got the hang of it - singing along with the maestro.
At the intro for Just like a River the rah rah rah's meant an instant pull up as the audience sang the la la la refrain with such gusto. The 1962 classic When I Call Your Name was next on his play list, originally performed by Stranger and Patsy, singing solo he definitely evoked that very brief ska era dominated by producers like Duke Reid, Coxson Dodd, Prince Buster and the former prime minister of Jamaica, Edward Seaga.

Down the Train Line a 1967 version of the more popular Train to Skaville definitely took one back to the early ska days of Byron Lee, Jimmy Cliff and Prince Buster who earlier made their debut at the New York's World's Fair in 1964. Rough and Tough number one in 1962 for Jamaica's Independence had the crowd skanking, shuffling and doing the ska as creaky bones were forgotten and the cares of the world were soothed by great music.
The crowd was reluctant for Stranger to leave and called repeatedly for an encore, in a surprise move Stranger performed the Phil Pratt produced Ken Booth Classic Artibella, written by Stranger Cole himself and getting a totally unexpected revival after Snoop Dogg (aka Snoop Lion) breathed new life and generated revenue for the veteran with his La La La from the grammy nominated Reincarnated.  Music provided by DJ Mike was a definite crowd pleaser and without a doubt a good time was had by all. Well done to the organizers of the Over 30 Club, President Salome Smith and Marketing Director Linden Brown – you've found a fan in me and I can't wait for the Water Race Entertainment Limited show the  30 Plus Club is supporting featuring Lovindeer and John Holt on January 4 at the Rochdale Village Community Center, 169-85 137th Avenue in Queens.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Ghost Riders in New York City

©Sheron Hamilton-Pearson
I had always seen the white painted bicycles and was frankly intrigued 'why would anyone leave their bike chained to a pole like that?', as I passed a particular bike parked on Gunhill Road in the Bronx.

The mischievous child in me had visions of liberating one of those bikes as I began seeing more and more of them on my travails throughout the City. The fascination passed as the sight of the bikes faded into a New York background, blending in with other visuals and sounds that make New York so unique.

Driving one day with a friend we happened to pass the bike parked on the corner of Gunhill and Jerome Avenues – looking a bit more chipped and a little bit more worse for wear. I remarked on my wish to one day ride off on one of those bikes that seemed to be dotting the landscape with ever more frequency. My friend guffawed loudly and said with an incredulous voice “Don't you know that's the Duppy Bike!”.

Placed as a memorial to those cyclists and pedestrians who have lost their lives on the highways and byways, the organization ghostbikes.org is apparently a world-wide one spearheading the North American street memorials that are both poignant and chilling reminders
of the dangers of motor vehicles on urban roads. Since 2005 some 116 ghost bikes have been erected as living memorials to some 166 victims.

What started as an imagined prank, lead to a chance remark and research into the genesis of a unique memorial – I'm so glad now that I didn't disturb what I see as a marker of phantom riders who will eternally ride.  I'm grateful that this mere mortal did not, in ignorance, disturb their peace and rest.