Album: Stork and the Baby Makers
Release Date: August 23, 2017
Genre: Reggae, Rocksteady, Ska, Jazz – Four Genres Over Four Tracks – Catchy and Economical
One Line Review: Hamilton based Stork and the Baby Makers with their debut self-titled EP, offer sophisticated reggae, rocksteady, ska and jazz for the outdoor festival going, big band snob, ska punk, skin head on a scooter, 2 tone dressing, white sock with black dress shoes wearing, Mighty-Mighty-Reel-Big-Billy-Joel fan in all of us.
*Spoiler Alert – The word “ska” appears many times throughout this review.**
Reggae, ska, and its many offshoots is a genre embraced by the bold, beckoned, brash, bratty and brazen alike, submitting to sublimity or reveling in ridiculousness.
And some bands touch on a bit of all musical styles while making it sound great. Welcome to multi-talented Stork and the Baby Makers and their debut EP, Stork and the Baby Makers.
“Daily Valentines” kicks off with a big, groove rock bass riff, reminiscent of a mid-90s alt. rock band who discovered bass can plays riffs, too. My first few listens using my laptop speakers, elicited the comment “bass sound could use a deeper bass sound with less fret noise.” The same bass riff, through head headphones, completely negated my initial lesson. Whether it is the sound of the speakers or a result of mastering, the head phone experience had a full, rocking bass sound with just enough fret noise to give clarity and a rocking edge.
When the horn line kicks in, listeners are given a full sounding, Big Rude Jake “Blue Pariah”, with a Spy Hunter video game soundtrack influenced guitar riff. Strong walking bass drives the tune with clean vocals and an upbeat, clean ska guitar riff.
The chorus has a Mighty Mighty Bosstones / The Portmans arranged horn sound, nice solid chords with accentuated riffs to accentuate the vocal line.
Off the top, well arranged, upbeat ska tune with a tough rock edge.
The bridge offers an unexpected surprise of an old school Cab Calloway, Big Rude Jake meets Tom Waits middle section transitioning from ska to big band jazz with dramatic spoken word vocals, Bertot Bretch meets Kurt Weil at a college art-bar ska show.
Big push to the end to set an impressive, musically played intro to this debut EP!
On Bandcamp.com it was the first song to appear at the top of the screen so I assumed it was the opener but, according to the playlist, it is the closer. Impressively enough it works either way. Let’s move on.
**Music trivia side point – I saw an interview with a band who toured with the Cure who was known for taking their set lists, which can be painstakingly designed and analyzed for smooth transitions and fan connection, and play them backwards, starting in the set order one night then switching it to open with the encore and close with the opener. Stork and the Baby Makers are in solid, reverse order company.**
“Stick It Out for Awhile”, the actual opener to the EP, is Less Than Jake covering a Sloan with Mathew Sweet on background vocals. A big, open horn sound setting up a solid, pop punk ska tune with a slightly Bryan Adams guitar breakdown. Improv alto sax solo a good set up for the final push of the tune.
“Runaway Blues” is a danceable, reggae/blues influenced song with a great Hammond organ sound guaranteed to keep outdoor festival goers plenty of room to shake their respective rumps. Do-wop section in the bridge is a nice Billy Joel moment if he wrote reggae tunes. Is this tune actually a blues? Maybe my ears are deceiving me, or my counting is off, but it “Runaway Blues” doesn’t seem to follow the traditional blues form. Am I being picky? Probably.
Opening their tunes for improv solo sections is a great way to show off the musician’s chops and the horn line a chance to shine. “Runaway Blues” is one part the Powder Blues Band and Billy Joel teaming up to play at an outdoor reggae festival in Maui.
“Stand Strong Like a Rock” is our rocksteady, social conscious moment on the record, a slow jam with a heavy reggae influence and a dramatic, soaring vocal arrangement. Included in “Stand Strong Like a Rock” is a Herbie Hancock Headhunters key sound in solo! A thousand times yes!
The hook line “stand up / stand tall / stand strong like a rock” offers an empowering mantra retaining a nod to reggae of old, to find ones strength and permit it to be unwavering.
Over-all, Stork and the Baby Makers bandmates Keegan Larose (lead vocals, guitar), Cole Gibson (alto and tenor saxophones, Vocals), Tyrrel Crawford (trumpet, vocals), Spencer Devolin (bass), and Tim Houghton (drums) have written and recorded a strong sampling of sophisticated, well-executed reggae / ska / pop punk / rock steady tunes on their self-titled debut EP!
So let’s talk about that band name and title, shall we?
The only aspect of the EP that pulls me out of the listening experience is the band name itself. Now, before I get a deluge of harsh glances or despairing tweets, I understand the difficulty of naming a band that reflects ones sound while simultaneously creating a brand; I’ve been there, done that, designed the stickers, and self-financed the t-shirts.
Many bands, after making a name, regret their band name after they are already established, Green Day being one of the most famous examples, regretfully creating their band name after having a day of smoking copious amounts of the Devil’s herb. (Go ahead and fact check that…I’ll wait…)
If this EP would have been four songs of brash, brat punk ska with sarcastic, self-aware, self-deprecating lyrics, I would have been completely on board and thought the name clever.
Without knowing the context of the band’s brand, whether it be a personal story or inside joke, Baby and the Stork Makers would even be more fitting name, just as it seems more clever without really being more clever…or open the box and see if the cat is dead, figure it out on your own.
As a brand, as a band will be, Stork and the Baby Makers is not a sophisticated, or classic, enough name for the band represented on this EP, a band which is musically strong, old school influenced while retaining a fresh sound.
Looking back on classic ska/punk ska bands, there can be found a certain timeless, quasi non-descript quality to the name such as The Specials, the Slackers, the Portmans, or go for the triumvirate effect with more punk based bands such as Mighty Mighty Bosstones or Less Than Jake. Or change a word using the “Jah” or “ska” as part of an existing word such as Skavenjah, of the Skatellites (this naming can be overused, but good for brainstorming, or thought showering as they say in England as to not offend people with ADHD).
Living in Canada, the entire country can almost be turned into ska band names; British Columbijah, Albertjah, Skaatchewan, Manitobjah, Ottojah, Nova Scotijah, Jahtario, Quebecska. (Side note: an across country ska album needs to be made with one or two bands representing each respective province with the province’s, or city named, changed to a proper ska name. Someone, please make this happen. Thank you.)
Stork and the Baby Makers is a well-arranged, strongly played, sophisticatedly arranged debut EP to keep musical masses bobbing, toe tapping, and air horn lining (like air guitar but with wind instruments) everywhere!
The Riz is a prolific multi-genre songwriter, lyricist, writer and bassist for “Demolition Rock” sensation Ultimate Power Duo. A staple of the Saskatoon music scene, he has toured extensively across Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. The Riz is also the composer and saxophone player for R. Muttering, an avant-garde soundscape improvisational electro-acoustic performance art and recording group. Besides his Bachelor of Music in Music Education (B. Mus. (Mus. Ed.) / B. Ed. (Mus.)) from the University of Saskatchewan, he has amazing comic and vinyl collections.