Dave Hillyard & the Rocksteady Seven

Dave Hillyard & the Rocksteady Seven



Playtime is a diverse and interesting side project from one of the most talented people in the ska world today, saxophonist Dave Hillyard. Hillyard has done time in some of the most exciting and influential ska groups of the last decade, including Hepcat, Stubborn All-Stars, and his current band, the Slackers, so it should come as no surprise that his new combo, the Rocksteady Seven, are top-flight musicians — indeed, several members of those auspicious bands are involved in this project, as are members of Skavoovie & the Epitones, the Skatalites, and others.

What is surprising is the way this album was made. Hillyard gathered two different lineups into studios for two separate sessions, and laid down all the tracks live. That’s right, no overdubs, no retakes, just Hillyard and some of the most talented musicians around, jamming in the studio, warts and all. The result is electrifying — the music on Playtime has a palpable energy all its own. For that matter, the tracks don’t stick to a tried and true formula. Yeah, there are a couple of tracks that would fit in with the output of some of Hillyard’s other bands — “Hillyard Street” and “Ugly Man Blues” have a dirty groove not unlike the Slackers’ signature sound, and when the magical voices of Greg Lee and Alex Desert kick in on “The Fool” and “Angry Lady” (the only two vocal tracks on the otherwise instrumental record), you can’t help but be put into the mind of Hepcat — but the Rocksteady Seven explore a lot of sounds that would never fit in with those bands’ regular sets. The Dixieland flavor of “Sydney’s March” and “Sydney’s Ghost” is a good example, as is the frantic ska-jazz of “Father and Son,” and the almost mournful title track, and while Hillyard’s other bands have tried Latin-flavored tunes on occasion, they haven’t approached the Latin swing of “Skavez.”

The most surprising thing about Playtime , though, is that it’s not simply a showcase for Hillyard’s amazing saxophone skills (though they do, of course, get a workout). Each member of these stellar ensembles gets a chance to shine, and considering the shining lights involved, that’s important! Kudos to Hillyard for steering this project in the right direction — it could have easily turned into a self-indulgent wank-fest, but instead, it’s an absolutely compelling document of some truly magical moments.

Hellcat Records, 2798 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90026, www.hellcat.com

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply

Recently on Ink 19...

  • Soul Understated
    Soul Understated

    Soul Understated was a swizzle stick of jazz, funk, pop with a dash of Radiohead in the delightful DC cocktail.

  • Anca Miruna Lǎzǎrescu
    Anca Miruna Lǎzǎrescu

    That Trip We Took With Dad is the debut feature by acclaimed Romanian short film director Anca Miruna Lǎzǎrescu. Generoso Fierro sat down with Lǎzǎrescu during SEEFest to discuss the comedy and drama within the adaptation of her deeply personal family story for the screen.

  • Aware

    The Book Of Wind (Glacial Movements). Review by Carl F Gauze.

  • BANG: The Bert Berns Story
    BANG: The Bert Berns Story

    The music biz collides with the mob in this documentary chronicling the fast and dangerous life of legendary ’60s songwriter, producer, record mogul, Bert Berns.

  • The Suicide Commandos
    The Suicide Commandos

    Time Bomb (Twin/Tone). Review by Scott Adams.

  • Tricot

    3 (Topshelf Records). Review by Bob Pomeroy.

  • Bush

    One of the most successful rock bands of the ’90s attracted thousands of fans to its recent Orlando concert. Christopher Long was there.

  • New Found Glory
    New Found Glory

    New Found Glory celebrate 20 years of Pop Punk with a string of sold-out intimate dates at The Social. Jen Cray was there for night two.

  • Plasmatics – Live! Rod Swenson’s Lost Tapes 1978-81
    Plasmatics – Live! Rod Swenson’s Lost Tapes 1978-81

    Raw video documentation of the Plasmatics evolution from buzzy punk band at CBGB’s to pyrotechnic madness at Bond’s Casino.

  • Vanessa Collier
    Vanessa Collier

    Meeting My Shadow (Ruf Records). Review by Michelle Wilson.

From the Archives