In California’s Bay Area, the Uptones were the leading light of the mid-’80s ska eruption. Formed while the members were still at high school, and folding around the same time as they graduated, the Uptones were an almost exclusively live experience, releasing only one record in their own lifetime. Regardless, their impact upon the evolving ska scene was enormous. The Uptones Live!! 924 Gilman takes only one listen to grasp why the group commanded such a rabid following in its hometown, and remained such a strong influence on later ska practitioners. With a musical maturity far beyond their years and a groundbreaking third wave sound — at a time when most people were still riding the last blast of the second — the Uptones knocked out high-energy songs quite removed from anything or anyone else. Specials-esque edginess clashes with slashes of jazz and dollops of alt-rock are doused with healthy doses of ska, roots, and rocksteady, while tempos shift dramatically and moods swing from melancholy to exuberant rocksteady and ska. Their legendary tight horn section carried the melody, fleshed out by Paul Jackson’s keyboards, with the sound send throbbing by Ben Eastwood’s bass. Defiantly defying easy categorization, the Uptones laid out a three-pronged road map that later bands would trace back to trad, continue on to ska-core, or follow through to the third wave proper. Breathtaking in vision and light years ahead of their time, the Uptones were a pivotal band and a seminal one, and this live set does them proud.
Live!! 924 Gilman