Reds Strike the Blues - A Tribute to The Redskins (various artists). Out now on CD. Order from www.redstar-recordings.com by Mairtin Gardner
For someone who started to ‘get into’ music in the late ’70s there’s a few bands I had a chance to see but for reasons now long lost I never got the chance. Undoubtedly one of those bands was and is the brilliant soulcialists, The Redskins.
After all any band that declared that they wanted to “Walk like the Clash and sing like the Supremes” and arguably managed to do it, well except the ‘sing like the Supremes’ bit, is surely a must-see live band...
Founded in 1982 out of the band No Swastikas by Chris Dean, Nick King (who left in 1985 to be replaced by Paul Hookham) and later Martin Hewes, The Redskins soon firmly established themselves on the UK ‘indie’ music scene.
Deliberately conscious of their skinhead image - their name being a critical reference to the media image of skinheads - Dean commented: “I don’t think of it as an image, it just happened to be there. “But at the same time it does have a political significance because most people probably think all skinheads are morons.”
From the title of their first single Lev Bronstein (Leon Trotsky’s real name) or their appearance on Channel 4’s The Tube during the 1984-85 Miners Strike where they invited a striking Durham Miner on stage, whose microphone was cut, through to Dean’s acerbic comment that Red Wedge (massive in the early ’80s: musical and artistic concerts, events, etc, to support the Labour Party) was the only tour that could guarantee to “sell out”, The Redskins made no bones about their politics and made no apologies about their music.
And brilliant it was too, from the overtly political Unionize to the piledriver Reds Strike the Blues through to my own horn-drenched favourite Lean on Me - hailed as a “modern soul classic” by the NME.
But could these songs be covered...? Well, yeah. Various artists from The Three Johns, The Che Men, Negu Gorriak and the superb Inciters, whose cover of Lean on Me is nearly as good as the original, manage with others to put their own spin on some of the best Redskins tracks and make for a pretty good tribute album.
Whatever the reasons for the album at this time, it’s certainly time well spent. If it does nothing more than bring a new audience to their music then it is worth it. Even better if it moves a few others to look at socialist politics. Whatever the reason, get this album, and then get the original Redskins songs.
I’d recommend them on vinyl but if not CD is okay I suppose. Just get hold of the music, listen and enjoy. Comrades, I give you The Redskins by others...
The review below appeared in Scootering magazine (issue 233 November 2005). They make a mistake though as the Redskins track remixed by The Grooveblaster is A Plateful Of Hateful & not Bring It Down. Click on image to enlarge.
A Tribute It can sometimes be easy, with passing years, to have a nostalgic view of the 80s. There was, in retrospect, a pretty strong underground scene. But there was another side to that decade. Stick this cd on and you're reminded why. You're transported back to what it was like - mass unemployment, Maggie Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, the miner‘s strike, keeping people in their place. The Redskins' Chris Dean's commentary which opens the album reminds you of it - and the spirit that tried, in vain, to fight back.
The Redskins were one of the bands at the centre of that small, far from silent minority. They combined punk anger and soulful class. They wanted to “sound like the Supremes and walk like The Clash”. And they made a shedload of great records.
This is a tribute by an international cast of bands from - mainly - today. You're bound to be influenced by your personal favourites. Mine were always “Kick Over The Statues” and “Keep On Keepin On“ - “I don't know what I'm looking for - but I found some things AND I'M GONNA CHANGE THEM”. So for me, the versions delivered by The Arc Welders and The Che Men Featuring Norman Strike are stand outs.
But they all rock. There's Rinaldi Sings performing “Hold On” in their distinctive way. Eric Blowtorch and The Forces of Victory with “(Don't Talk To Me About) Whether” - a soulful delivery, complete with horns, Peasant Army - “Peasant Army”, a nice full on punky attack. And The Inciters with horns and direct guitar on “Lean On Me”. Not forgetting The Three Johns and “Reds Strike The Blues” from 1985.
Plus many more quality versions. The Yell Leaders' driving delivery of “It Can Be Done”, and again with The Grooveblaster offering a soulful rendition of “The Power Is Yours”. Ned Ludd‘s traditional approach to “Names Were Named”, the Basque country‘s Negu Gorriak's dynamic horn-driven version of “Sindikatua (Unionise)”, The Old Bailey with a hard edged acoustic and fiddle attack on “You Want it? They've Got It!”. Then we have Maninblack with a Hammond-driven version of “Take No Heroes” and their distinctive style on “Bring It Down“, Red Square and Andre Schlesinger delivering a hard guitar version of “Lev Bronstein”, an approach also adopted by The Smashcasters on “The Crack”, and a thundering mix with Redskins meet The Groove blaster and “A Plateful of Hatful”.
Its all good stuff. So stick it on, enjoy the tunes, and dance. But think back to the dark excesses of that decade. And pray it never happens again.