One of the things I love about music, is it’s ability to transport you back in time, a bit like Dr. Who’s Tardis. This is what happened when I first played The Dualers third album Prince Buster Shakedown. Suddenly, I was transported back over thirty years to the late seventies, and the second coming of ska. Back then, like many people, my interest was sparked by the 2-Tone genre, which fused ska’s rhythms with a faster tempo and harder edge. Like other people, I wanted to know more about the roots of 2-Tone. In doing so, I was taken on a musical journey, discovering producers like Edward Seaga, Duke Reid, Coxsone Dodd and Prince Buster. From there, I started exploring the history of not just ska, but rocksteady, lovers rock and dub. This musical journey was one of discovery, one that’s lasted a lifetime. So when a week ago, I received a copy of The Dualers’ Prince Busters Shakedown, my love of ska and all things reggae was rekindled. I sat back, reveling in the eight tracks on Prince Buster Shakedown, determined to discover more about The Dualers and their music. What I discovered is a real rags to riches tale, with The Dualers route to success taking a few twists and turns along the way. After I’ve told you about their musical journey, I’ll tell you about the music on Prince Buster Shakedown which will be released on 7th May 2012 on the newly formed Phoenix City label.

After studying at London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Tyber Cranstoun and his brother Simon decided to hit London’s streets busking. From the late nineties, they played a mixture of ska, reggae and soul entertaining Londoners. Their love of of ska was passed on by their father Bill, who was a pioneer of ska in the UK. With his Savoy Sound System, Bill introduced London to ska. Now his sons were reawakening London’s love affair for ska.Quickly, they establishing a following wherever they played. This lead to gigs in London, with Tyber and Simon now calling themselves The Dualers. Soon, they headed further afield. Venues in Kent and Essex were won over by the Dualers and their fusion of ska, reggae and soul. Then in 2004, The Dualers decided to release a single, without a record company.

The Dualers’ debut single was Kiss On the Lips, a self-funded single, released without the usual wave of record company publicity. With no budget for promotion, The Dualers relied upon their loyal and ever-growing fan-base buying the single. This they did, in such quantities that the single reached number twenty-one, outselling major artists in the process. In charting, The Dualers became the first street performers to ever have a single chart. However, this was just the first step in The Dualers rise and rise.

November 2005 saw the second single released by The Dualers. Again, Truly Madly Deeply was self-funded, with no money left for promotion or marketing. Like their debut single, Kiss On the Lips, Truly Madly Deeply entered the charts, reaching number twenty-three. Three years later, the track was chosen by Warner Bros. to feature in the movie Fools Gold. 

Before Truly Madly Deeply was chosen to feature in Fools Gold, The Dualers launched a club night, The Skaoovie, a monthly club night in London’s west end. This successfully ran until November 2007. By this time, The Dualers had released their third single. Don’t Go was released in June 2006, with their debut album The Melting Pot being released. This saw The Dualers go on a promotional tour, playing a series of festivals. Not only did this see them attracting a following among music lovers, but among musicians too. Among The Dualers’ fans in music industry were Toots and The Maytals, Ziggy Marley, The Beat and The Blockheads. They each invited The Dualers to support them at their shows. Suddenly, The Dualers found themselves touring much further afield, conquering Europe with their irresistible fusion of ska and rocksteady.

By 2009, The Dualers had released their second album, Rhymes and Rhythms. They continued to play to packed concert halls, especially in London. Since the release of their second album Rhymes and Rhythms, Simon has left The Dualers. However, Tyber and the rest of The Dualers have since recorded their third album Prince Buster Shakedown, which I’ll now tell you about.

Opening Prince Buster Shakedown is Chinaman Ska, a track that’s the perfect opening track for any album. Straight away, it grabs your attention, before bursting into life. Bursts of blazing horns combine with the rhythm section before Tyber’s vocal enters. Tyber delivers some insightful political lyrics, before quickly, it’s all change. Suddenly, the track explodes and a joyous musical journey begins. Punchy horns punctuate the track, rasping and blazing, while the rhythm section provide the track’s heartbeat. Meanwhile, Tyber takes on the role of tour-guide, delivering the lyrics joyfully and emotively as this uplifting and irresistible track unfolds. So good is the track, that when it ends, you immediately find yourself playing it again.

There’s no let up with King of Kings of a similar quality as the opening track. You’re swept away by The Dualers, as the track skanks along. Like a King on his throne, Tyber’s vocal sits atop the arrangement. Meanwhile, a combination of the rhythm section and percussion drive the track gloriously along, while braying horns are almost ever-present. During the track, one of the best bass lines on the album reveals itself. It sits way down low, writing along, making its presence felt. Together bassist Ian and drummer Aitch are a potent rhythm section, and along with the horns, key The Dualers sound. Like the previous track, King of Kings has an infectious quality, one that demonstrates just how talented and tight The Dualers are.

Following two quick tracks, The Dualers decide to drop the tempo on Nothing Takes The Place Of You. It shows a different, much more tender side to their music. Tyber’s vocal is heartfelt, tinged with sadness and regret. Later, the addition of a lone horn adds to the emotion of the track, reflecting the wistful nature of Tyber’s vocal. Meanwhile, the rhythm section continue to demonstrate their importance in The Dualers’ sound. Although very different to the two previous tracks, Nothing Takes The Place Of You shows a quite different, tender and beautiful side to The Dualers’ music.

Although Take It Easy is another slower track, it’s the Magnus Opus of Prince Buster Shakedown. Not only does it last over six minutes, but it’s album’s best track. Here, each of The Dualers play their part in the track’s success. Opening with the bass snaking up and down, while percussion and drums combine, the track on gradually reveals its subtleties and charms. Stabs of organ join, before Tyber delivers a thoughtful, but impassioned vocal. Bursts of blazing horns drift in and out, as the rhythm section, organ and percussion combine to create a spacious, slice of laid-back and uplifting music.

As each track goes by, you can’t help but marvel at the quality and consistency of the The Dualers’ music. Firestick a much quicker track, sees no drop in quality. Quite the opposite. Instead, The Dualers seem intent on bettering the previous tracks. Tyber’s vocal is even more emotive and impassioned, while the rhythm section, percussion and sizzling horns that accompany him raise their game. They play with greater vigor, precision and passion. Together, they collectively reach new heights, while Tyber delivers his most impassioned vocal on Prince Buster Shakedown.

Orange Street is another track that allows the listener to hear a much more laid-back, understated side of The Dualers music. With the rhythm section, guitars and percussion combining with stabs of organ, Tyber delivers a heartfelt vocal. Sometimes, Tyber’s vocal sounds not unlike Bob Marley. Later, short, subtle bursts of horns punctuate the arrangement, while the rhythm section drive the track along. Together with Tyber’s vocal they create a spacious, understated and quite beautiful track.

Sister Big Stuff is a track with a real retro sound, that’s like a real trip back in time. Blazing horns combine with the rhythm section and percussion before Tyber’s vocal  enters. Backing vocalists subtly accompany him, while horns and later, a guitar solo that glides gracefully across the arrangement play key roles in the arrangement. Later, stabs of organ, horns and backing vocalists punctuate the arrangement. They all play important parts in a track that’s not just hugely catchy and compelling, but one of the best tracks on Prince Buster Shakedown. 

Closing Prince Buster Shakedown is Enjoy Yourself, a track that’s perfect to close the album. It’s blessed with a similar joyous sound to the opening track, Chinaman Ska. This bookends the album nicely. When the track opens,Tyber delivers his message against a backdrop of a skanking rhythm section, punchy, rasping horns and percussion. Again, a pounding bass line plays an important role in the track, while stabs of organ and handclaps help The Dualers create a joyous, roclicking party atmosphere. By the end of the track, you can’t help but sing a long with The Dualers. Resistance is impossible, the track is so catchy, it’s almost infectious. Just like Enjoy Yourself closes Prince Buster Shakedown, I’m sure that The Dualers will close many a show this summer with this track. 

Truly, Prince Buster Shakedown, The Dualers third album is a captivating and compelling album that’s joyous uplifting and joyous. From the opening bars of Chinaman Ska until the closing notes of Enjoy Yourself, The Dualers take you on a journey that visits ska and rocksteady, all delivered with a soulfulness. What’s more The Dualers are an accomplished and tight band, blessed with a rhythm section that drives each song along and a horn section that add an authentic Jamaican sound. With Tyber Cranstoun’s lead vocals, everything is in place for The Dualers to complete their musical journey that’s taken a myriad of twists and turns since their days busking on London’s streets. Hopefully, Prince Buster Shakedown, which will be released on 7th May 2012 on the newly formed Phoenix City label will see their music reach a much wider audience. Given The Dualers undoubtable talent, Prince Buster Shakedown should be a huge success. For anyone who loves either ska, rocksteady, reggae or just good music, take my advice and buy The Dualers’ uplifting and joyous Prince Buster Shakedown, you won’t regret it. Standout Tracks: Chinaman Ska, Nothing Takes The Place Of You, Take It Easy and Enjoy Yourself.


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