Sunday, February 17, 2013


YEAR:  1979
LABEL:  2 Tone
TRACK LISTING:  A Message To You Rudy,  Do the Dog,  It's Up To You,  Nite Klub,  Doesn't Make It Alright,  Concrete Jungle,  Too Hot,  Monkey Man,  (Dawning of A) New Era,  Blank Expression,  Stupid Marriage,  Too Much Too Young,  Little Bitch,  You're Wondering Now
IMPRESSIONS:  The undoubted epicenter of the explosion that was the U.K. ska movement in the late 70s.  A perfect snapshot of the disillusioned anger of British youth at the time.  As wikipedia for once puts it rather eloquently, the British version of ska "...shares the infectious energy and humour of the original sound (of Jamaican 60's ska), but injects new-found anger and punk sensibility.  The sound is more manic than its Caribbean laid-back ancestor while bringing the guitar to the fore and having the traditional horn section and percussion lessened somewhat.  Ska was such a phenomenon in Britain at the time that a TV special called "DANCE CRAZE" aired examining it (and I'm lucky enough to own a copy of that broadcast).  The Specials really were the epitome of British ska and were even more short-lived than the short-lived ska craze itself; soon to break up into the equally short-lived but excellent Fun Boy 3.  But here in the Specials' debut album is the manifesto of ska through original songs as well as copious Jamaican ska covers (which went uncredited at the time but nowadays are properly attributed).  "THE SPECIALS" is a message to you, rude bwoy, and it stands up just as proud all these years later.
GUEST ARTISTS:  Elvis Costello (producer),  Rico Rodriguez (trombone),  Chrissie Hynde (vocals)
FACT SHEET:  THE SPECIALS is the Special's first album.  The Specials were Terry Hall (vocals), Neville Staple (vocals), Lynval Golding (rhythm guitar), Roddy Radiation (lead guitar, vocals on "Concrete Jungle"), Jerry Dammers (keyboards), Sir Horace Gentleman (bass guitar) and John Bradbury (drums).  "A Message To You, Rudy" is a cover of a Dandy Livingstone song; former Skatalites member Rico Rodriguez played trombone on the original Jamaican version 20 years before and appeared here with the Specials' cover version.  "Rudy" in the title of the song is not a proper name but is a shortened form of the Jamaican term "rude boy".  "Do the Dog" is a cover of a Rufus Thomas song.  "Too Hot" is a cover of a Prince Buster song.  "Monkey Man" is a cover of a Toots & the Maytals song.  The song "Concrete Jungle" is NOT a cover of the Bob Marley song but the title was obviously inspired by it.  On some US versions of the album, the song "Gangsters" appears between "Too Much Too Young" and "Little Bitch".  Q Magazine rates the album at number 38 on the 100 Greatest British Albums Ever list and Rolling Stone ranks it number 42 in their list of the 100 Best Albums of the 1970s. 

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