Monday, March 30, 2015


The three original Specials albums have received the double-deluxe treatment, each with an added disc of bonus material. The classic debut from 1979, produced by Elvis Costello, was the high point, full of excitement and before tensions ripped apart the members.

Leading the Two-Tone movement, the Specials did more than front a ska revival; they actually took the music into the Top Ten in England, and found a sound that could unite black and white audiences. The multi-racial group was also overtly political, targeting racism, poverty and oppression. All that, while making this dynamic, thrilling and highly danceable set of songs.

Specials includes a great mix of originals and updates of classic Jamaican numbers. They do a mean version of Toots & the Maytals' Monkey Man, with more energy than the original, borrowing the frenetic approach of punk and New Wave. They proved strong lyricists as well, with Concrete Jungle set inside Britain's oppressive class system, and Too Much Too Young about teen pregnancy.

The bonuses include the Gangsters single, not on the original album. Also pleasing is the inclusion of the full-length, six-plus minute version of Too Much Too Young, as Canada was long stuck with a two-minute edit. The second disc is all live, including the three-track Too Much Too Young E.P. tracks, and a 1979 BBC In Concert recording, which shows that the group could match any original Jamaican group on stage.

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