UMC (Universal Music Catalog).
The three remaining Specials are here – Terry Hall (vocals), Horace Panter (bass), Lynval Golding (vocals/guitar) – which means this is The Specials. But there were more original members of the band around and present for the reunion of 10+ years ago and all the live albums and bits and pieces that have followed. Even if a lot of fans didn’t want to own that period as anything authentic.
One listen to Encore should tell you whether it’s for you or not – but I sure welcome the voices and memories of The Specials without them ever trying to sound too much like the breakthrough Specials of the late 1970s. That said it’s unmistakable that Vote For Me places Ghost Town’s opening in the mind of the listener. Quite a clever trick, particularly as its three songs deep into the album. In case you’d forgotten who you were listening to, they’re there to remind you.
In the madness, er, sorry, of this protracted Brexit it’s nice to hear from what is left of The Specials. And clearly this crazy world is on their mind with songs like Vote For Me, Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys, The Lunatics and Embarrassed By You. Breaking Point feels like a trainer-wheels version of Tom Waits’ mad carnival and might have worked better with his gruff voice to deliver scraps of the song. But its lyric is strong.
But then it might depend how forgiving you are – Blam Blam Fever might be addressing the guns (of Brixton) but it sounds more like Macca went back to rework Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da. Hey, I kinda like it…
But the mixed bag of this record has at least one major saving grace. Quite apart from the fact that I rather dig the laidback horn-drenched soul vibes of an older Specials still rallying politically, this album deserves its places for the song 10 Commandments. In this collaboration with Saffiyah Khan – you’ll remember her from the photograph that went viral and vital (see right) where she stood up to hatred and showed in a moment just how stupid racism and bigotry and hate really is – The Specials provide the groove for Khan to sing-speak her list of commandments atop. It’s a little Scroobius Pip. It’s also really good.
The deluxe version of Encore features a bonus live disc of all the hits – so you can hear chant-along renditions of A Message To You Rudy, Friday Night Saturday Morning, Redemption Song, Nite Klub and others…
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