When The Specials returned with their 2019 album topped the charts BisIt was a wonderful surprise. As well as being their first in nearly four decades (excluding material of alternately named intermediate incarnations), it proved that they were more than an endless touring legacy night for the rude boys. aging.
Critics of their reappearance on the touring circuit have claimed they were stranded without the band’s original driving force, Jerry Dammers. Bis, full of musical dynamism and socially conscious vim, proved that this was not the case. Protest songs 1924 – 2012 is an appropriate sequel.
With the group now containing three of the original Specials, Terry Hall, Lynval Golding and Horace Panter, it’s a collection of covers of songs raging against racism and inequality. The vibe sits somewhere between civil rights protest pop-folk led by Pete Seeger of the pre-Beatles’ 60s, and Johnny Cash’s philosophy of returning to raw production values. American series, a pinch of rockabilly and, in the spirit, that of Chumbawumba English Rebel Songs 1381 – 1984. It’s not a ska record.
Lyrically, the songs chosen are impeccable; the well known, including a touch of French coffee on Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows”, but more particularly the unknown, like the viciously strum over the campfire “I Don’t Mind Failing in This World”, at the Originally by Seeger pal Malvina Reynolds (“You don’t mind wearing ragged panties / Because successful people are motherfuckers”). The intimate and uncluttered production works well. Golding’s rough and rough acoustic rendition of Bob Marley’s “Get Up Stand Up” is one example, a song heard given the authenticity of an unprocessed folk club.
There are missteps – the merry, comical rock’n’roller “My Next Door Neighbor” is forgettable – but, for the most part, Protest songsVariety, willfully naked production, and unadulterated rebellious demeanor are an unexpected tonic, from the call-and-response hymn “Aint ‘Gonna Let Nobody Turn Us Around” to a hoedown music hall take the anti-stopper. Vietnam by Rod McKuen “Soldiers who want to be heroes” (“Soldiers who want to be heroes are practically zero / But there are millions who want to be civilians”). the time we live in.
Below: Watch the video for The Specials by The Staples Sings “Freedom Highway”