The Specials: The Best of the Specials (EMI)

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The Specials: The Best of the Specials (EMI)
Listening to this 20-track compilation (which comes with an excellent DVD of videos and film footage) reminds you just how reductive the recent ska revivalist bands have been. In the late 70s/early 80s the Specials out of Coventry delivered more than just that kickin' good time dance music which covers bands have recently picked up on. The Specials were a band with layered and politicised lyrics, a rare meltdown of punk, dub, pop and ska, and used their multi-racial line-up and diverse musical interests to expand and grow what could have been an otherwise narrow genre. There have been plenty of Specials compilations in the past -- and it's a measure of how good they were right from the start that about half the tracks on their debut album turn up here -- but this one opens with Gangsters (which oddly enough rarely appears on collections), has the full six minute version of Ghost Town and closes with the album version of Nelson Mandela. Along the way you'll find yourself catching passages which sound like oddball blues, 50s rock'n'roll, funky boogie-woogie and, of course, JA-inspired ska. An object lesson for ska revivalists, and a thorough (and throughly enjoyable) collection which has the added advantage of images to back up the music.

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