The Specials 2019, from left, Lyndal Golding, Terry Hall, Horace Panter
I’m loving the new album by The Specials, ‘Encore’, at the moment, their first new album of material since 1981, when they split after ‘Ghost Town’ reached No.1. Talk about going out on a high. There are only Terry Hall, Lynval Golding, and Horace Panter (a very good painter and teacher of art with children with special needs for years, and the only one still living in Coventry), now left from the original line-up, but the purists may note that over thirty years there have been over 30 different members come and go in the band, who have been a vital live act again now for the last decade.
'Roy's Cafe Motel', by Horace Panter, acrylic on canvas
It’s great to finally have some new music though, and although I bought it with some trepidation, I’m pleased to say the record is just a good old fashioned collection of really good, precise songs, with no excess, with Panter’s snakelike basslines the beating pulse throughout, and some great lyrics by Hall. It’s really enjoyable.
Activist Saffiyah Khan in the much publicised face-off with EDL member Ian Crossland at a far-right 'demonstration' in Birmingham, 2017
The record is also a very diverse collection of songs, ranging from Ska covers (with a brilliantly subversive cover of Prince Buster’s jokily chauvinistic ’10 Commandants’, featuring the words and vocals of activist Saffiyah Khan- I love this one in particular), to more reggae tinged songs, to even funk and disco.
The Specials' original line-up in 1981
The Specials are of course often discussed as a, rightly brilliant, mix of Ska, Reggae and Punk, but for anyone who has listened to their wildly inventive second album, ‘More Specials’, will know that they possessed a much more diverse musical palette under the unique, passionate vision of Jerry Dammers, who is no longer with the band (rumour being his Svengali-like presence being just too difficult to work with when the band reformed).
Me and my 6 year old daughter’s favourite current song is (rather alarmingly as it is about gun crime), ‘Blam Blam Fever’ as we drive along, but she was a bit perturbed by Saffiyah Khan’s ‘swears’ on ’10 Commandants’, which I hastily had to try and explain away…