Friday, 31 May 2019

Mudcrutch



Mudcrutch (2008)


Shady Grove/Scare Easy/Orphan Of The Storm/Six Days On The Road/Crystal River/Oh Maria/This Is A Good Street/The Wrong Thing To Do/Queen Of The Go-Go Girls/June Apple/Lover Of The Bayou/Topanga Cowgirl/Bootleg Flyer/Hearts Of Stone       

Mudcrutch were the group that Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers used to be before they changed their name and made it big. They existed from 1970-1975. In 2007, They decided to record some of their old material and release it under the old band’s name. Mighty impressive it was too.
                  
Shady Grove uses the tune from Fairport Convention’s Matty Groves (or rather Fairport used this traditional folk air) and is a rumbustious country/folk rocker. Shared vocals, excellent country guitar and some pounding drums make for a great opener. It is far more “Travelling Wilburys” than “Heartbreakers”. More typical of Petty is Scare Easy, a mid-tempo, powerful and bassy rocker with a great hook. Some great Springsteenesque guitar in the middle. Orphan Of The Storm is an Eagles-like country rock ballad with another addictive refrain. Lyrically, it is a rather depressing song about drug use. Six Days On The Road is a lively, riffy slice of Southern rock in a Lynryrd Skynyrd style. Great stuff. Pure barroom rock. Crystal River has some late sixties Byrds-style guitar and is a slow-paced bluesy ballad. Some excellent drums, guitar, bass and piano in the middle section and continuing to the extended finish. Brilliant. Check out that sumptuous bass. Heavenly.

Oh Maria is a tender, folky love song. This Is A Good Street is a punchy, mid-paced solid grinding rocker. The Wrong Thing To Do is a bluesy, swampy rocker with that lazy hot day in the South atmosphere. Queen Of The Go-Go Girls is a sad country slowie, with typical lyrics about a good-time bar girl. It has some impressive steel guitar passages, as you would expect. June Apple is an instrumental which continues the country fun. Lively, jiggy and upbeat. Lover Of The Bayou kicks off powerfully, like Neil Young & Crazy Horse. It is another swamp rock-ish one, with a trademark Petty vocal. Killer guitar on it too. This really is an excellent rock album.

Topanga Cowgirl has an addictive guitar riff and another pounding beat. Bootleg Flyer virtually replicates the intro to the iconic American Girl at the beginning but morphs into a different song, but a great rock song all the same. The quality doesn’t let up. Some serious rockin’ guitar on this one. House Of Stone ends the album off with a mournful, typical country rock slow number. Some touches of Bruce Springsteen on this in places.

This really is an impressive, enjoyable album. Great sound quality on it throughout the recording, as well.

Mudcrutch 2 (2016)


Trailer/Dreams Of Flying/Beautiful Blue/Beautiful World/I Forgive It All/The Other Side Of The Mountain/Hope/Welcome To Hell/Save Your Water/Victim Of Circumstance/Hungry No More           

After a debut in 2008 that saw Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers re-record some of the early material when they were called Mudcrutch, this time, eight years later they reconvened, this time all of them contributing in the writing of the new material. There is some great stuff on it, probably as good as on any recent Petty albums. Unfortunately, it would be the last new material he would do
            
Tom Petty's Trailer is a delightful, mid-pace typical Petty melodic guitar-driven rocker, with a bit of harmonica thrown in at the end. Dreams Of Flying is great too, a solid rocker that would have sounded great on any Heartbreakers' album. Beautiful Blue is a lovely slow burning ballad with an excellent guitar bit at the end.


Beautiful World by Randall Marsh is a Byrds/Beatles influenced catchy rocker. Petty's I Forgive It All is a folky, Dylanesque acoustic ballad. There are shades of Springsteen about it too. Tom Leadon's The Other Side of The Mountain is a lively, folky early Eagles-ish number. Hope is Petty sounding a bit like Elvis Costello & The Attractions in its organ-driven new-wavey thump.

Benmont Tench's Welcome To Hell is an infectious piece of solid country blues. Petty's Byrds-esque Save Your Water is another solid rocker as is Mike Campbell's Victim Of Circumstance. Petty's yearning rock ballad Hungry No More ends what is a short but perfectly-formed album. If you are a fan of Tom Petty's work, this is highly recommended.

Kraftwerk



Trans-Europa Express (1977)


Europe Endless/Hall Of Mirrors/Showroom Dummies/Trans-Europe Express/Metal On Metal/Abzug/Franz Schubert/Endless Endless      

This was an incredibly influential album. Yes, David Bowie had already released Low when this was released in March 1977, but it surely had a huge influence on "Heroes", released in the October of that year. Joy Division'Ian Curtis forced the band's other members to listen to it.

It is a masterpiece of moods, soundscapes, electronic rhythms, classically-influenced hints and packed full of atmosphere. All that European, Berlin stuff.
                                
The first track, Europe Endless is nine minutes of addictive electronic sounds, like a train getting to its cruising speed and just chugging on. It is a highly minimalist track, also very futuristic (even now). Vocals are only occasional, as they are throughout the album. Hall Of Mirrors (later covered by Siouxsie & The Banshees) is a marvellously captivating piece. That initial sonorous keyboard riff is spine tingling and Ralf Hütter's Teutonic, mannered voice singing, monotone - "even the greatest stars dislike themselves in the looking glass...". How much "New Romantic" posturing came from listening to this - loads of it. Industrial music, electronic music, post punk, New Romanticism. All so influenced by what was known as "Krautrock"Showroom Dummies continues the fashion vibe, another New Romantic leitmotif. Again, the electronic keyboard rhythm is intoxicating. As it progresses, it gets more melodic for a while, then it reverts to its metronomic beat.

The old "side two" was a suite of continual, related music. Trans-Europe Express was actually written as a result of meeting with David Bowie and references his Station To Station both musically with that chugging, train sound and lyrically, when Hütter mentions meeting "Iggy Pop und David Bowie...".

  

Metal On Metal starts slightly faster but soon becomes a bit of a continuation of the previous track, but with some echoey percussion and some noises like tightening something metallic. Abzug continues the "suite" form of the tracks from the title track onwards, repeating the title phrase over and over and using some of the same melody. Franz Schubert changes tempo just slightly, and it has a lighter, airier feel about it that provides a slight sonic relief after the sombre intensity of the previous material. Whether or not it was influenced by the Austrian composer, I do not know. Endless Endless briefly reprises the opening melody and the train disappears off into the distance.

The band members said that as post-WWII German children, they had no musical culture when growing up. Maybe that was not a bad thing, because they had to make their own music, with no real reference. They literally made their own genre (admittedly Can and Neu! did it first, but Kraftwerk's heavyweight contribution cannot be understimated).



The Man Machine (1978)


The Robots/Spacelab/Metropolis/The Model/Neon Lights/The Man Machine      

Released at the height of punk, before most post-punk had appeared and before new romanticism, this album, like its predecessor, Trans-Europe Express, from 1977, blazed a trail for those genres. Funnily enough, though, this detached, cool German electronic music fitted in quite well with the punk thing. Most soon-to-be post punkers loved this. It was hugely influential on groups like UltravoxOrchestral Manoeuvres In The DarkGary NumanThe Human League, early Simple Minds and New Order, amongst many others. They made pop songs out of extended electronic music like this. It was no surprise, therefore, that the album was successful in the UK in 1982, not in 1978.

Personally, although I enjoy a track or two of it every now and again, a whole album is probably too much. It certainly was in 1978.
                  
The Robots starts the album in unsurprisingly, staccato, robotic, jerky fashion, the sound being all electronic keyboards and synth drums before the futuristic, electronically-distorted "we are the robots" vocal comes in, Dalek-style. Spacelab has that Trans-Europe Express chugging train feel about it.

  

Metropolis gives us lyrics again, at least a Teutonic, doleful chanting of the song's title as the synthesisers rapidly take us through the Düsseldorf night. Of course, David Bowie and Brian Eno will have loved this.

The Model was the group's surprising bit chart hit. Maybe not so surprising, as it has a totally infectious beat, quirky vocal and trendy, fashion-influenced lyrics. The synth riff opening is instantly recognisable and is often used as a soundtrack to items about fashion or new technology and so on. The German accented vocals were highly appealing too.

Neon Lights continues the slightly more poppy feel with vocals once more (at least at the beginning, it's a nine minute track) and a synth riff the like of which would be repeated a lot in the early eighties. The Man Machine had some of the sort of sounds David Bowie used in the "Heroes" and Low instrumentals. Its vocals are shrouded by sound effects over a stabbing slow keyboard loop.

As I said, a bit of this in small doses and I enjoy it. It is certainly clever and atmospheric. I couldn't listen to nothing else but this, though. The sound quality is excellent by the way.




The Strypes



Snapshot (2013)


Mystery Man/Blue Collar Jane/What The People Don't See/She's So Fine/I Can Tell/Angel Eyes/Perfect Storm/You Can't Judge A Book By Looking At The Cover/What A Shame/Hometown Girls/Heart Of The City/Rollin' And Tumblin'                    

When this was released, in 2013, The Strypes were a bunch of Irish teenagers. Bringing together the hundred miles an hour r'n'b of Dr. Feelgood, the sixties blues rock of The Yardbirds and the verve of the early Rolling Stones, yes, they were highly derivative, but none the worse for it. Lots of established rock musicians fell over themselves to praise them and have them as a support act, and they certainly were reassuring in that they were teenagers and sixties-style r'n'b was their thing - not the "X Factor", being in a boyband or rap.
                                                                                  
Mystery Man could have been from The Jam's In The City album, while Blue Collar Jane is so Dr. Feelgood it almost is them. What The People See, although drenched in wailing blues harmonica, has some Liam-Gallagher inspired sneering vocals and some of the sheer brash noise of early OasisShe's So Fine crackles and burns in a similar fashion. The pace doesn't let up for a minute and I Can Tell, of course, was popularised by Dr. Feelgood themselves.

Angel Eyes is a delicious slice of Southern swamp-style slow-burning blues with a great line "I ain't no bad guy, I ain't no Lee Van Cleef...". This is one of their own compositions and it ain't half bad. Perfect Storm is bassily and bluesily thumping. Yes there are a few rough edges to these recordings, but from a group of teenagers it is pretty damn good. You Can't Judge A Book By Looking At Its Cover is an energetic cover of an old Willie Dixon song. The bass runs on this are frenetically impressive in that rubbery 19th Nervous Breakdown way. What A Shame has a punky feel to it, almost Eddie & The Hot Rods meets The Buzzcocks.

Hometown Girls is even more frantic and full of punk energy, with slight echoes of early Stiff Little Fingers in places. Their cover of Nick Lowe's Heart Of The City is a raucous, energetic delight. The final track is a rousing cover of old blues classic, Muddy WatersRollin' And Tumblin'. This has been a breakneck half hour or so of fun, which is probably about enough, but it certainly gets you feeling lively.

The Strypes (2015)


Get Into It/I Need To Be Your Only/A Good Night's Sleep and A Cab Fare Home/Eighty-Four/Queen Of The Half Crown/(I Wanna Be Your) Everyday/Best Man/Three Streets And A Village Green/Now She's Gone/Cruel Brunette/Status Update/Scumbag City

While I like The Strypes, and admire their youthful talent and energy, I have to admit that they are very derivative, and wear their influences on their chest for all to hear. Their first album was very Dr. Feelgood, their third Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson, Graham Parker and new wave, while this one was owing a huge debt to Oasis, with a bit of 70s heavy rock thrown in. Fair play to them to trying different sorts of music, though, but their magpie tendencies means that they have a bit of a problem developing their own musical identity. You don't hear a Strypes track and think "oh, that's the Strypes".
                                              
Get Into It is a chunky big, industrial, grinding rock number. I Need To Be Your Only is very Deep Purple-ish in its big, pounding driving beat. The studenty A Good Night's Sleep and A Cab Fare Home is where the Oasis thing first comes in, especially on the big, crashing chorus. Eighty Four is one that is more of their own type of song, muscular, solid rock. Queen Of The Half Crown has a searing sort of Joe Bonamasssa-style bluesy rock guitar intro and a great solo in the middle. It is another one with a bit of the group's own personality on it.

(I Wanna Be Your) Everyday is so Oasis, it could almost be them, I'm afraid. Best Man is a lively, punky romp. Three Streets And A Village Green is a sort of Oasis meets new wave and plays a bit of heavy rock. Now She's Gone has a quirky, bassy rhythm but the same bombastic chorus shared. by many of the tracks. The music on the follow-up album was far more subtle than what was on offer here.

Cruel Brunette follows the same patch, although it has some late seventies influences and a touch of Stiff Little Fingers' early eighties material about it. Status Update has an appealing drum sound to it plus some bluesy harmonica. Scumbag City is an odd-ish track, with some echoes of The Doors in places.

Overall, this is an enjoyable album, but its lack of subtlety and full-on blast means that by the time its twelve tracks are done, I am fine with that.



Spitting Image (2017)


Behind Closed Doors/Consequence/(I Need A Break From) Holidays/Grin And Bear It/Easy Riding/Great Expectations/Garden Of Eden/A Different Kind Of Tension/Get Over It Quickly/Turnin' My Back/Black Shades Over Red Eyes/Mama Give Me Order/Oh Cruel World           
While The Strypes' first album was their Dr. Feelgood album, all breakneck standard r'n'b and their second one was their Oasis album, this, their third offering was their "new wave" album. The influences of Elvis Costello & The Attractions, early Joe JacksonGraham Parker & The Rumour and even The Buzzcocks in places.
                              
They blatantly use The Only OnesAnother Girl Another Planet riff on Turnin' My Back and (I Need A Break From) Holidays is incredibly This Year's Model era Elvis Costello, with its pumping organ sound and distinctive bass runs. Yes, they are very much a derivative, jackdaw-type band, but they plunder a different artist/genre for each album. I am not sure they do it because they can't think of their own stuff to write, I think they do it simply because they love the music and want to do music that sounds like it. No different to Led Zeppelin or The Rolling Stones dipping endlessly into the blues, The Jam raiding The Who's sixties catalogue or Bruce Springsteen paying homage to Phil Spector.

Black Shades Over Red Eyes is very Nick Lowe-esque, also from that same period/genre. It also has some very Byrds-like jangling guitar too. Lyrically and melodically there are hints of The Boomtown RatsBehind Closed Doors begins like something by The Damned before going into Nick Lowe territory once more. It has a Secret Affair-influenced brass break in the middle and the a Boomtown Rats distinct pace change before a tumultuous finish. Consequence actually sounds sort of Magazine/Gang Of Four post-punk in places in its drum/guitar riff interplay. The "yeah-eh" vocal part is just like Elvis Costello'Less Than Zero and it harks back to the pre-Attractions My Aim Is True album.

Grin And Bear It is back to The Boomtown Rats with some Squeeze-style lyrics. Easy Riding  is more their own take on the genre, with less direct steals, even some corking blues harmonica too. Great Expectations comes clearly from The Boomtown Rats' Someone's Looking At YouJoey's On The Street Again and When The Night Comes, with shades of Thin Lizzy's street narratives thrown in. There is even a wailing Rat Trap meets Clarence Clemons saxophone at the end. Garden Of Eden is an evocative, mysterious, bluesy number that brings to mind Willy De Ville's solo work, albeit with a different voice but the cadences of the verses and melody are very similar to some of his stuff. This is my favourite track on the album.

A Different Kind Of Tension has Elvis Costello meeting The Buzzcocks. The former musically, the latter for the title (a direct lift from the 1979 Buzzcocks album) and chorus. Get It Over Quickly is a thumping, typically new wave rocker with another Squeeze feel to it. Mama Give Me Order is a stark, acoustic ballad that is completely different to anything else on the album, with large hints of country rock Americana about it. Oh Cruel World has a Bo DiddleyMona/Not Fade Away drum and harmonica intro and ends the album on a melodic, catchy, rhythmic note. As I said earlier, yes, this album has so many influences working on it, but it doesn't mean it is not an enjoyable album.



Patti Smith




Horses (1975)


Gloria/Redondo Beach/Birdland/Free Money/Kimberley/Break It Up/Land/Elegie      
                                                        
My goodness this album had balls. It was something really quite unique in 1975. Female artists didn't do this sort of thing. Yes, Janis Joplin had sung the blues with the best of them, but she was long gone. Suzi Quatro played the glam game but Patti Smith was something quite unique. Punk before punk existed, she dressed like a man, cursed like one, sang with a sneer and a lascivious leer of a voice. She really was quite iconic. She pre-dated punk/new wave by a year here, almost seeming to anticipate it. There is a convincing case for this being one of the first true punk albums. To an extent, though, as there was still a lot of rock in Smith and her band's music. The "punk" came from the attitude.

Her cover of Van Morrison's Gloria with her own added lyrics - "Jesus died for somebody's sins but not mine..." has an in-your-face punky energy that never lets up for a minute. The original was good, but this is surely the definitive version. The reggae-tinged and mysterious Redondo Beach continues the beguiling quality before the first of the stream of consciousness pieces in the "poem set to music" of Birdland. Patti narrates her poetry over a stark, grandiose piano backing before being joined by some searing guitar that surely David Bowie was influenced by for his "Heroes" album three years later. I have to admit that it is an acquired listen and it grates just a little by the end of the track, but that still mustn't be allowed to detract from its brilliance, and its remarkable imagery. "Her eyes were just two wide opals...". By the end of it you feel that Jim Morrison had a daughter and here she was.


Free Money is a piano-driven slow burning rock number, with a rumbling bass line and some haunting vocals. There is some muscular rock guitar and drums on it, particularly when the tempo kicks off after a while, in a Velvet Underground fashion. It ends in a crescendo of rolling, rattling drums and Smith spits out her lyrics with yet more pure punk energy.

My favourite has always been the thumpingly insistent, powerful and seductive Kimberley, with its killer organ swirl and guitar. Smith's vocals on this are superb. The wailing guitar-driven Break It Up is excellent too, almost anthemic in its chorus. The closer, Land, is the other stream of consciousness track, the equivalent of The DoorsThe End. This is an exhilarating track. When Patti sings "do you know how to pony, like Bony Moronie..." and the riffy guitars kick in it is one of the best moments on the album. For 1975, it is an incredibly adventurous, ground-breaking piece. When Patti rants away near the end you know just what Siouxsie Sioux was listening to in late 1975/early 1976. Elegie is a sombre, mournful, dare I say elegiac end to the album.

The Velvet UndergroundThe Doors, David BowieLou Reed's solo material, The New York Dolls. They are all in here but the result is something palpably unique.

Easter (1978)


Till Victory/Space Monkey/Because The Night/Ghost Dance/Babelogue/Rock 'n' Roll N....../Privilege (Set Me Free)/We Three/25th Floor/High On Rebellion/Easter          

Patti Smith had not released anything for two years after suffering a stage fall and subsequent injury. This was her third album and is the most well-known, largely because of the huge hit single it contained. It was released into the whirlpool of punk/new wave and further cemented her annointance  as the "high priestess of punk" - spiritual Godmother to all the Siouxsies, Slits, Poly Styrenes, Gaye Adverts, Runaways and Toyahs out there. At the time, the album was hailed a bit like that - "you like Siouxsie?", now here's the real thing..." and so on. Personally I always found Smith to be more of a rock artist with a rebellious, don't give a .... punky attitude, as opposed to a bona fide punk. This album probably backs that up. It is a rock album, really, with clear punky and post-punk overtones.

Patti liked to make a statement, usually through her lyrics/poetry. Here, she did it by sporting unshaved armpits on the cover. Although to bother about it might be seen as shallow, she knew exactly what she was doing by her pose.
                                              
The album kicks off with the punky, riffy Till Victory which laid down the markers the album. This sort of thing fitted right in with the milieu of early 1978. Space Monkey combines a delicious post-punk sound with a genuine Stones influence and distinct echoes of Dancing With Mr. D. Patti found time in it to narrate a bit of her avant-garde poetry, briefly, too.

  

The big hit, of course, was the cover of Bruce Springsteen's Because The Night. Springsteen, at the time, was still a relatively "cult" artist, particularly in the UK, so it made little impact that this was one of his songs. It was taken in isolation, appreciated for the great rock song it is, and duly charted. It remains Smith's only chart hit. The producer of this album, incidentally, was Jimmy Iovine, who also produced Springsteen's classic Darkness On The Edge Of Town in the same year.

Ghost Dance is a mysterious, semi-chanted song featuring Native American lyrics in places. It owes a lot to David Bowie, for me, just in its feel, somehow. There was nothing "punk" about it, that's for sure. Babelogue is an f-word strewn narration of a stream of consciousness poem, recorded live. Bizarrely, the crowd clap hysterically along to her rabid, rapid-fire utterances, as if to give it a rhythm. The poem morphs dramatically into the magnificent riffs of Rock 'n' Roll N......  which was actually a pretty good representation of punk, in both delivery and ethos. It is one of the album's high points. "Outside of society...." the song proclaims. If that wasn't punk, then what was, I guess.

Up next is the album's other classic, the Gothic rock of Privilege (Set Me Free) which builds up with a churchy organ backing before the riffs and Patti's soaring voice kick in. It is full of religious references and a delightfully rebellious vocal. Great stuff. We Three is a beautifully deep, torch song-style mournful but deliciously bassy rock ballad. Smith's vocal is once again superb, as is the atmosphere. 25th Floor is another great, riffy rock song with a punky undertone and ambience. High On Rebellion is a forerunner of grunge, an assault of guitars, drums and angry vocals. The album ends with the grandoise Easter, featuring Smith's plaintive vocal over a single beat and some superb guitar. Once more, it is full of religious imagery. Smith was eaten up with religious confusion long before Madonna. As for "Girl Power", this was it, nearly twenty years earlier.



Thursday, 30 May 2019

Peter Tosh




"I travel the garden of music, thru inspiration. It's a large, very large garden, seen?" - Peter Tosh

Legalize It (1976)


Legalize I/Burial/Wat'cha Gonna Do?/No Sympathy/Why Must I Cry/Igziabeher (Let Jah Be Praised)/Ketchy Shuby/Till Your Well Runs Dry/Brand New Second Hand   

This was Peter Tosh's debut album after leaving Bob Marley & The Wailers. Most of it was recorded in 1975 and released the following year. It is not as "full on" in its issue-driven messages as subsequent albums, containing a few more "fun" numbers. However, Tosh's obsession with marijuana and his feelings of persecution by the police over his liberal use of it are strongly represented on the album. He was arrested several times, so he definitely had an axe to grind. The follow-up album, Equal Rights is far more militant, however. There is also a Rasta devotional number, reflecting the powerful "roots" movement that was prominent in many reggae recordings in this period. This is a roots album, a Rasta "conscious" album, a ganja album, but it also is a very catchy, melodic one too, for Tosh had a real ear for a killer tune. It is certainly not all deep, dense, dubby stuff as Tosh knew how to harness those delicious horns and skanking riddims. There are several "relationship" numbers on here as well.

    
                      
Legalize It is a slow burning groove in praise of marijuana calling, obviously, for its legalisation. As well as that, asthma, tuberculosis and glaucoma are some of the ailments Tosh claims the herb is good for. Burial is a big, bassy Wailers-esque number featuring some excellent guitar and organ backing. The lighter side of Peter Tosh first arrives in the tuneful, infectious fluff of Wat'cha Gonna Do. For all his pontificating, he definitely had a more carefree side, both lyrically and musically. The Wailers missed him when he left.

No Sympathy again echoes some of the material on The WailersCatch A Fire and Burnin' albums. It is a heavy rhythm, but a lilting one at the same time. Why Must I Cry is a gentle, romantic skank. The mysterious Igziabeher (Let Jah Be Praised) is the first true Rasta proclamation.  It is packed full of dubby resonance and lyrics warning of earthquakes, lightning, fire and brimstone. Ketchy Shuby is a singalong piece of enjoyable nonsense with a nice easy skank to it. Nice bass line on it too.

Till Your Well Runs Dry is a typical Peter Tosh song that mixes fast and slow rhythms on another one with a romantic feel to it. It features some great electric guitar near the end. Brand New Second Hand once again summons up the 1973 Wailers spirit. Overall, this is an enjoyable, surprisingly light-hearted album in places. All Tosh's albums are pretty accessible, it has to be said. As I pointed out earlier, he could write a good tune.

The "legacy edition" features the "original Jamaican mix" of the album (similar to Catch A Fire). These mixes are slightly heavier, rootsier and are full of atmosphere.

Equal Rights (1977)


Get Up Stand Up/Downpressor Man/I Am That I Am/Stepping Razor/Equal Rights/African/Jah Guide/Apartheid/400 Years/Hammer            

Peter Tosh’s 1977 Equal Rights was something of a breakthrough album, commercially. It was his second album and he was attempting to match old mate Bob Marley’s incredible global success (1977 was the year of Marley’s massively successful Exodus album). Equal Rights did pretty well, and Tosh became more well-known as a result, but despite his best efforts, he never quite made it.

Tosh was an “issues” kind of guy. The album was very political. For more so than religiously devotional. Political matters were far more to the fore than the common Rasta “give thanks and praise” roots fare. He didn’t have the ability that Marley did to mix political awareness with an instinct for a commercial tune, neither did he feel the need to occasionally leave the politics and go down the Three Little Birds or Is This Love route. There lies the explanation for his never being as big as Marley. Peter was too political, Bunny Wailer maybe too Rasta, Marley was both, and much more. Marley could always ensure his political utterances never overwhelmed his material by releasing a Kaya after every Rastaman Vibration, or releasing Jamming as a single, or One Love.
   
Anyway, I'm not here to talk about Marley. The albums starts, ironically, though, with a cover of Get Up, Stand Up, one of Tosh’s contributions to Marley’s Burnin’ album. While having an excellent, upbeat rootsy backing, Tosh’s vocal delivery is strangely staccato and sort of stuttering. Hard to describe, but it just sounds right, somehow. Downpressor Man is a funky-ish, powerful roots number. Tosh had a very melodious, emotive voice, however, which lifts even the heaviest politically motivated roots number to something appealing and lighter. This may be a heavy album, ideologically, but it has many light musical touches. I Am That I Am is a vibrant, slightly clunky number, while Stepping Razor has some excellent light guitar licks over a heavy, bassy backing and Tosh’s voice once again has that yearning quality. It has a real soul to it. The remastered sound on the album is excellent throughout, emphasising all parts of the music equally - bass and treble are perfectly aligned. Stepping Razor also has some searing rock guitar in it. Tosh was never afraid to use rock guitar to enhance a track.

Equal Rights has a captivating, affecting melodious intro and Tosh’s voice just sounds marvellously sad and pleading on here. This quality is something almost unique to Tosh, although South Africa’s Lucky Dube got very close to it, on the same type of material. The song is, obviously, a plea for equal rights, yet is delivered almost beautifully and in such a laid-back manner so as to diffuse all militant anger. Tosh is an angry singer, but his voice just never sounds angry, just intuitive, instinctive and soulful. African is another aware song. I love it. Very catchy and some great lyrics about all black people being African, inside. Tosh has managed here to merge both political consciousness and his impeccable ear for a melody.

Jah Guide is the album’s one concession to Jah and religious matter. It has a funky, clavinet backing and some authentic roots rhythm, with some laid-back horns adding to the general relaxed feel of the song. Not really a song of fervour. Tosh sounds lazily accepting. Apartheid is an excellent, rousing number with obviously admirable sentiments that were completely relevant at the time. It was a fine way to end an earnest album. Personally, I do not find the political message as overwhelming as some reviewers I have read have done. Musically, it is very appealing and, for me, the message in the songs is fine, and necessary.



Bush Doctor (1978)


(You Gotta Walk) Don't Look Back/Pick Myself Up/I'm The Toughest/Soon Come/Moses The Prophet/Bush Doctor/Stand Firm/Dem Ha Fe Get A Beatin'/Creation       

This was Peter Tosh's first release on The Rolling Stones label and, while it was a bit of an obvious attempt to cash in on the reggae/rock crossover that punk had inspired and also to bring Tosh's music to a mainstream radio audience, like his old mate Bob Marley (who was off conquering the world), it was also an album that stuck to its essential roots feel. It is still quite a rootsy album, in places, but the overall feel is one of carefree, lively, toe-tapping, skanking enjoyment. It is by far Tosh's most accessible album.
              
The opener was a cover of The Temptations(You Gotta Walk) Don't look Back and featured a somewhat self-conscious vocal duet between Tosh and Mick Jagger, but, despite that, it is still a radio-friendly catchy number, and indeed was a minor hit. It succeeded in bringing Tosh's name further into the limelight for a while, and the album was quite a good seller, probably Tosh's most successful. Both the uplifting Pick Myself Up and I'm The Toughest are lively, quite poppy offerings, with a commercial skanking beat, saxophone on the latter and singalong refrains. These are very much attempts to plough the same furrow as Bob Marley in their obviously accessible melodies. Reggae for the masses. Not that they aren't both immensely appealing songs.

Soon Come is another upbeat number, full of punchy horns and a catchy chorus. It is probably time for a bit of Rasta consciousness and it arrives in Moses The Prophet with its Biblical warnings, but it is still delivered over an infectious, energetic beat, as indeed is Bush Doctor, which has Tosh telling us the cigarettes are bad for us, so we should legalise marijuana. Both these songs are once again pretty irresistible. Stand Firm is the most rootsy cut so far, heavier and bassier. It is enhanced as is all the album by some great guitar. The guitar on here, and on the previous track, is played by none other than Keith Richards, always The Stones' biggest reggae fan. The guitar is not the usual Richards riff, though, it is a wah-wah skank.

Dem Ha Fe Get A Beatin' is an old Wailers song and it contains an evocative vocal from Tosh. Again, it is a really exhilarating number. The one song that breaks the album's mould is the unusual Creation, a six minute mix of Handel's Messiah, gospelly female backing vocals, The Bible's creation story, thunderbolt sound effects, wave sounds and a spoken vocal which has Tosh proclaiming his spiritual devotion. There is no reggae in the track at all, just a gentle acoustic guitar. It is a very odd, incongruous track but, that aside, this album is a true pleasure from beginning to end. Keith Richards said that Tosh was a bit difficult to work with in his rather inconsistent, unreliable way, but Keith (a bit that way himself) just muddled along, (man), and the results are a delightful album that just has a real unbridled joie de vivre about it.



Mystic Man (1979)


Mystic Man/Recruiting Soldiers/Can't You See/Jah Say No/Fight On/Buk-In-Hamm Palace/The Day The Dollar Die/Crystal Ball/Rumours Of War           

This is one of my favourite Peter Tosh albums. It perfectly encapsulates his unique brand of melodic militancy. However righteous he gets over a number of subjects he does so against an addictive, tuneful rhythmic skank of a backing that just puts a smile on your face. Some have said that Tosh's militancy was why he didn't make it like his old mate Bob Marley did, overlooking the fact that Marley's 1978 album, Survival, was, if anything, more full of political conviction and message than this one. Quite why Tosh didn't become more than a cult-ish acquired taste was a bit of a mystery.

It is nice to see him smiling as he unicycles on the back cover, as his expression was normally serious.
                        
Mystic Man has Peter telling us how he is indeed a mystic man and he doesn't eat frankfurters ("garbage"), or hamburgers, or drink green soda pop. Most righteous, but I enjoy a frankfurter! Sorry Peter. Recruiting Soldiers is a wonderfully melodic skank, yes it is pious but it is so catchy too, with some saxophone in it too. The lilting of it shows just how much South African reggae star Lucky Dube was influenced by Tosh. I love this. Love it. Tosh's voice is just so evocative and the whole thing is just great. Similarly impressive is the guitar-driven groove of Can't You See, enriched by some excellent percussion and backing vocals.

Jah Say No continues the trend of presenting Rasta conscious, devotional songs in a most endearing, catchy reggae style. Fight On confronts the evils of South African apartheid face to face - freedom, no compromise. Buk-In-Hamm Palace is an amusing piece of disco/reggae concerning Tosh imagining himself smoking ganga in The Queen's residence. Musically, it is an interesting merger of the two styles and one that was rarely attempted. At times it has some very Euro-disco keyboards. Check out those disco horns too. This should have been a dancefloor hit.

The Day The Dollar Die is a superb track, full of relevance and cutting comment over a rootsy rhythm. Crystal Ball is a return to the upbeat groove of the sort that inspired Lucky Dube - all skanking guitars and female backing vocals. Rumours Of War is another rootsy number lightened by its innate melody and backing vocals.

This album is a pleasure from beginning to end. If you want to dip into the music of this underrated and sadly missed reggae artist, you can't go far wrong here.

Wanted Dread And Alive (1981)


Coming In Hot/Nothing But Love/Reggaemylitis/Rok with Me/Oh Bumbo Klaat/Wanted Dread And Alive/Rastafari Is/Guide Me From My Friends/Fools Die (For Want Of Wisdom) 

After a most agreeable, poppy but righteous album in 1979's Mystic ManPeter Tosh entered the new decade with another offering that mixed a militant anger with an innate, instinctive ear for a hook and a melody. This was the final of the three albums Tosh recorded for The Rolling Stones' record label.

Coming In Hot is a deeper, rootsier groove than anything on the previous album. Nothing But Love finds Tosh duetting with disco soulstress Gwen Guthrie on a soul-influenced smooth number, full of sweet horns and a laid-back lush slow disco beat. It is far more disco/soul than it is reggae. Reggaemylitis is a rootsy slow skank, with some deep bass and appealing saxophone enhancements. Tosh is often quite humorous in his songs and here he is claiming to have "reggaemylitis" affecting all his internal organs. Rok With Me is a typical-sounding Tosh number, full of intoxicating rhythm and a great vocal. It is an excellent, summer-sounding song. A bit Aswad-like.

Oh Bumbo Klaat utilises the common patois form of abuse to point the finger at someone who is to blame. Once again, though, the anger is diluted by the delicious melody and vibe of the song and Tosh's moving, evocative voice. Wanted Dread Or Alive has some delicious keyboard riffery lurking under its one-drop backbeat and lyrically it revisits the old I Shot The Sheriff theme. They're all out to get Peter, those "evil forces". Rastafari Is is the first blatantly Rastafarian devotional piece of praise, unsurprisingly, it features traditional Rastafarian drumming.

Guide Me From My Friends is a keyboard and bass-driven slow burner. Fools Die (For Want Of Wisdom) is a complete departure from the reggae of the rest of the album. It is Tosh singing gently over a keyboard and flute backing about those whom he perceives to have a lack of wisdom. Every now and again Tosh would do a non-reggae song. This one lasts seven minutes plus, which was actually quite unusual.

The original Jamaican and US releases contained the typical Tosh fare of The Poor Man Feel It, the dubby mysterious skank of Cold Blood and That's What They Will Do instead of Rok With MeOh Bumbo Klaat and Guide Me From My Friends. Assessing both permutations, I feel the Jamaican version is the slightly more rootsy of the two. The best thing to do is get hold of the modern edition which contains all of them, of course.

MAMA AFRICA (1983)


Mama Africa/Glass House/Not Gonna Give Up/Stop That Train/Johnny B. Goode/Where You Gonna Run/Peace Treaty/Feel No Way/Maga Dog        

This was the last in a classic run of Peter Tosh albums, dating back to 1976. He would produce one more before his sad passing, but this run of six albums was what his career will always be assessed on. As with the others, it was an album of melodic militancy and was eminently listenable. It was actually the only one of his albums to break into the UK top 50. Personally, there are others I prefer slightly more, but only slightly, it has to be said.

Mama Africa sounds like it comes straight from South Africa's Lucky Dube, who was very influenced by Tosh. The female backing vocals are instantly recognisable as those of the South Africa townships. It is a seven minute plus extended groove that just gets into its rhythm and keeps going, without actually getting anywhere, not that it real matters. Glass House is more of an archetypal Tosh skank, with a message, but always melodic and catchy at the same time. Hot Gonna Give Up is a bassy, slow burning number fighting for South African freedom.


Stop The Train is, of course, the old Wailers song. Here is is given an updated brassy backing and features some captivating backing vocals. Chuck Berry's Johnny B. Goode was a strange choice for a cover, delivered as it is in a laid-back reggae groove. It actually sounds really good, as long as you don't think of it as being the song it is. Just think of it as a new song.

Where You Gonna Run is a saxophone-powered mid-pace skank. Peace Treaty is an odd song. Tosh, as an apparent man of peace, appears to be happy, in an "I told you so" way that a non-violent peace treaty between criminals hasn't worked. Tosh's motives were usually correct, but sometimes they went askew a little. Feel No Way gets back on track, while Maga Dog  sees Tosh righteous again, but, as with so many of his songs, its message is diluted considerably by its addictive, tuneful groove.

Despite Tosh's occasional lyrical indiscretions and sometimes muddled messages, his reggae was superb, and his heart was essentially in the right place. I miss his music, he was a true reggae great.



                         PETER TOSH

                           1944-1987

Magazine




Real Life (1978)


Definitive Gaze/My Tulpa/Shot By Both Sides/Recoil/Burst/Motorcade/The Great Beautician In The Sky/The Light Pours Out Of Me/Parade            
                                        
Magazine’s Real Life, from early 1978, has a case for being one of the first “post punk” albums. From the opening haughty synthesiser sweeps and jangly guitar of Definitive Gaze, this was no two minute aggressive thrash of a punk record. Despite bug-eyed singer Howard Devoto’s Rotten-esque sneering delivery there was no anger here, no rage against the system, just earnest, introspective self-questioning and paranoia. The music was, at times, melodic, almost classically-influenced in its keyboard pieces. It was also, however, brooding, dark, dull and strangely monotonous. I remember being at a Magazine gig in 1979 and thinking how incongruous the crowd of pogoing punks were. The band’s performance bored me rigid. This was arch, serious “new romantic” music two or three years early. I wanted to be punching the air and rebelling, not worrying about my own insecurities. Listening to it over later years, though, I have come to something of a greater appreciation of its merits.

My Tulpa has a deeper Devoto vocal and few vaguely punky bits but it is largely a song indicative of a new sound. Only Talking HeadsGang Of Four and Ultravox were really doing stuff like this. It was “art rock” reborn. My Tulpa even had a Roxy Music, circa 1972, madcap saxophone waling sound. The single and minor hit, Shot By Both Sides was the one that did appeal to the punks. It had the most punky hook, a fast beat and a leering vocal. I remember at the time, as a punk, quite liking this track, but dismissing the rest of the band’s material as “dull and boring”. Incidentally, the original single mix had a much punkier opening riff.

  

Recoil has an excellent drum, bass and keyboard, frenetic opening and a very punky refrain. Played at 100 miles an hour, it did, admittedly have an exciting punk appeal. Some great guitar on it too. Burst returns to the melancholic style that pervades most of the album. It is evocative and very atmospheric, however. Mysterious and mournful. Howard Devoto had been part of the early line-up of The Buzzcocks, but he bailed out pretty quickly - an astute, intelligent guy like him was probably never happy with punk’s posturings and short shelf-life.While punk’s fires were burning all around him, Devoto was writing songs like Motorcade with its classically-influenced keyboard passages. By the album’s release, those punk fires had lessened and music like this was to provide a new direction. It was like For Your Pleasure-era Roxy Music meeting The Velvet Underground with a little bit of Iggy Pop’s pre-punk punk energy thrown in, added to that a bit of David Byrne livewire vocals and persona. A heady, unusual mix indeed.

The Great Beautician In the Sky has almost 1930s Germanic keyboards. There was a unique experimentational nature to these tracks that is reminiscent of David Bowie’s Low and “Heroes” from not long before.



The Light Pours Out Of Me is, along with Shot By Both Sides my real abiding memory from the live gig I saw in 1978. Devoto delivered the song manically, like Ian Curtis in many ways, over a throbbing, insistent bass line. It is menacing, miserable and magnificent. For me, the band’s best track. Surely Joy Division were influenced by this. Half way through it breaks out into some superb guitar and the volume cranks up. Great stuff. Parade closes this very interesting album with some almost Parisian sounding keyboards and some (presumably deliberately) tired-sounding but overblown vocals from Devoto. It is all very pompous and pretentious, but, listening to it now, you realise just how ground-breaking this album was. It led to a hundred earnest post-punk bands, eschewing both rock and punk stereotypes in their search of their ideal introspection.

PS - the bonus tracks include the single mix of Shot By Both Sides, the punky My Mind Ain't So Open (with more Roxy Music saxophone) and Touch And Go. Also, a superbly camp rendition of Goldfinger. Check it out. It's worth it.

The Correct Use Of Soap (1980)


Because You're Frightened/Model Worker/I'm A Party/You Never Knew Me/Philadelphia/I Want To Burn Again/Thank You (Falettin' Me Be Mice Elf Again)/Sweetheart Contract/Stuck/A Song From Under The Floorboards 

This was post-punk band Magazine's third studio album and is a pretty impressive one, very much catching the spirit of 1980, after punk but before new romantic. Their sound was all jangling, stabbing guitars, pounding drums, mysterious keyboards topped of by weird-looking singer Howard Devoto's classic post-punk voice.

Because You're Frightened is a superb, lively opener with a riff that sounds a lot like the one The Clash used on 1981's Police on My Back. This is as loose and melodic as Magazine had been thus far. Model Worker was even more so, surprisingly, sounding a bit like The Buzzcocks with its frantic, riffy beat and bleaty vocal. I'm A Party is a mannered, posturing post-punk veering to new romantic song. You Never Knew Me has distinct echoes of Soft Cell's Marc Almond in Howard Devoto's vocal delivery. The song also features some excellent guitar and bass lines and an atmospheric piano and bass interplay bit near the end.

  

Philadelphia is a very post-punk number that just has that very 1979-81 vibe to it that is difficult to describe but if you hear it it takes you to that era. I Want To Burn Again could have come straight from Lou Reed's 1973 Berlin album. again, it is very typical of its age and genre. The band's cover of Sly & The Family Stone's Thank You (Faletin' Me Be Mice Elf Again) is unexpected, but beautifully and deeply bassy. Post-punkers could do drug-crazed urban funk, it seems. Sweetheart Contract is another very archetypal post-punk number, while the slight funky edge returns on  Stuck.

They saved the best to last on this album. A Song From Under The Floorboards is a Soft Cell-ish slow burning masterpiece in the style of The Light Pours Out Of Me. It is full of great keyboard runs, wonderful guitar, bass and one of Devoto's best vocals. Great stuff. Magazine split the following year after only one more album. This, and Real Life were their best offerings.



The Specials




The Specials (1979)


A Message To You Rudy/Do The Dog/It's Up To You/Nite Klub/Doesn't Make It Alright/Concrete Jungle/Too Hot/Monkey Man/(Dawning Of A) New Era/Blank Expression/Stupid Marriage/Too Much Too Young/Little Bitch/You're Wondering Now     

The Specials, and this album in particular, were considered by most to be at the forefront of the brief but intense ska revival of 1979 to 1982 in the UK. The music, of course, borrowed heavily from the late fifties/early sixties Jamaican “ska” style of upbeat forerunner of reggae and merged it with late seventies UK urban punk sensibilities. Many of the songs expressed a social dissatisfaction not usually prevalent in the original ska tunes, reflecting the bleak urban landscapes of the UK in 1979, particularly The Specials’ home city of Coventry. The album just fitted in perfectly with the whole punk/reggae crossover thing that was so relevant in 1979. A young, angry, cynical multi-racial group were perfect for the era into which they came.
                      
The album kicks off with the delicious, catchy cover of Dandy Livingstone’s A Message To You Rudy with veteran trombonist Rico Rodriguez on top form. His parts make the song. Do The Dog a Get Off My Cloud/My Obsession drum intro and is a frantic rant about punks, teds, skinheads and the like, exhorting them to all get along together and do the dog, whatever that was. It's Up To You confronts racism and has that typical punky reggae sound used by artists like Joe Jackson and The Police. Great full bassy sound on this remastering. Elvis Costello produced this album and you can certainly tell on this track, certainly on the frantic organ intro. Nite Klub is another fast-paced pounding skank, with some excellent bass/drum/trombone interaction. The best bit on the track.

  

One of my favourites is Doesn't Make It Alright. The lyrics are as true today as they were then. Great rhythm to it and some killer guitar. Stiff Little Fingers covered it to great effect on their 1980 Nobody’s Heroes album. Some terrace chanting and clapping-style drums introduce the upbeat, cutting Concrete Jungle. It sounds just a little dated now, but has a great bass line. Too Hot is authentic reggae, a cover of a Prince Buster song, with a rootsy, heavy beat and some Jamaican vocals about rude boys and guns and so on. A great groove to this one. Turn it up, the sound is punchily impressive. The irresistible Monkey Man was originally done by Toots & The Maytals and The Specials’ version here is pretty true to the original. It is a studio recording but made to sound as if it is live, with a spoken introduction.

Dawning Of A New Era is a frantic piece of funky rock-influenced ska and Blank Expression has periods of authentic heavy reggae in amongst the sneering punk lyrics.

I have always found the lyrical content of Too Much Too Young somewhat trite, misogynist and puerile, to be brutally honest. Even as a twenty-one year-old punk I felt that. The unnecessarily raucous Stupid Marriage and the idiotic Little Bitch follow the same lines, unfortunately. It is worth remembering that the band were pretty young when they wrote these songs, so it is forgivable.  I guess they thought they were being funny, or ironic, or both. The album cut of Too Much Too Young is the slowed-down, far more reggae-ish extended six minute one, whereas the number one single everyone knows was a live, mega-fast two minute trash. Personally, though, I prefer the longer one with its dub flavours.

You're Wondering Now is a mournful, harmonious lament to end the lively proceedings. All in all, an impressive debut. There were two excellent singles in Gangsters and Rat Race that didn’t make it on to the album.

On a personal level, I was always more of a fan of The Beat and The Selecter from the two-tone genre. All three were great bands though. Those few short years were really exciting times.




More Specials (1980)


Enjoy Yourself (Later Than You Think)/Man At C & A/Hey Little Rich Girl/Do Nothing/Pearl's Cafe/Sock It To 'Em J.B./Stereotype/Stereotypes Pt. 2/Holiday Fortnight/I Can't Stand It/International Jet Set/Enjoy Yourself (Reprise)           

After such a successful debut album the previous year, The Specials returned with Jerry Dammers' vision of incorporating elements of jazz, lounge music, easy listening and muzak to the fore on this melting pot of styles. Despite some oddball moments, it is not quite as eclectic as has popularly been said to be over the years and quite a lot of the material, particularly in the first half of the album retains the group's trademark ska and brass skanking sound. It is just not as obvious as on the previous outing. The album has been summarily dismissed by many in the subsequent years and, although clearly not as good as its predecessor, it is worthy of dipping into.

Dammers fell out with other members of the band after this and they gradually imploded over time, which was a shame. Not before they had returned with the now iconic number one, Ghost Town, in 1981, however.

                     
Enjoy Yourself (Later Than You Think) is a hammy, calypso meets ska romp to start the album with. It sounds more like an album closer to me. It is pleasant and singalong enough, but a bit throwaway, a bit like Dylan'Rainy Day WomenMan At C & A, a dubby, brassy number is more like it, full of that doom-laden Specials atmosphere. The bass on this is sonorous and beautifully deep. This is The Specials at their best. Hey Little Rich Girl is another ska-style number that continues the vibe from the first album.

The one hit single on here is the delicious, melodic but deeply melancholy Do Nothing that is so nostalgic for me of 1980. Wonderful trombone solo from Rico Rodriguez too. Pearl's Cafe has a good skank to it, but the vocal is a bit weak, to be honest. The middle in the middle and the funny jazzy vibes make it all a bit of a mess by the end, unfortunately. The sentiments expressed are funny, though, ("it's all a load of .....") as if they were something you would hear at Pearl's Cafe, which is, of course, very true. Sock It To 'Em J.B. is a cover of a sixties number by I am not sure who and it is updated here to namecheck further James Bond films. it is an upbeat piece of harmless, enjoyable fun.

Stereotypes/Stereotypes Pt 2 is an extended, inventive, adventurous dubby number with a wonderful dub second half. Holiday Fortnight is a joyous, brassy instrumental, with some Mexican mariachi-style horns. I Can't Stand It is the start of the run of material which caused people to say that The Specials had gone all jazzy and "lounge bar". It sounds very disposable and incongruous, I have to say, but dig a little deeper and it has hidden appeal. Fair play to The Specials for attempting to diversify a little, much like The Clash did a year later on Sandinista!.

International Jet Set continues the experimentation on a totally odd piece that, once again, requires delving into a bit more.  Maybe I'm just fooling myself, maybe it's just rubbish!

Seriously, though, give it a couple of new listens. It wasn't that bad.




Stereo-Typical: A's, B's & Rarities


This is an excellent compilation covering, as the title suggests, the singles, their ‘b’ sides and some rarities/extended mixes from two-tone group The Specials.

The sound is quality excellent and the music speaks for itself. Plenty of quality singles, many not available on either of the group’s studio albums - Gangsters; the live single short, frantically fast version of Too Much Too YoungRat RaceFree Nelson Mandela and Ghost Town, also included here in its extended, dubby version, which is excellent. Other well-known tracks are the catchy Message To You Rudy, the upbeat, ska instrumental Guns Of Navarone (a live recording), and the underrated, tuneful Do Nothing.

Skinhead Symphony is in interesting medley of late 60s/early 70s reggae classics sung over a swirling Liquidator-style organ backing. Rude Boys Outta Jail is a fast-paced ska romp that has its appeal. To be honest, listening to the debut album or The Singles, which includes the hits chronologically, is a more fulfilling experience and this is a “fans only” thing. But, as a fan, I can say it has its interest.

 

I never quite understood the group’s odd “lounge music” phase that accounted for a lot of their second album, but the tracks included here - Stereotype and International Jet Set are unconvincing, but shall we say, still intriguing. The former is full of Spanish guitar and Mexican-style brass. It has an appeal, though, all the same. The latter is a perplexing concoction as well. Fair play to the band for attempting to diversify, I guess. The more you listen to them, the more you appreciate them.

The cover of Bob Dylan’s Maggie’s Farm doesn’t do it for me, I’m afraid, similarly the country-ish rock ‘n’ roll of Braggin’ And Tryin’ Not To Lie. It’s ok, but not really The Specials at all. Just not convinced by these two.

Rude Boys Outta Jail (Version) is nowhere near as good as the previous version, it is all a bit messy, tuneless and raucous. The politically-aware and dubby Why? Is a return to quality as is Friday Night, Saturday MorningThe Boiler with Johnny Reggae-style vocals from The Bodysnatchers’ Rhoda Dakar, is amusing and quirky, at the beginning, until it turns into a shocking nightmare. Listen to it and you’ll realise why. It is a truly disturbing song. The instrumental version is great, though. Very atmospheric, rhythmic and haunting. Jungle Music is an upbeat semi-instrumental. Rasta Call You is a full-on, pumping horn-driven instrumental with dance music bits in places. Easter Island is pleasant enough, but the compilation, at this point, is in danger of fizzling out into instrumentals.

Racist Friend is a dub-heavy, cutting, relevant return to form, as, of course, is Nelson Mandela with its addictive trumpet riff. The rest of the material is largely extended versions, three other different versions of Nelson Mandela and dub versions with a few highlights, like Bright Lights, and the Tom Tom Club feel of the extended version of Can’t Get A Break.

Overall an interesting and worthwhile compilation.