The influence of the first album by The Specials, released in 1979, can hardly be overstated. It was the soundtrack of a generation, it changed people’s lives with its mix of attitude, fun and style. And it is obvious that this cannot be repeated. Now „Encore“ is here, 38 years after the release of the second album „More Specials“ and the subsequent split, and more than ten years after the band reformed and started touring again. I haven’t been as excited about a new release in a very long time. And you know what: The more I listen to “Encore“ the more I fall in love, much more than I had thought was possible. Horace Panter’s bass line to the first single „Vote For Me“ has been haunting me since the release a few weeks back, the chords echoing „Ghost Town“. And the tune delivered what I hadn’t dared to hope for: relevance today with nods to the past. That’s also true for the second single „10 Commandments“, which features the young activist Saffyah Khan and alludes to Prince Buster’s tune from the 60s: „The 10 Commandments.“ In its spoken word-style „The Commandments“ may remind you of „The Boiler“, a 2-Tone-single (1984) voiced by Rhoda Dakar. But it’s also very much in the here and now, giving a young Muslim woman the opportunity to speak up against sexism. There are two more spoken-word tunes on the album, which I find really cool, because the two voices left in The Specials, Terry Hall and Lynval Golding can become as personal as it gets here. Lynval talks about his experience as a black man in the UK and the USA, not holding back. Terry fills us in about his illness on „The Life And Times Of Man Called Depression“. And the list of remarkable tunes goes on, with „Blam Blam Fever“, a cover version from the 60s reggae artists The Valentines (including new verses from Lynval), destined to be a crowd pleaser on the next tour. The album starts off with a tribute to The Equals (the first mixed-race band in England) and, after some really dark statements, comes full-circle with a spark of positivity: „We Sell Hope.“
A few people have doubted that „Encore“ really counts as the third album by The Specials. Some other albums by various band members have been released in the 1990s under the name The Specials. Others asked: „Is it still The Specials, after only three of the original members are left?“ Of course it is, to me at least! I think either Jerry Dammers or Terry Hall must be involved if it’s The Specials. If someone engaged me in an academic discussion, I would only like to include The Special A.K.A.’s “In The Studio“ and count “Encore” as the fourth album. Guitarist Roddy Radiation and singer Neville Staple left the reunion for different reasons, drummer John Bradbury died. The fans from way back should better accept that it didn’t work out with Jerry in the reunion. It took myself a few years, too, but with this album I start to realize what a huge musician Nikolaj Torp Larsen is, the guy who replaced Jerry. According to Terry Hall (an interview article follows), Larsen is the fourth member in the band now, although not appearing on the promo pics. His input in the music and production has been massive. The other new musicians, Steve Cradock on guitar, Kenrick Rowe on drums are equally brilliant. And as The Specials have overcome their past as a dysfunctional family, I’m all in. Ready to celebrate „Encore“ on the tour.
Get The Specials – Encore, the vinyl now at amazon.
Get The Specials – Encore, the deluxe double cd at amazon.
Get The Specials – Encore, the album cd at amazon.
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Looking forward to hearing it and seeing them live again in London. Your review mirrors that if others I have read. I think many will be hoping for some ska but it’s probably more of a Rocksteady approach with the political issues of today in the lyrics.