welcome back to the Skaject folks! today we’re taking a look at the 1979 debut record from The Specials, The Specials!

A Message To You Rudy, a cover of a Dandy Livingstone track, opens the record in real strong Jamaican ska style. real good track. really like Do the Dog, a song about battling between the different British subcultures of the time. It’s Up To You is a more mellow track – really dig the laid back groove, and its got a great solo too. Nite Klub has a fun ramp back up in energy after Up To You. the bridge here is especially excellent. Doesn’t Make It Alright is a nice plea for folks to act better. def not my fave but its pleasant, and even came around on the vocals here, which werent doing it for me the first listen or two. Concrete Jungle is another track calling for racial unity and decrying the violence in Britain at the time. this one’s a great listen. Too Hot, a Prince Buster track, continues that discussion, and its a p good track. Side Two opens with Monkey Man, a Toots & The Maytals cover and a rambunctious and silly track. im calling out the side change here cause i remember the second half of this record leaning a lil sillier, and this is a very good track to kick that off. yknow i say that but (Dawning of) A New Era, while an extremely musically fun track, def seems to be a lil critique of modernized society, haha. Blank Expression is an interesting lil track. Stupid Marriage is an overt reference to Prince Buster’s Judge Dread, and yo dang i love this track. made me extremely excited when i heard that opening skit. Too Much Too Young is based off a 1969 track from Lloyd Charmers called Birth Control – like the previous track, there’s def a criticism of the “traditional family” that i empathize with here, even if some of the specific bits arent quite how i’d have voiced them, haha. Little Bitch is one of the Specials tracks ive heard prior to this record, and yeah this is a great track. the closer here, You’re Wondering Now, was originally and Andy & Joey track but likely makes it here by way of The Skatalites.

faves – A Message To You Rudy, Do the Dog, Nite Klub, Concrete Jungle, (Dawning of) A New Era, Stupid Marriage, Little Bitch
dislikes –

yeah this was a great record. the energy and performances here are fantastic nearly throughout, with only a few exceptions. the album flow was great, mostly alternating in overall energy, giving some space for the higher energy tracks. really dug the outright covers, but i especially enjoyed the couple tracks that were more referential (Stupid Marraige being particularly fun for me on this journey).

its also cool to sit down and hear this record understanding what it came out of – British youth were deeply factional, with violence breaking out frequently between reactionary groups and immigrant communities, and many of the tracks here comment directly on that heated environment. this record, and the musical community it was in, is a coming together of the musical traditions of those immigrant communities, largely brought in by labels like Blue Beat, merged with that rising punk culture and rock and roll. and yeah, i felt that a lot more here than i did in the Madness debut, which felt much more lighthearted in nature.

The Specials – 9/10

next up, we’re checking out another debut record, this time from The Selecter, Too Much Pressure!

previous: One Step Beyond… | next: Too Much Pressure

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