Music Review: The Specials Revive Ska on Debut LP

The Specials LP

Elvis Costello produced all but one of the 15 tracks on the Specials‘ eponymous debut, but that’s not much of an indicator of what you can expect here. Thanks partly to Costello’s efforts and partly to the stylistic terrain, the group’s songs are characterized by the back-to-basics ambiance that also imbues many new-wave LPs. But this seven-man outfit, which stands at the forefront of Britain’s current ska revival, eschews both politics and straightforward rock in favor of an approach that combines calypso beats, reggae danceability, and American R&B. Driving energy and a myriad of subtle musical surprises make the set a treat, particularly when it comes to such covers as “A Message to You Rudy” and snappy originals like “It’s Up to You.”

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