Following what happened to The Specials after their 2nd LP, More Specials, the beginning of The Fun Boy Three, and the start-up of The Special AKA, since 1981, is exhausting. Check the Wiki page if you are interested, but be aware even in short form it is a long read:
As of 2019, the Specials are back. Leader/Keyboardist Jerry Dammers and guitarist Roddy Radiation are not on board. Original drummer John Bradbury passed away in 2015. The reformed Specials feature original singer Terry Hall, singer/guitarist Lynval Golding, and bassist Horace Panter. Steve Craddock (from Paul Weller’s band) is on guitar. This is as close to the old Specials as we’ve seen in a long time, and their new LP Encore is a stunner.
This LP reminds me a bit of Madness and their late period masterpiece The Liberty Of Norton Folgate. On Norton, Madness drops the early nutty-boys ska sound for a rhythmic Kinks vibe. On Encore, The Specials drop the Prince Buster ska sound for something approximating reggae pop. The sound and approach is excellent, and The Specials haven’t lost their sharp lyrical attack. The scourge of racism and disillusionment with political leadership are the main themes, all delivered devastatingly well.
They open with ‘Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys,’ a funky cover from the early -70’s multiracial band, The Equals, with a great groove that wouldn’t sound bad on an Edwin Starr record. ‘BLM’ is Lynval Goldings’ tale of racism through his life, echoing disappointment with Winston Churchill. All set to a super greasy funk. ‘Vote For Me’ has a bit of the Dammers-era keyboard sound, a jaunty reggae for Terry Hall to tear down politicians and their hypocrisy. It’s a classic Specials track.
Next up is a surprising cover of the Fun Boy Three track ‘The Lunatics,’ lyrics as prescient as ever, the treatment less dour, more latin flavored. ‘Breaking Point' is a bizarre, if effective Jacques Brel flavored attack on technology. ‘Blam Blam Fever’ is a cover of an obscure 60’s reggae side by The Valentines, attacking gun culture (yes, you, USA) and sounding like the perfect Specials tune.
From the new Specials website: https://www.thespecials.com/
‘The Ten Commandments’ is an answer song, a response to Prince Buster's Ten Commandments of Man (1965) which is essentially a list instructing a woman to be a supplicant to Prince Buster's ego. Now it's an all-out fuck-you, kick-ass glorious Ten Commandments addressing rape culture, misogyny, self-worth and alt-right "pseudo-intellectuals on the internet" with 20-year-old Saffiyah Khan. Saffiyah was photographed in 2017 squaring up to a member of the EDL, with the most incredible beatific smile on her face, at an anti-racist march in Birmingham. She was wearing a Specials t-shirt. The band saw the photo and got in touch.