Review: The English Beat - Keep The Beat / The Complete Beat [Album]

Review: The English Beat - Keep The Beat / The Complete Beat [Album]

SHOUT! // "It's the sound of pioneering a movement, a movement that is still loved, cherished and followed today"

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Last Edited by: Ffion Davies May 20th, 2012.

To say I was a little excited when the golden opportunity of this review popped up is a massive understatement! Like a kid at Christmas? Ya darn tooting I was!
So where to begin with such a seminal Ska revival band such as The English Beat? Well, at the beginning would be the best place I suppose.

Like many, when I hear the term Ska, I immediately think, The Specials, The Selecter, even a bit of early Madness (by that I mean 'Night Boat To Cairo' not the chart hogging pop of 'It Must Be Love') but mainly up there at the forefront of the mind is The Beat (or for the purposes of this review The English Beat). Where, when or why the 'English' got tagged on I don't know, but I digress. So as I said, the beginning.

The late 70's and early 80's saw a massive burst in a 'Ska Revival'. The English Beat were at the spearhead of this movement, formed in dodgy Birmingham suburbs in 1978 the six piece band were led by vocalists Ranking Roger and Dave Wakeling with Andy Cox and David Steele taking on the choppy reggae guitar styles and throbbing bass notes respectively. Everett Morton supplied the funkiest of funky drumming, while the sax playing was provided by Saxa bringing into the fray the old school Jamaican Ska flavours (this guy had played alongside such masters as Desmond Dekker and Prince Buster, he knew how to groove!)

This was a band that along with The Specials set the whole 'Two Tone' movement into motion, they were setters, not followers. Visionaries setting out to change the face of music and as it happened, the face of the record charts too.

LISTEN // Tears Of A Clown

The first single release, an immense cover of Smokey Robinson's 'Tears of a Clown' slammed straight into the UK top ten at Number 6. This, remember is in a time when people voted with their feet, trudging into town to the record shops to buy singles and albums (Yes! Actual shops with vinyl records stacked inside?!)

They toured with The Clash, REM, Talking Heads, The Police, these guys were big.

Building a fusion of reggae guitar, funky basslines, that omnipotent sax and the divine drum beats all topped off with Ranking and Wakeling's wildly differing vocal styles (Ranking providing the ruff neck ragga, Wakeling the smooth white soulboy resonance) made for seriously infectious skank-nasty tunes. Tunes that still hold a hell of a lot of weight to this day. Many bands from that time now sound dated and a bit weathered, not so The English Beat, listening now even after 30 years the sounds still move them feet.

LISTEN // Mirror In The Bathroom

Listening to the forth coming 16 track compilation album Keep The Beat had me skanking round like a good 'un while trying to write this review. The bands song style brings a massive gurning smile. While the lyrical content is one of love, peace and unity there is a tone of unrest on many songs, reflecting the years where a youth of Britain were wanting political change. A youth disillusioned by a Tory government bleeding the Nation dry. A working class youth expressing their anger at the Thatcherite mechanics of privatisation, job losses, increasing unemployment and the emerging 'YUPPIE' culture for the privileged few. See 'Whine & Grine/Stand Down Margaret' 'Mirror In The Bathroom' and 'Get A Job'. The flip-side of this song writing were the love laments of 'Doors Of Your Heart' 'Can't Get Used To Losing You' and their earlier mentioned cover of the classic 'Tears Of A Clown'.

The guys had massive success throughout the 5 years they were together originally from 1978 to 1983. Releasing 3 massive selling albums in 3 years on their own 'Go Feet' record label. I Just Can't Stop It in 1980. Wha'ppen? In '81 and 1982's Special Beat Service. These albums are included in the special box-set release entitled 'The Complete Beat', as well as these discs, included is a bonus disc of 12” and Dub versions of their best loved tracks and another Bonus of sessions performed for the late great John Peel's Radio 1 show and live recordings from a gig at Boston's Opera House.

Musically, there is little that can be said other than it's the sound of pioneering a movement, a movement that is still loved, cherished and followed today. Ska is still a big hitter being taken up by many fresh faced young bands. See Manchester's Dirty North and Janice Graham Band or Wigan's Rasta4eyes.
The choppy guitars, funky drums, breath-taking sax and silky vocals of Wakeling mixed up Ranking's toasting bring bouncing, joyous feelings of warmth while pulling your knees up into the trademark dancing.

Lyrically, a great deal of the words have stood the test of time. Unfortunately this especially true of the social commentary, what with our nations current government structure.

Ah well. Let's forget the tumultuous politics for a while. Let's go SKANK CRAZY! “Go, Feet!”

The Complete Beat and Keep The Beat are released July 10th through SHOUT!

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