Albums

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Ska & Rocksteady - Released February 1, 2019 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

In the midst of a punk explosion in the late ‘70s, the UK experienced a ska revival led by Madness and, most notably, The Specials. Originally from Coventry, the multicultural gang originally led by Jerry Dammers is now reviving the syncopated rhythms of Jamaican rocksteady and its derivative, ska. In the heart of a grey Thatcherian England, it seemed that their strict dress code (pork pie hats, black suits and chequered patterns) was mandatory to fully appreciate their singles A Message To You Rudy (a cover of Dandy Livingstone), Too Much Too Young or Gangsters, as well as their two albums, Specials in 1979 and More Specials in 1980. Going by the name of The Special AKA, they published the equally essential album In The Studio With in 1984, which topped the charts thanks to their hit song (Free) Nelson Mandela... In the middle of Winter 2019, the Specials broke their (very) long silence with Encore. However, Jerry Dammers – the author of their greatest songs - and Neville Staple are no longer in the group! Terry Hall, Lynval Golding and Horace Panter are certainly present but for purists, wouldn’t The Specials without Jerry Dammers be like... The Rolling Stones without Keith Richards? With the help of guitarist Steve Cradock (from Ocean Colour Scene), drummer Kenrick Rowe and pianist Nikolaj Torp Larsen, these 2019 Specials look great. Their ska style crosses soul with vintage disco (with a beautiful cover of Black Skinned Blue-Eyed Boys by The Equals) and they certainly don’t forget to comment on the socio-political climate just as they did at the start. As a bonus, we find eleven live tracks (with all the hits from the golden era!), recorded in Paris at the Bataclan on November 30, 2014, and in London at the Troxy on November 16, 2016. A rather successful comeback. © Marc Zisman/Qobuz

Reggae - Released October 26, 2018 | Tad's Record

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Reggae - Released August 10, 2018 | Trojan Records

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Reggae - Released June 29, 2018 | Playground Music

Reggae - Released June 22, 2018 | Mensch House Records

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Reggae - Released June 15, 2018 | Penthouse Records - VPAL Music

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Reggae - Released January 5, 2018 | Tad's Record - African Museum

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Reggae - Released October 11, 2017 | Penitentiary

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Reggae - Released October 27, 2017 | Tad’s Record Inc. - African Museum

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Reggae - Released August 25, 2017 | A&B Records - VP Records

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Reggae - Released June 2, 2017 | Tuff Gong

Reggae - Released April 28, 2017 | Tad's Record - African Museum

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Reggae - Released April 28, 2017 | Boom Shot Records - VPAL Music

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Dub - Released March 16, 2003 | Alía Discos

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Reggae - Released September 29, 2014 | Sanctuary Records

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Reggae - Released December 29, 2016 | Highpriest & Messengers

Reggae - Released December 16, 2016 | Upstairs Music

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Reggae - Released December 5, 1975 | Tuff Gong

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Reggae - Released December 5, 1975 | Tuff Gong

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Reggae - Released September 1, 2016 | Trojan Records

Alton Ellis created a template in the 1960s that subsequent Jamaican singers like Dennis Brown and Gregory Isaacs would follow to a T, combining soulful vocal phrasing, derived in part from American R&B, with hard island rhythms and a bent for romantic material into a surefire way to keep a presence on the charts. Although he is often celebrated for his subtle Jamaican interpretations of American pop hits (which often improved on the originals, as is the case here with Ellis' version of Chuck Jackson's "Willow Tree"), it is startling to realize how many of the best songs on this two-disc, 56-track compilation of Ellis' early years were actually written by the singer. "Dance Crasher," "Cry Tough," "The Preacher," "Black Man's World," "Harder and Harder," and "Better Get Your Heads Together" were all penned by Ellis, and his soaring tenor renders them both poignant and irresistible. It's also interesting how many of the tracks deal squarely with social issues, and while there are plenty of romantic ballads included here, Ellis clearly had a wider range of concerns than his public persona as a crooner would afford. Songs like "Cry Tough" (with its classic "how can a man be tougher than the world" interjection by Lloyd Charmers) are immortal, in part because of Ellis' emotive and nuanced vocals, but also because the writing is so smart, wise, and assured, not to mention timely and political. As an introduction to Ellis' classic early years (and in particular, his work with Treasure Isle producer Duke Reid), Be True to Yourself is hard to beat. ~ Steve Leggett