The Specials is the debut album by British ska revival band The Specials.
Released in 1979 on Jerry Dammers' 2Tone label, the album is seen by some as the defining moment in the UK ska scene. Produced by Elvis Costello, the album captures the disaffection and anger felt by the youth of the UK's "concrete jungle" - a phrase borrowed from Bob Marley's 1972 album Catch A Fire but equally apposite used here to describe the grim, violent inner cities of 1970s Britain.
Musically, the album encapsulates the wave of British ska, greatly reworking the original sound of 1960s Jamaican ska. The music shares the infectious energy and humour of the original sound, but injects new-found anger and punk sensibility. The resulting sound is considerably less laid-back and "Caribbean" sounding than original ska, and dispensed with much of the percussion and the larger horn sections used in the older variety. The Specials also brought guitar to the front of the mix; it had often been a secondary instrument in Jamaican ska. The album features a mixture of original material and several covers of classic Jamaican ska tracks, a debt which went uncredited on the 1979 release.
Many songs on The Specials' debut album were covers of older Jamaican songs. "Monkey Man" had been a hit for Toots & the Maytals in 1969, "Too Hot" was a Prince Buster original from 1966, and the opening track, "A Message to You, Rudy" was a Dandy Livingstone single in 1967. "You're Wondering Now" was originally performed by The Skatalites; a vocal version was recorded by duo Andy and Joey in 1964. Other tracks are reworkings of Jamaican originals: "Too Much Too Young" was based on Lloyd Charmers' "Birth Control"; "Stupid Marriage" draws heavily on the Prince Buster hit "Judge 400 Years" (also known as "Judge Dread").
A live version of "Too Much Too Young" was later released on a five-track EP, The Special AKA Live!, which went to #1 on the UK charts. A Message to You Rudy/Nite Klub was also released as a single.
Trombonist Rico Rodriguez, who performed on many 50s and 60s Jamaican recordings before moving to London in 1962, played on the band's version of "A Message to You, Rudy", as he had on the original recording fifteen years previously. As a former member of the legendary Skatalites, a band that helped define the sound of ska, Rico's appearance on the album considerably added to the album's credentials.
A digitally remastered edition also featuring promotional videos to "Gangsters" and "Too Much Too Young" as enhanced content was released by EMI in 2002.
Also, the song "Little Bitch" is featured as a playable song on the very first release of the dance simulation game Dance Dance Revolution.
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