3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A showcase of The Beat's affinity for soul, calypso & reggae,
By A Customer
This review is from: Special Beat Service (Audio CD)
"Special Beat Service" was the last album by Birmingham's The Beat, one of the more sophisticated groups to grow out of the 2-Tone explosion. "SBS" showcases their combined talents for soul ("I Confess", "Sole Salvation" and "End of the Party"), reggae ("Spar Wid Me", "Pato and Roger A-Go Talk") and calypso ("Ackee 1-2-3"). The groups heritage took in the West Indies as well as the West Midlands, and this is evident in the complex percussion and guitar rhythms all the way through. The Beat had always played calypso style, from their first album "I Just Can't Stop It", demonstrating the two-guitar attack style that energised the dance floors of the early 1980s.
"SBS" kicks off with the driving soul of "I Confess", piano and guitar taking Dave Wakelings plaintive vocals to new heights. Then it crashes into "Jeanette", a ska-derived tune celebrating a love affair that this time has gone right. The Motown influence comes back with "Sorry" and "Sole Salvation", the latter with a bass line that Paul Weller would have given his Union Jack jacket for. Ranking Roger also surprises us with his vocal range in the background. All the way through these first songs, Wakelings lyrics are superb, completely relevant and measured as he works his way through all the facets of relationships. We then head back to the Caribbean with "Spar Wid Me", a funky reggae piece toasted to perfection by Roger, and "Rotating Heads"..... The 12" version of this, "Dance of the Swivelheads", is worth tracking down, by the way.
If you were lucky enough to own this on vinyl (I am), Side 2 swept into life with "Save It For Later", their strongest single ever. Smokey, moody, atmospheric, with the ubiquitous jangly guitars toned down, this is the story of desertion and rejection, with (dare I say it), Joy Division lurking in the background. My all-time Beat favourite, by the way.
As we progress through, some of the later songs pale a little. "Pato and Roger A-Go Talk" is not a patch on their earlier reggae jaunts like "Rough Rider" and feels a little perfunctory. But, "End of the Party" deserves to be listened to again and again. If you've ever been there, when the lights come up and Monday morning is on it's way, then you'll be there with them. "Ackee 1-2-3" plays us out, superlative rendition of calypso funk and a real sunsplash to end on.
The Beat were one of the most complex and idiosyncratic groups of the 1980s and their influence ran on into many later groups and combos. Their sheer love of the wide spectrum of black music, and their sensitive interpretation of Motown soul through to African poly-rhythms earnt them many accolades throughout their short career. "Special Beat Service" is a complete offering of all that was great about The Beat and repeated listenings will reward you with an ever growing sense of wonder with regard to their talent.