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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 13 March 2001
The bulk of the Specials' career between 1979 and 1981 is solidly collated in this truly excellent compilation album.
Jerry Dammers was the musical genius who provided the main driving force behind the diverse talent he had collated, all of which were excellent live rock musicians. Furthermore, many have frontman viewed Terry Hall as the direct precursor of Morrissey, with his deadpan, sardonic vocals and tragi-comedic lyrics about life's more mundane subject-matter, eg, 'I'd rather have lipstick on my collar than piss-stains on my shoes'.... truly inspired ! For 18 months or so, The Special's were deservedly Britain's biggest band, even making a sizeable impact in the USA, where they achieved cult status.
There are several standout tracks here, particularly the three #1 hits, Too Much Too Young (about teenage pregnancy), Rat Race (about the Coventry band's resentment of having to move south to London to succeed) and the haunting Ghost Town, from 1981. Ghost Town is an excellent snapshot of a country at the end of its tether, highlighting Coventry's rapid social, economic and psychological desolation during Thatcher's first two years in power, and it proved extremely prophetic when just months later, several major cities experienced rioting on an unprecedented scale (this theme was also inherent in their famous Concrete Jungle track). However, with choice tracks such as the classic Gangsters, A Message To You Rudi, Do Nothing and Friday Night, Saturday Morning plus the Special AKA's Nelson Mandela, there is quality here in adbundance.
The sound of ska has never sounded so good and you will find few who do not hold this band with the utmost respect. The Special's proved to be one of the world's first socially-aware bands that did'nt ram their messages down our throats but just concentrated on sounded great (some irritatingly called them The Clash of Ska). They certainly led the way, if not musically, but thematically, for the likes of The Smiths and Billy Bragg and were a welcome diversion from the materialistic, New Romantic tosh that was rapidly swamping Britain at the time. Eventually it all came to an abrupt end after Ghost Town, but the offshoot was the brilliant, Terry Hall-led Fun Boy Three followed by his excellent Colourfield project, proving that Dammers was not the only musical genius onboard the ska phenomenon that brought the 'Dance Craze' to Britain.
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The Specials Singles is just that containing at least the a-sides of the 45's of one the greatest bands of all time. Opening with one of the strongest debut single of all time `Gangsters' it moves through double `a' side `Rudi, a Message to You' and `Nite Klub' to the first side of there live EP `Too Much Too Young' and the Skatalite inspired `Guns of Navarone'.

Stand alone single `Rat Race' is next before we move into less comfortable territory with double `a' `Stereotype' b/w `International Jet Set' and then `Do Nothing'. The magnificent `Ghost Town' is next together with both of its equally good b-sides `Why?' and `Friday Night, Saturday Morning'.

The quality drops as Terry Hall, Neville Staples and Lynval Golding leave to form Fun Boy Three and The Special AKA give us a poor `War Crimes' and `Racist Friend' . The temperature rises again with the fantastic `Nelson Mandela' but it's too late to save the band and `Girlfriend' leaves the album, and indeed the band, with a disappointing ending. Hopefully now the full band is reforming The Specials will be given the coda they deserve.
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on 8 August 2001
I was in my late teens when ska hit the world (my world), saw specials, madness etc at various concerts, have all the albums and 45's. love them still, nothing will come close the the beat. this is a great album. buy it and you won't keep still.
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on 11 March 2011
I loved the Specials when they were hitting it big way back when and this CD brings back great memories. The songs haven't dated and the lyrics are excellent. Recommended buy.
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on 23 March 2009
it is the year 2oo9 and ive found myself listening to ghost town thinking it could be wrote about 2day`s reccesion hit depressing times,as neville staples shouts no job to be found in this country......for all the rudeboys at the time the specials spoke to them....they spoke to a generation of unemployd teens who lived for the weekend with songs such as nightclub and the realy humourous friday night saturday morning.....the lyrics here are so intellegant and humourous and delivered by terry halls dry wit they pack a punch!!!!!!were it not for the specials that have influenced hundreds of todays bands such as blur and amywinehouse etc.....the album deals with raceism with the brill nelson mandella to the racial attack on lynval golding in why??all in all the lyrics paint a dark but humourous picture of the eighteys....i grew up with this band,so tune in and enjoy yourself.if you are in your twentys and in2 todays bands then i reccomend this as they have influenced so many of your artists....if you are like me and in your thirtys this will take you straight back to the days of combys and fred perrys,bad manners and madness will relate to a lot of the lyrics etc,ive lived that friday night saturday morning lifestyle lol
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on 28 January 2009
As I expected, there is quite the mix in quality (subjectively). After all, it is a collection of singles, not a discrete album.

I'm sorry to spin out what to some fans is a cliche, but I do feel that most of the best stuff was by "The Specials", not the "The Special Aka" (see the track list in the product description). Not all bands falter at this sort of stage, when one or more key members leave (e.g. Genesis), but I think The Specials never fully recovered.

That being said, this is still a mostly great eclectic mix that few modern bands can even imagine touching the soul of. If you only own one Specials CD, make it this one.
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on 27 September 2009
This compilation stands out for featuring not just their "hits" but also b-sides, live tracks, and rarities. Of particular note is the inclusion of the powerful and dance-worthy anthem, "Free Nelson Mandela," recorded under the name the Special A.K.A. after the official demise of the Specials.

And the full version of "Ghost Town",a number one hit in Britain is still as mesmerizing and menacing as ever.

This CD is a wonderful mixture of songs that are simply fantastic to listen to combining socially conscious messages with jaunty, danceable melodies.

If you haven't tried Ska then this would be a very good place to start and at a ridiculously low price.

Go get it ..........
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Play GHOST TOWN or STEREOTYPE or stunning debut single GANGSTERS and relive again those heady days of the late seventies/early eighties. More than anything the songs on this superb compilation sum up perfectly the culture of social unrest present in much of Margaret Thatcher's Brave New Britain. For many people life was pretty volatile - due, in no small part, to high unemployment, the poll tax, and the threat (or so we believed at the time) of nuclear armageddon, resulting in an unexpectedly energised left-wing protest movement of which I was a (fairly) active member for a while. That's not to say protesting against the Tory Government was an unrelentingly po-faced endeavour. No, there was a lot of fun to be had simply carrying banners and chanting primitive slogans outside the Houses of Parliament. But that was then.

See? That's just part of what this album does so well. TOO MUCH TOO YOUNG, NITE KLUB, RAT RACE, FRIDAY NIGHT SATURDAY MORNING...THE SPECIALS SINGLES: BEST OF is a scathing period piece and a recognisably human portrait of life, kitchen sinks and all. Yes, you had to be there, but forty-five or older, then you probably were; it just depends on which side of the fence you belonged.

Coventry boys JERRY DAMMERS, TERRY HALL and THE SPECIALS have provided us with the most evocative SKA/PUNK music you could ever wish to hear.

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on 11 October 2015
Although the troubled life of The Specials (and The Special AKA) was relatively short-lived they created some of the most iconic music of the era, all captured on this fantastic collection of their works. Many will be familiar with the chart successes of Gangsters, Rudi, A Message To You, Nite Klub, Too Much Too Young, Rat Race, Do Nothing, Stereotype, Ghost Town, Nelson Mandela and What I Like Most About You Is Your Girlfriend. However the remaining tracks were also favourites of their followers and played at many of their concerts of the time. An EXCELLENT album to listen over and over again ..................... "Nobody hates Specials".
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on 28 July 2009
Just got this record in the post this morning and have been listening to it ever since! If you are just getting into The Specials then this is the record for you, all the hits and more are on here. Even my 2 year old was dancing around the kitchen to Rat Race!!
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