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"…Bright New Tomorrow…" – The Complete Studio Recordings by THE BEAT
on 12 May 2014
What blasts you most about relistening to Birmingham’s THE BEAT is the sheer Pork Pie Hat nuttiness of it all. Still fresh – still kicking – still sounding like you’re 18 – this music reeks of bopping up and down like a demented fool in a nightclub or a local hall or a cool city bar – completely lost in that irrepressible and fabulous rhythm - sweating like a Sicilian Ethics Teachers in a Vatican confessional. God were these guys good. "I Just Can’t Stop It" is damn right – because this is music that makes you feel young.
Here are the finite details… UK released 12 May 2014 (20 May in the USA) - "The Complete Studio Recordings" is a 4CD Box Set on Edsel EDSB 4013 (Barcode 740155401337) and breaks down as follows…
Disc 1 (36:28 minutes):
Tracks 1 to 12 are their debut album "I Just Can't Stop It" – released May 1980 in the UK on Go Feet Records BEAT 001 (it reached No. 3 on the Album charts).
Disc 2 (39:57 minutes):
Tracks 1 to 12 are their 2nd album "Wha'ppen?" – released May 1981 in the UK on Go Feet Records BEAT 3 (it also reached No. 3).
Disc 3 (39:34 minutes):
Tracks 1 to 12 are their 3rd album "Special Beat Service" – released September 1982 in the UK on Go Feet Records BEAT 5 (it reached No. 21).
Disc 4 is a BONUS ALBUM (73:08 minutes):
Tracks 1 and 2 are Tears Of A Clown and Ranking Full Stop – their debut non-album 7” single released November 1979 in the UK on Two Tone Records CHS TT 6
Tracks 3 and 4 are Too Nice To Talk To and Psychedelic Rockers – a non-album 7” single released December 1980 on Go Feet Records FEET 4
Tracks 5 and 6 are Hit It and Which Side Of The Bed…? – a non-album 7” single released in November 1981 on Go Feet Records FEET 11
Track 7 is What’s Your Best Thing – the non-album B-side of Save It For Later – released April 1982 as a 7” single on Go Feet Records FEET 333
Track 8 is Cool Entertainer by Ranking Roger – the non-album B-side to Pato & Roger (Ago Talk) – released 1982 on Go Feet Records FEET 14
Track 9 is March Of The Swivel Heads – the non-album B-side to Jeanette – released September 1982 as a 7” single on Go Feet Records FEET 15
Track 10 is Can’t Get Used To You (1983 Mix) – the A-side to a 7” single released April 1983 on Go Feet Records FEET 17
Tracks 11 to 17 are The Dub Tracks – all non-album B-sides…
The mini box set has the 3 original vinyl albums in 5” card repro sleeves with a new card for the fourth BONUS ALBUM that uses a GO FEET black and white promo photo as its artwork. The 16-page booklet has the Rhoda Dakar liner notes truncated from the 2012 2CD reissues for all three albums. There’s repro’d front sleeve artwork, recording details and credits, shots of the group, a 7” single advert and a few other promo items from the time. If I’m truthful – the booklet is a tad disappointing given that they could have photo’d all those great Go Feet sleeves, badges, posters and the whole memorabilia that went with the British Ska Revival scene of the time (their debut Two Tone single isn’t even in here- their fab cover of Smokey Robinson & The Miracles “Tears Of A Clown”). Don’t get me wrong – for the price it’s very nicely done – but it could have been so much more. However that all goes out the window when you clock your lugs on the sheer sonic wallop of the remasters…
The remasters by PHIL KINRADE at Alchemy are clean, full of presence and power – and it really brings out the original Ska Rock production values of engineering genius Bob Sargeant (he produced all three albums). As most fans will know "I Just Can't Stand It" was the first digital album out of the UK and therefore sounds unbelievably punchy – grabbing you by the throat and never letting go. The other two are the same.
Opening with the total winner of “Mirror In The Bathroom” and featuring the hit singles “Hands Off – She’s Mine” and “Best Friend” – their debut album is a total gem. But for me my fave-raves have always been the Prince Buster/Band Original combo of “Whine & Grine/Stand Down Margaret” where The Beat show their strong CND credentials. And the short but demented “Click Click” sounds like The Knack on too many tabs of acid. It’s just fabulous.
The second album only cemented the Ska/Dub/Rock sound and is held in real affection – sporting winners like “Doors Of My Heart” and “Drowning” which sounded like no one else at the time (excepting The Specials of course). Which brings me to their sound. Front men Ranking Roger and David Wakeling had that great vocal twang - but for me the hero of the hour was always Jamaican Saxophonist Augustus Martin known simply as ‘Saxa’. Already in his Fifties by 1980 – Saxa had played with Reggae legends Prince Buster, Laurel Aitken and Desmond Dekker – and his contribution was to make their songs feel happy – even if the lyrical content was often dark and even angry.
The third album saw the hits trail off with “Save It For Later”, “Jeanette” and “I Confess” just about charting. As you can see from the total playing time - the 4th CD BONUS ALBUM is generously filled out and has one of my favourite B-sides of all time – the Dub version of “Stand Down Margaret” (flip-side to “Best Friend”). I used to DJ it all the time back in Dublin when I was doing parties and weddings – and it slayed the crowd every time (lyrics above). So many goodies on here like this…
As an alternative to the more comprehensive but pricey Shout Factory 5CD Box Set of 2012 (The Complete Beat) – “The Complete Studio Recordings” is a reasonably priced and tastily presented 4CD mini box set. And Along with THE SOUND 4CD Box Set I recently reviewed – this is another properly brilliant reissue for 2014.
If you’re on the fence instead of making those dance moves – then this is the place to get out that Prince Buster Greatest Hits teeshirt and dig in.
Genius – ranking full stop.