27th Oct, 2021

MUSIC MATTERS - The Specials - New 'Protest Songs' album and homecoming gig

Coventry Editorial 16th Sep, 2021

COVENTRY Music Museum curator Pete Chambers BEM writes for the Observer.

 

The Specials ‘Protest Songs 1924 -2012’

On June 11, Specials guitarist Lynval Golding – laptop in hand – let me hear their new album as he kindly did with their chart topper ‘Encore’ in 2019.

He came into the Coventry Music Museum one evening and played me the whole new album entitled ‘Protest Songs 1924 -2012’. I, of course, kept silent until now the album is with the reviewers and now, I can have my say.

So, what can we expect?

Well, this is not the Specials’ first album, indeed it’s not ‘Encore’ either, it’s an album of cover songs, covers of protest songs, and while it may not light the fire of the Ska purists searching for the long-lost brother of ‘Gangsters’.

It’s a daring new phase in the career of a band whose very ideology was built on the protest song ethic.

The guys have grown up and so have their audience, musically and vocally it’s spot on Lynval’s superb reworking of the Bob Marley song ‘Get Up, Stand Up’ and the Leonard Cohen cover ‘Everybody Knows’ and Wind’ originally by Talking Heads will be familiar.

But it is full of lesser-known gems like the Big Bill Broonzy song ‘Black, Brown and White’, ‘I Don’t Mind Failing, and ‘My Next Door Neighbour’.

The signs are encouraging and at many national music mags have already awarded it four or five stars.

Lynval gives a debt of gratitude to originator Jerry Dammers and his need to progress and move on and the Specials have definitely moved on.

Gig review – The Specials at Coventry’s CBS Arena

Well after a busy day in the museum greeting hordes of Specials fans here for the homecoming gig of Coventry’s Specials.

Off we went to the CBS Arena to see the band in action for the first time since their ground-breaking Cathedral concerts.

There may only be three originals now left, with Lynval Golding temporarily giving up most of the rhythm guitar duties because of a numb fingers on his right hand, but that hasn’t stopped the band creating excitement on every gig so far on their tour.

So here they are in their hometown – the show kicked off with a song from the new album, ‘Freedom Highway’ and straight into ‘Rat Race’ and onto ‘Do Nothing’.

If there were any doubters in the crowd, well it didn’t show as the partisan audience skanked and fist pumped into the air as Terry spat each lyric out perfectly.

It was especially noticeable on ‘It Doesn’t make it Alright’ – a song of racial cohesion and defiant unity, everyone was onboard, and I was proud of Coventry in their support.

My Specials’ fave ‘Stereotype’ was a dream and Lynval’s plaintive acoustic version of Bob Marley’s ‘Get Up, Stand Up’ cooled things down a little.

I’m a die-hard fan and as much as I loved tonight, I so missed the energies of Neville Staple and Roddy Byers and of course that unique drum sound that only Brad could bring to the occasion.

But the band has evolved and moved on, that said it was a terrific gig by a band that really have no need to prove anything anymore, thousands of happy fans were here tonight and that my friends is the Specials legacy.

 

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