Release Date: Jul 10, 2012
Record label: Shout! Factory
The English Beat snuck in under the banner of the 2-Tone ska revival, and on albums like their 1980 debut, I Just Can't Stop It, they showed off a rhythmic attack as buoyant as any north of the Caribbean. But the band's secret weapon was pop, the ear-candy tunes and sharp-fanged lyrics of frontman Dave Wakeling – at his finest, a singer-songwriter as savagely witty as Elvis Costello. This five-CD box set features the band's three great studio albums, plus terrific bonus tracks and dub versions, and a slew of live recordings in which the Beat unleash their dance-floor fury and their Thatcher-era protest politics.
Shout! Factory's The Complete Beat is the kind of deluxe set that fans would dream about but never expect to happen: a five-disc set containing expanded remastered versions of all three of the group's albums, plus two discs of Bonus Beat -- a CD of 12" mixes and dubs, a disc of Peel Sessions and four cuts live from a November 1982 gig in Boston. The Beat -- the "English" was added for the American market -- were only around for five short years, following the 2-Tone path trailblazed by the Specials but speedily developing their own distinctive style, one that was a bit brighter and bearing a stronger Motown influence. Also, the Beat had a knack for pop that culminated on their 1982 swan song, Special Beat Service.
“Itchy finger (FINGER!) trigger (TRIGGER!) click click… clickclickCLICK!” (“Click Click”) For the span of its short career, the Beat was a model of consistency. In three years the band fired off three studio albums, 12 songs per album, a big handful of pop hits, and then in 1982 they broke apart—faster faster faster faster STOP. Well, not exactly “stop”.
Should Paul Simon be considered Africa's Alan Lomax? According to Under African Skies, an hour-long documentary on the making of Graceland by Joe Berlinger (co-director of Metallica's Some Kind of Monster), the diminutive singer-songwriter introduced the world to the seat of mankind's soundtrack. Hearing Simon reveal that South African a cappella choir Ladysmith Black Mambazo became overnight stars after backing him on Saturday Night Live following the release of the Grammy's 1986 Album of the Year certainly bolsters the filmmakers' case. That full clip of "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes," one of a smattering of extras on Graceland's 2-CD/2-DVD 25th Anniversary Edition, dazzles on par with the box set's beating heart, a full concert of Simon leading an all-African band in Zimbabwe the next year.