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Classic of the Week

July 28, 1994|JON MATSUMOTO

The English Beat

"Special Beat Service" (1982)

I.R.S.--Go Feet

The English Beat couldn't have come up with a more appropriate name when it dubbed its own record label Go Feet. The ska group's songs were as danceable and propulsive as any to emerge from the fertile British new wave of the late '70s and early '80s.

Indeed, the bubbly Jamaican rhythms driving such up-tempo dance tracks as "Sole Salvation" and "Rotating Head" helped make "Special Beat Service" a nearly perfect party album for hipper-than-thou rockers of the post-punk generation. The Beat had a remarkable sense of rhythm and groove that rarely failed to get the feet moving and the hips swaying.

While essentially a dance record, the octet's third and final album is also noteworthy for its diversity. This disc not only houses plenty of ska madness, but it presents irresistible smart pop-craft ("Save It for Later" and "I Confess"), entrancing dub-reggae ("Spar Wid Me" and "Pato and Roger A Go Talk") and one exceptional ballad called "End of the Party," both uplifting and sad.

"Special Beat Service" is an album marked by a number of unique details and adventurous song arrangements. The playful "Jeanette" is possibly the only ska song ever with accordion and clarinet. "Spar Wid Me" (featuring master toaster Ranking Roger) is colored by a hypnotically lazy saxophone part and some decidedly non-Jamaican banjo accents.

Vocalists Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger received most of the attention in The Beat. But it was bassist David Steele and guitarist Andy Cox who were most responsible for weaving the band's still fresh music. Following the Beat's demise, Steele and Cox recruited singer Roland Gift and made two highly listenable albums as the Fine Young Cannibals. Wakeling and Ranking Roger recorded for a brief time as General Public with less impressive results.

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