Beat This! The Best of the Beatby The English Beat
The English Beat (known as just the Beat outside America) emerged from the shadows of their 2-Tone label contemporaries the Specials, Madness, and the Selecter to leave arguably the strongest legacy of the ska-influenced movement that swept British and American youth in the early '80s. The Birmingham-based group's debut album, I Just Can't Stop It, contained an uplifting ska version of "Tears of a Clown," a mournful rendition of Andy Williams's "Can't Get Used to Losing You," the party piece "Ranking Full Stop" (sung by the group's toaster, Ranking Roger), and some clever and melodic takes on narcissism: "Best Friend," "Hands Off She's Mine," and "Mirror in the Bathroom." Maturing beyond recognition on Wha'ppen?, the sextet emerged with a global political consciousness that, on beautiful mid-tempo songs such as "Drowning" and "Doors of Your Heart," allowed the velvet-larynxed Dave Wakeling to claim the spotlight. Special Beat Service then won over America, helped by yearning violins on the minor hit "Save It for Later." Sadly, the group split on the cusp of true international success, and while Wakeling and Roger's new act, General Public, were the Beat's obvious successors, it was guitarist Andy Cox and bass player David Steele who scored big with the trio Fine Young Cannibals. While all three albums are essential in their own way, The Very Best of the English Beat is an essential summation of their career -- and the very best of any political party music you could hope to find.
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