In the Studio

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Lydia Vanderloo
Although he rarely grabbed a mike, keyboardist Jerry Dammers pulled the strings behind ska kingpins the Specials from their late-'70s beginnings. But after the 1981 departure of the band's more familiar faces -- vocalists Terry Hall and Neville Staples and guitarist Lynval Golding, who went on to form Fun Boy Three -- Dammers regrouped with an altered moniker, taking three years to record In the Studio. As its name suggests, the album is the work of an ensemble cast one that principally included vocalists Rhoda Dakar and Stan Campbell rather than an active band, and the results are predictably uneven. By this point, Dammers was using ska only as a stylistic cue, ...
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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Lydia Vanderloo
Although he rarely grabbed a mike, keyboardist Jerry Dammers pulled the strings behind ska kingpins the Specials from their late-'70s beginnings. But after the 1981 departure of the band's more familiar faces -- vocalists Terry Hall and Neville Staples and guitarist Lynval Golding, who went on to form Fun Boy Three -- Dammers regrouped with an altered moniker, taking three years to record In the Studio. As its name suggests, the album is the work of an ensemble cast one that principally included vocalists Rhoda Dakar and Stan Campbell rather than an active band, and the results are predictably uneven. By this point, Dammers was using ska only as a stylistic cue, peppering most tracks with billowy horn sections and lyrically tackling familiar themes of racial tension and social unrest. Aside from the more ska-tinged tunes like "Racist Friend," stylistically he continues to explore the terrain he mined on More Specials, with the loungey "Alcohol," the straight-up soul of "Break Down the Door," and the skewed, jazzy "Girlfriend." The centerpiece, however, is the Elvis Costello-produced single "Free Nelson Mandela," a bouncy, hook-laden call-to-arms railing against the imprisonment of the African leader. This 2002 reissue includes new liner notes from Specials authority Adrian Thrills and videos of "Nelson Mandela" and "Girlfriend."
All Music Guide - Jo-Ann Greene
Three years and a reputed 500,000 pounds in the making, and what was the result? For starters, an album that just scraped into the U.K. Top 35 and a set that rounded up three out of the four Special A.K.A. singles: "War Crimes," the double A-sided "Racist Friend"/ "Bright Lights," and "Nelson Mandela," as well as the latter's 12" B-side, "Break Down the Door," and a set that spun off the group's final release, "What I Like Most About You Is Your Girlfriend." Thus, half the album had already spun at 45, poor value for the money. However, at a time when Wham!, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and Duran Duran reigned supreme, In the Studio was offering something distinctly different, which explains its popularity. This was Jerry Dammers' baby, and the birthing had been decidedly difficult. And it's no wonder considering just how far Dammers had taken his music, light years from the Specials' roots and miles even from the group's more diverse More Specials finale. "Housebound," for example, is absolutely claustrophobic, the rhythm disconcerting and the melody moving into no wave territory. "The Lonely Crowd" is even more dislocating, with the club-meets-funk rhythm crashing into the no wave jazz atmosphere, while the purer club strains of "Nite on the Tiles" are equally disturbing, with its odd blend of genres. Even the more accessible numbers have bite and exceedingly sharp edges, from the frustration that fills the soul-styled "Break Down" to the derision that floods the lyrics of "Bright Lights" and on to the cutting theme of the dreamy, roots-flavored "Girlfriend." Dammers' world view was growing ever darker, and his lyrics reflect this polarization. Where once there was thoughtful reasoning laced with sarcasm, here the coddling is gone, and even the irony is heavy-handed. Proof is found in the uncompromising "Racist Friend," where Dammers insists one should sever such relationships rather than attempt to alter such opinions. The evocative, Arab-esque "War Crimes" is even more militant. Israel's invasion of Lebanon, in much of the world's opinion, certainly qualified as a war crime, but many felt that Dammers overstepped the mark by comparing it to Nazi death camps. Only the warm melody and gentle delivery prevent the song from being dismissed as an outright polemic. But the 2-Toner now saw the world only in black and white, searingly condemning everything around him. Which is why "Mandela" comes as such a shock smack-dab in the middle of the set. Its glorious melody, jubilant atmosphere, and exuberant optimism are the only bright moments on the entire album, a single song of hope which crumbles to dust by sequencing it just before the horrors of "War Crimes." That, like everything else on this album, was deliberate, and underscored the total desolation that Dammers saw all around him. It's an ugly vision, but the world is very much like that.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 5/21/2002
  • Label: Emi Europe Generic
  • UPC: 724353769505
  • Catalog Number: 537695

Tracks

Disc 1
  1. 1 Bright Lights - The Special A.K.A. (4:11)
  2. 2 The Lonely Crowd - The Special A.K.A. (3:52)
  3. 3 What I Like Most About You Is Your Girlfriend - The Special A.K.A. (4:50)
  4. 4 Housebound - The Special A.K.A. (4:13)
  5. 5 Nite on the Tiles - The Special A.K.A. (3:04)
  6. 6 Free Nelson Mandela - The Special A.K.A. (4:07)
  7. 7 War Crimes - The Special A.K.A. (6:13)
  8. 8 Racist Friend - The Special A.K.A. (3:49)
  9. 9 Alcohol - The Special A.K.A. (5:01)
  10. 10 Break Down the Door - The Special A.K.A. (3:36)
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Album Credits

Performance Credits
The Specials Primary Artist
Caron Wheeler Background Vocals
Stan Campbell Vocals
John Bradbury Drums
Dick Cuthell Flugelhorn, English Horn
Jerry Dammers Organ, Piano
Claudia Fontaine Background Vocals
Rhoda Dakar Vocals
Gary McManus Bass
John Shipley Guitar
The Special A.K.A. Track Performer
Andy Aderinto Saxophone
Rico Rodriquez Trombone
Technical Credits
Nigel Reeve Remastering Coordination
Noel Summerville Remastering
Adrian Thrills Sleeve Notes
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