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Too Much Too Young

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Album Review

Although they share the same title and were recorded during the same autumn 1979 tour, the Too Much Too Young album should not be confused with the five-song EP of the same title. The EP, as fans well know, was released in early 1980 and sped to the top of the charts. The album, regardless of its early recording date, is a much later cash-in — cash-in because the mediocre quality of the recording gives a very distorted picture of the Specials' live sound. Anyone old enough and lucky enough to have seen them perform knows how phenomenal a presence they were on-stage: insistent beats; Horace Gentleman's heaving bass; riffs ringing out; guitar leads slashing the air; Jerry Dammers' keyboards a revelation of riffs and melody, bubbling, seething, and soaring; and the tag-team vocals as Terry Hall is chased around and down by Neville Staple and Lynval Golding. They had the fullest sound around, but you'd never know it from this. The mix is appalling: the guitars barely audible, the drums and keyboards much too far up in the mix. Those who remember their shows will cringe; those who didn't will at least get a good taste of the Specials' tag-team vocals, which were just as integral to their sound and arguably even more groundbreaking. The set leaves in the between-song patter, which is also a welcome treat. And even with its deep flaws (including misspelling "You're Wondering Now"'s title), the listener can begin to grasp the group's impact live...just. The EP is most representative of their glory, but this fills in a bit more of the picture.


Formed: 1977 in Coventry, England

Genre: Reggae

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

True innovators of the punk era, the Specials began the British ska revival craze, combining the highly danceable ska and rocksteady beat with punk's energy and attitude, and taking on a more focused and informed political and social stance than their predecessors and peers. The band was originally formed in Coventry, in 1977, as the Coventry Automatics and later the Special A.K.A. by songwriter/keyboardist Jerry Dammers, with Terry Hall (vocals), Lynval Golding (guitar, vocals), Neville Staples...
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Too Much Too Young, The Specials
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