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The Rude Boy Returns

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Album Review

Neville Staple has been entertaining audiences for well over a quarter of a century now, and his new solo album provides ample reason why this rudie grandpa still gets respect from ska fans. Those, however, expecting more of the pleasant yet surprisingly static ska that Staple offered up on 1998's Skanktastic covers EP, his last recording under his own name, are in for a surprise. For starters, the only cover found on this set isn't really a cover at all, but a phenomenal take on the old Specials number "Do Nothing." Boasting a full brass section, Joe Atkinson's atmospheric organ, Clash man Mick Jones on guitar and backing vocals, and Damned drummer Rat Scabies, the epic "Nothing" slides from sumptuous reggae into deep dub, and from soulful singing into sharp toasting. Although Scabies appears on another couple of tracks, it's multi-instrumentalist Tom Lowry who is the album's linchpin, but it's the brass and organ that provide the soul of the set's sound. However, not all of the set features that quartet, as Staple wanders down some surprising musical lanes. The album opener, "Place in Life," for example, is a punky excursion back into British beat, tipping its hat to the Yardbirds' "Over Under Sideways Down" along the way. "Nachna (Indian Ska)," featuring raga rapper KS Makhan, takes dancehall to New Delhi and the remixed "Cow Cow Yicky" skanks it up with the cowhands, while "Better 2 Know" blends dream pop with ska. Smashing songs one and all, but it's the more straightforward skankers that most impress. 2 Tone's homage to Jamaican music, while omitting the brass section so integral to its style, left many fans fantasizing what the Brit bands would have sounded like with horns. Most assumed the answer was supplied by the plethora of 2 Tone-fired third wave bands, but Staple suggests otherwise, most dramatically on "Pick It Up" and "Keep On," both of which would have slotted perfectly into the Specials' musical repertoire. The latter is a glorious tribute to the Maytals, its jubilant religious message delivered in multi-part call-and-response gospel harmonies, its music in exhilarating 2 Tone fashion, but with the brass now feeding the excitement. The former is highly reminiscent of "Enjoy Yourself," but instead of its morose styling, "Pick It Up" picks up the tempo and the mood, while the jazzy horn solos add a triumphant Jamaican sound to the mix. Indeed, Staple is thoroughly enjoying himself, a mood his insightful and optimistic lyrics emphasize. And the fun doesn't stop there, but continues across the live concert featured on the accompanying DVD, as the singer delivers up a dozen Specials faves to an ecstatic audience. The Rude Boy Returns is a superb album, and Staple's own obvious joy ensures that listeners will be equally thrilled that he's back.


Born: 11 April 1956 in Christiana, Jamaica

Genre: Ska

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

As a member of the Specials, Neville Staple helped launch the U.K. ska revival of the '80s, and went on to a long career as a vocalist and toaster, making an impression on both the ska and rock communities. Staple was born in Christiana, Manchester, Jamaica on April 11, 1955. His family left Jamaica for England when he was five, first moving to Rugby, Warwickshire before settling in Coventry. Staple became part of the local sound system scene, and led a crew known as Jah Baddis. He was also a frequent...
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The Rude Boy Returns, Neville Staple
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