|Neville Staple - ‘Return Of Judge Roughneck’ (Cleopatra Records)|
|Written by Martin Haslam|
|Friday, 17 February 2017 04:00|
He needs no introduction, but that just wouldn’t do, would it? No.1 Rude Boy, the heart and soul of The Specials. Larger than life and twice as nice: Mr Neville Staple.
If you’ve ever seen him on a stage, you know that this man truly loves music and was born to entertain. For me, ska and reggae has to be spot on to really work. Yes, I am a snob! Life’s too short. The proof is that, once you listen to ‘Return Of Judge Roughneck’, you will be smiling, nodding and indeed a-grooving round your lounge. It’s fun, but he means it.
The title track uses the ‘Gangsters’ riff, but, why shouldn’t he? Judge Roughneck is presiding over your “serious crimes” against a crisp horn section. I already feel better! ‘Bangarang’ offers a mid-paced quality skank. No, this isn’t an ode to the Lost Boys; this refers to “uproar and disorder”.
‘Down My Street’, complete with trombone solo, is more up tempo and will keep you moving. Perfect ska for a sunny day, or improving a grey, damp day. ‘Lunatics’ is an update on the Funboy Three classic, if returning to ska roots can be an update, but the spoken word parts are certainly relevant for 2017; stopping children’s passports for fear of radicalisation/the growth of foodbanks.
‘Crime Don’t Pay’ sees a wiser Neville reflect that “lootin’, bootin’, robbin’ an’ shootin’“ can’t help you, all against a jolly tune, while ‘Gang Fever’ is the sort of thing I’d have wanted to hear The Specials record now; instantly recognisable yet relevant. He’s managed to balance the songs well, good-time tunes with the occasional darker moment combined to simple but effective lyrics. ‘Politician Man’ might be an obvious swipe, but you weren’t expecting Crass, were you? So, get on down and enjoy it.
‘Be Happy’ is the cover that doesn’t really sit well with the other songs, it doesn’t benefit being on here. But, ‘Enjoy Yourself (Ragtime Mix)’ is an ideal end to the album. And, if you love your dub remixes, well, there’s an extra disc of nine songs, so I don’t think you’re being sold short. Yes, you know what you’re going to get, but that’s reassuring; real ska tunes of quality that will improve your day. Look, the sun’s come out.
‘Return Of Judge Roughneck’ is released today (17 February).
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