Original Rude Boy steps out from the shelf into a fun-laden landscape to turn stereotypes into stereo triumph.
The Two-tone austere aesthetic and societal slant could be the reason for a lot of punters to forget the entertainment aspect of ska, yet Neville Staple still remembers what it means to bring a smile on the face of belligerent youth. For all the frowning and gavel groove of his latest solo album, "Return Of Judge Roughneck" from 2017, the former Special never found pleasure-having a futile pastime, and the pandemic period was a good excuse for the 66-year-old to cross a few frontiers and return to the source – with a twist, of course. Which is why there’s so much color now where black-and-white division used to exist.
However, Staple still sees a need for dichotomy as perky opener “Right From Wrong” has it, streaming optimism across the brass-kissed and piano-splashed landscape before the many triumphant voices of “Celebrate With You” seem to stress the apolitical slant of this platter, the delightfully sluggish “Can’t Take No More” should mask social issues behind what initially may feel like a familial front. And if the infectious, incendiary toasting on “Don’t Let It Pass You By” is given an English-folk undercurrent, resulting in an aural riot that’s bound to stay with the listener for a long time, and the vibrant cover of “Stand By Me” will shift the focus from personal affairs to communal unity. So, sure, Neville welcomes several guests to the stage, old pals Clint Eastwood and Derrick Morgan parading on, respectively, “Miss Dis N Dat” and “Housewives Choice” – his wife Sugary duetting with the veteran on the boogie-laden, hilarious latter and sprinkling effects on the dub-drenched former. Her vigorous vocals drive the jazzy swagger of “Please Don’t Leave Me Lonely” while Gary Shail’s instruments direct “What’s Really Going On” to the riff-paved urban vista – festive, breezy and sweet.
Not everything is new here, yet the boisterous, blistering “Pandemic Mix” of “Way Of Life” – which Neville and his missus, a prominent presence on this record, first laid down on “Rude Rebels” back in 2018 – refreshes the context and, to stitch past to the future even stronger, there are new takes on THE SPECIALS classic “Ghost Town” and on Toots’ “Monkey Man” from their debut, featuring THE SELECTERS’ Neol Davies on rock ‘n’ roll guitar. These nostalgic numbers are an eerily glorious reminder of how little global affairs have changed over the last decades and how love can still be the law of the concrete jungle, and not for nothing the album’s proper finale comes in the form of “World Turned Upside Down”: an unhurried stroll through the cinematic chaos of today – and, possibly, tomorrow. Righting such wrongs – that’s the ultimate destination of Neville Staple’s (dub)step. Long may he groove.