Since September 2010, this blog has recorded the journey of this middle-aged man as I attempt to listen to all the music in my CD collection. CDs revisited in their entirety from start to finish - no skipping tracks, no shuffle. CDs only - no vinyl, no tapes, no downloads. And just as CD technology (and the album format itself) becomes obsolete. I'm no music critic, just a music junkie with too much time on my hands.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The English Beat - The Complete Beat (2012)

5 CD set from Shout! Factory with additional bonus CD & DVD of the group's performances at the 1982 & 1983 US Festivals.

I Just Can't Stop It (1980)

Note: this release was originally purchased as a LP, later replaced by a CD.

I was never a huge ska guy, but I've been a fan of The English Beat from the first time I heard the cover of Tears Of A Clown, which didn't happen until about 1983.  Even though they were on the 2-Tone label and played some ska tunes, they were always more of a pop band than a ska band (to me, anyways).  A perfect combination of vocals, songwriting, bass lines, drumming, saxophone, and Ranking Roger's toasting.  This is one of those rare albums that doesn't sound dated; I actually enjoy it more every time I put it on.

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #142

Tracks: 42 minutes of pop bliss with oddly political lyrics.  While my favorite is still Tears Of A Clown, the other 13 tracks here are not to be missed.  It's a solid album.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD:  As a teenager, I read a review of this album that called it something like "the ultimate album for parties."  I always remembered that and, at a college party a few years later, I put this on and stood back to watch the party take off to another level.  Instead, I was greeted with odd looks and comments that ranged from "What the hell is this?" to "Put the Madonna back on."  Idiots.

Speaking of college, seen below are photos of me (ca. 1985-88) in my favorite English Beat shirt.  I loved that shirt.  I bought it while in high school, soon cut off the sleeves, and wore it throughout college until it was threadbare.

Wha'ppen? (1981)

For some reason, I never picked up this LP back in the '80s.  The group brings in some worldbeat influences (Latin, African) to their ska/pop sound, but the songwriting isn't quite as strong.  It's the proverbial sophomore slump, but only very slightly because I like the overall sound of this album better than its predecessor even if the writing just falls short.  The music owes more to reggae than to ska, if that makes any sense.  It's ambitious; I'll give 'em credit for trying something new - less frantic, lilting mid-tempo stuff.  It's a unique sound they'd perfect as they headed into the next album.  The lyrics are still very political, which provides a sharp, interesting counterpoint to the music.  Of the group's three albums, this is my least favorite, but that by no means is meant to suggest that it is a bad album.

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #126

Tracks:  My favorites are All Out To Get You, I Am Your Flag, Dream Home in NZ, Over And Over, and Get-A-Job.  I usually skip Drowning, which was the album's lead single.  There are 3 bonus tracks tacked on to the end of the album.  All three fit in well with the feel of the album, but none stand out to me.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None

Special Beat Service (1982)

Note: this release was originally purchased as a LP, later replaced by a CD, which was later supplemented by this disc in the box set which adds 4 bonus tracks.

In 2004, I first put together a list of 30 "desert island" albums (no compilations allowed).  This album made the cut.  I haven't revisited that list in a while, but if I ever should, I'm confident this album's spot on the list is safe. I may listen to it twice today before moving on to the next discs. [ed. note: I did.]

Easily my favorite Beat album, this one has been in rotation since 1982.  From the opening piano licks of I Confess, I knew there was something different and contagious going on here.  The group had matured into a fantastic New Wave-ish pop band.  Not only had the songwriting improved, the band kept their trend of experimenting with new instrumentation - a trumpet here, an accordion there.  This album was a sales disappointment in the UK, but it fared better here in the US and, for me, it was anything but a disappointment.  This music bears more than a passing resemblance to Pelican West, which came out the same year and shared a producer, Bob Sargeant.

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #39

Tracks: In addition to the pop gems I Confess, Save It For Later, and Jeanette, there are also a few good ska/reggae-flavored numbers that harken back to the group's original sound (Spar Wid Me as well as Pato And Roger A Go Talk). My favorite deep cuts are Rotating Head and Sugar & Stress.  Don't skip anything.

Bonus tracks: 4 bonus tracks included, all b-sides.  They're all ok for b-sides (the best is probably the 8½ minute dub version of A Go Talk even though I can't understand a word of it), but they sound like b-sides and since they weren't part of the beloved original 12 tracks, I have a hard time listening to them as part of this disc.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None.  As much as I've listened to this album over the years, I'm surprised that nothing springs to mind.

Bonus Beat (1979-82)

Disc 1: 12" & Dub Versions, 79 minutes

(click to enlarge)

Top tracks: 1, 4, 6, 10, 13, and 15

Disc 2: Peel Sessions & Live In Boston, 62 minutes

Top tracks: 1, 4, 6, 8, 12-14, 17, and 19.

Live At The US Festival '82 & '83 (2012)

Buying the box set direct from the Shout! Factory website had its perks.  First, I received an extra copy of the box set's booklet autographed by Dave Wakeling.

Second, I received a copy of the group's performances from the US Festivals. For a thorough review of the CD/DVD set, click here.  I enjoy watching the DVD not only for the band's tight, energetic performances, but also to check out the totally awesome '80s fashions and the general festival vibe.  The '82 set runs about 47 minutes, the '83 set runs almost 53 minutes.  The CD (59 minutes in length) is simply selected audio from the same performances.  A must for any fan.

Not surprisingly, my favorite live tracks are the same as my favorite studio tracks.


  1. Cool set! I have done reviews of three English Beat albums over on my blog. Here's a quick link to pull up all three:

    1. Thanks for the link. Always enjoy visiting your blog.

  2. Were the remastered with bonus tracks discs released indivdually as well? They must have been because I have them and I never bought the box and I really want and need that Bonus Beat disc. Track 14 is the extended version of "March of The Swivel Heads" (itself an instrumental remix of the album track "Rotating Heads", one of your favorite deep cuts) from Ferris Bueller's Day Off when Ferris is running through the backyards and houses in an effort to beat his sister Jeanie home. LOVE THAT SONG. MUST HAVE THAT SONG. Don't suppose that the disc is available {checks Amazon} Nope doesn't look like it.

    Based on your previous negative comments regarding songs by both both General Public (you were still grieving the break-up of the Beat) and Fine Young Cannibals (you couldn't get past Roland's voice or the synth drums), the two splinter groups that arose out of The Beat's demise, I take it you are not a fan of either of those groups. Or are you?

    1. I prefer General Public to FYC, but with the Beat, the total was so much greater than the sum of its parts. I'm still grieving the break-up of the Beat.

      I don't know if it's any consolation, but the Swivelheads you seek is also available on the Edsel Records reissue of Special Beat service: