With word that The Specials have sold out the second leg of their UK tour this Fall, I was reminded of the band's earlier attempt at a reunion in the 1990's. The Specials Mk 2 featuring Neville, Lynval, Horace and Roddy recorded two albums -- 'Today's Specials' and 'Guilty 'Till Proved Innocent'. These albums helped to satisfy the demand for new material from the band during a time when ska was exploding in the U.S. (thanks to The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, No Doubt and Reel Big Fish). This version of the The Specials toured the U.S. and Japan extensively and were a headliner for the 1995 Warped Tour.
Below is a video of interviews with the band and promos for their single 'Pressure Drop':
I recently came across a great post from Paul Willo, one of the site administrators of The Specials fan Web site, as well as the author of a new book on the band called 'You're Wondering Now'. The post included several song rarities that The Specials Mk 2 recorded during their mid-90's resurgence. After the success of the Specials Mk2, Roddy, Neville and Lynval continued working in the studio. A version of Slade's 'Cuz I Luv You' came out of those sessions (which were likely part of sessions the band recorded as the backing band for Desmond Dekker's 'KIng of Kings LP). The other two are out takes from the 'Today's Specials' recording sessions -- The Valentinos 'All Over Now' and The Slickers 'Johnny Too Bad'.
Below are the YouTube videos of the three songs:
I have always believed the 'Guilty 'Till Proved Innocent' LP to be a very solid album, with some great original songs and vocals from Neville, Lynval and Roddy that come close to the first two albums by the original band. That said, I've always had a soft spot for its predecessor Today's Specials'. Though its plagued by plodding drum machines, synthesized keyboards and a selection of cover songs worthy of a UB40 'Labor Of Love' out take album, at the time I was thrilled to finally hear the band on American radio. Now almost 15 years later, I'm just waiting to hear that the current version of the band will be visiting the U.S. in 2010.
Below is a link to download an extensive archive of unreleased demos and out takes from The Specials Mk 2 courtesy of Liam Ska's Heavy Heavy Monster blog. Highlights include a blistering reggae version of 'Farmyard Connection' as well as a number of notable out takes from 'Today's Specials' and 'Guilty 'Till Proved Innocent' like 'Reckless Romance' which features Roddy's signature singing and guitar playing and 'Melting Pot' and 'Mad Them Up' which sound like they could be in the band's current set.