In February of last year, a time when the UK was consciously sleepwalking into the Pandemic, The Specials came together from various corners to begin writing a follow up to Encore, but within a week two band members went down with CoVid. Lockdown coupled with George Floyd’s brutal killing by a US Police Officer, caught the public’s sentiment of injustice and so the idea of Protest Songs came. Out of adversity comes opportunity but these aren’t uncharted waters for The Specials, they are practised practitioners of protest.

Album opener, Freedom Highway, offers less Gospel and more punch than The Staple Singers’ song written for the Black rights march to Montgomery. Leonard Cohen’s Everybody Knows is understated and typically slow-burn, with Helen Hu accompanying Terry Hall’s vocal. It’s a stirring Chorus but I found myself acquiescing to the mismatch as one voice overhangs the other.

The collection of twelve songs are diverse in theme and era yet all originate from overseas and avoid the domestic agenda. This time Hall drops the Mic and Lynval Golding picks it up with aplomb on a rework of Big Bill Broonzy’s Black, Brown and White. Albeit the New Orleans feel-good swing is at risk of disguising what little progress has been made in Equality since the time of its writing in 1947. The Specials are an eclectic Ensemble these days, augmented with musicians of Steve Craddock and Nikolaj Torp Larsen’s pedigree, despite mainstream Media wishing to forever frame them in the early 80s.

Listening Wind, lifted from Talking Heads breakthrough LP, gets tasteful treatment here. Paired back to just Rastafarian rhythms and sombre Horns, its the standout song on the Album, bringing to the fore this Native-American folk chant. It’s positively tribal.

But if you’re looking for something formulaic, The Specials’ latest offering won’t be it. That said, credit is due for having the brass to eschew the commercially savvy route, in favour of covering a kaleidoscope of songs firmly rooted in struggle and injustice.

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