Guilty 'til Proved Innocent

CD Cover The Specials

Review by Michael O'Donahue

The Specials mattered, once. They were one of the bands that brought ska to attention of the masses, and they did it because they were damn, damn good. And they were so good because included amongst their crowded roster were Terry Hall and Jerry Dammers, the brains of the outfit.

But now those two are gone, and they've been replaced for the band's 90's comeback. The Rest of Them have kept the name, but where the Specials once were important members of a movement, now they sound like a bar band. That spark of Specialness is gone. But they made a new record anyway.

Guilty 'Til Proved Innocent isn't a stinker -- it still sounds relatively Special -- but it's hardly a crucial part of Specials' history. The songs are okay, but for the band responsible for "Rudy (A Message to You)," "Concrete Jungle" and "Enjoy Yourself," okay just isn't good enough. Everyone needs a Specials' record or two in their collection, just not this one.

It can't be easy for a once great band to attempt a comeback, but for a once great band lacking its lead singer and principal songwriters, it can't be anything other than impossible. I shouldn't fault them for trying, but none of these new songs stand out or stick in your head the way the real Specials did. I saw this version of the band on tour a couple of years ago and, while the old songs were still worth the money, the new ones were not.

The Specials need Terry and Jerry. Without them, it's like George and Ringo hiring a couple guys and calling themselves the Beatles. It'd be all right, I guess, but... why?

First published in Drop-D Magazine on April 25, 1998

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