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Song Premiere: "Return of Judge Roughneck" by Neville Staple

Neville Staple; Photo Credit: John Coles
7 February 2017

Neville Staple; Photo Credit: John Coles

Way back when buying records was the thing to do (long before the internet age), information about bands and their releases seemed so hard to come by that music lovers clung to each and every word printed on album covers and sleeves, memorizing lyrics by heart and exchanging band trivia with friends whenever possible. Back then, music listeners were virtually dependent on what was played and said on the radio.

So rewind to 1979, on the eve of the elections that would see Margaret Thatcher come to power in the UK, when a very important set of historical events occurred when ska legends The Specials released their debut single “Gangsters” on 2 Tone (there were 5,000 copies for the first pressing, which had sold out by May).

Elvis Costello soon declared this “one of the best records he’d heard in the last ten years” on Radio 1’s Round Table, resulting in The Specials signing a multi-album deal with Chrysalis in early June that established 2 Tone as a subsidiary of Chrysalis, but virtually under The Specials’ control and with its own budget. An unprecedented event in the music biz back then. That summer, The Specials recorded their self-titled debut album, produced by Elvis Costello, and there was no looking back at that point. History had been made and a brilliant mark this was.

Zoom ahead to 2017 – even a bit further ahead to February 17. On this date, Neville Staple – a founding member of both The Specials and Fun Boy Three and co-vocalist with Ranking Roger in The Special Beat – will be releasing his new studio album Return of Judge Roughneck. To be available in all formats (limited edition vinyl, CD, and digitally) via Cleopatra Records, this double LP feels like things are coming full circle for an artist with a stunning legacy and repertoire, not to mention social messages worth voicing.

What can you expect on the new album? Today The Big Takeover premieres the title track “Return of Judge Roughneck” so you can get a taste for yourself. This is a fun ska dance, wherein Staple recreates his famous Judge Roughneck character, who first emerged as part of the “Stupid Marriage” song from The Specials’ debut album. This has all the spunk found in The Specials classic “Gangsters” with more of a feel-good, yet critical dose of The English Beat and The Special Beat. Relative to The Specials, it is so good to hear Staples’ voice from front to end. The brass section and backing vocals also fit like a glove.

Apart from that, you can anticipate brilliant new re-workings of classic Jamaican cuts, some brand new material from Neville Staple, and a few gems from his past. To boot, Cleopatra Records is including a bonus dub album, which, if the offerings are up to the caliber as his previous album Ska Crazy (2014), should be seriously rad. On the second half of the album, the label promises “a journey with atmospheric vibes, toasting fun, and twisted song versions”.

Known as The Original Rudeboy, Neville Staple is a Jamaican-born British singer credited with changing the face of pop music not only once, but twice. His 35-year career in the music business is well documented, from the early days with The Coventry Automatics, The Specials, and Fun Boy Three to collaboration with Ranking Roger in The Special Beat and various other collaborations during his solo career from the ’90s until the present day.

Following on from the 2009 Specials reunion and Neville Staple’s departure from the band in late 2012, he continues to be a forerunner of the ska movement, having formed his own combo, The Neville Staple Band. They have been continually thrilling audiences, touring relentlessly and playing many festivals, including a headline slot on the Avalon Stage at Glastonbury Festival.

The new album involves members of the Neville Staple Band and guest musicians, including violinist Jessy Greene (The Jayhawks, Geraldine Fibbers), producer Ed Rome and Neville’s wife Christine ‘Sugary’ Staple, who co-produced the album with Neville and Tom Lowry (Planet Studios), with Mike Bennett providing additional mastering.

Neville Staple is just as good as he was in the heyday of The Specials and Fun Boy Three. His studio releases and live shows prove that he is still at the top of his game. May Neville Staples long continue to deliver the original sound of genuine 2 Tone ska. We recommend catching one of the UK tour dates below. A US tour is planned for later in 2017.

We also invite you to enjoy “Roadblock” from his Ska Crazy LP and a few flashbacks to Staple’s early years in the ska game (via The Specials and Fun Boy Three).

Feb 10 London, UK – Half Moon
Feb 11 Bedford, UK – Bedford Esquires
Feb 24 Plymouth, UK – The Hub
Feb 25 Coventry, UK – Rialto Reborn
Mar 03 Kilmarnock, UK – Bellfield Tavern
Mar 04 Middlesbrough, UK – The Longlands Club
Mar 24 Carlisle, UK – Old Firestation
Mar 25 Inverness, UK – The Ironworks
Apr 01 Looe, UK – Trelawne Manor Holiday Park
Apr 08 Swansea, UK – The Garage
Apr 22 Northampton, UK – The Roadmender w/ Don Letts
Apr 28 East Kilbride, UK – The Union
Apr 29 Skegness, UK – Skegness Scooter Rally
Jun 03 Hastings, UK – Seaside Treats Festival
Jul 08 Weston Super Mare, UK – Hazy Days Festival
Jul 15 Bridport, UK – Jurassic Fields Festival
Aug 05 Blackpool, UK – Rebellion Festival

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