By Danny R. Phillips
Shout! Factory announced recently that they would be re-issuing the entire catalog of material record by English ska/toasting masters The English Beat. Included in this is every album (that’s three studio albums and two of bonus materials) and a CD/DVD of the band playing the US Festival in May of 1983.
That much material could be a lot to swallow by anyone other then the most fanatical and hardcore of English Beat devotees. Well, for those in the world who do not want to dish out $34 for the box set (that is still a killer deal), Shout! Factory will be releasing a concise greatest hits package, Keep the Beat: The Very Best of The English Beat, as a complement to the five-disc wonder.
Keep the Beat is everything the casual listener or newcomer to the band would want. They have included the well-known numbers like the unbelievably catchy “Save It For Later,” the semi-creepy “Mirror in the Bathroom,” an exceptional cover of the Smokey Robinson and The Miracles classic “Tears of a Clown” (in my mind, it bests the original), and perhaps-lesser-known numbers like “End of the Party,” “Ranking Full Stop,” and “Jeanette.”
Formed in 1978 in Birmingham, England, The English Beat (known as The Beat in their native England), helped build a wave of popularity that ska music and toasting (a live ad lib to Jamaican music) gained in the States alongside groups with reggae and ska-influenced bands like The Clash, Madness, and The Specials.
The English Beat exploded onto the scene with “Tears of A Clown” and later followed that up with an anti-Margaret Thatcher ditty known as “Stand Down Margaret.” The key to The English Beat is that they wrote catchy tunes and incorporated a brass section at a time when punk rock sloppiness and musical minimalism was all the rage. The English Beat stood beautifully against the norm and Keep The Beat shows that.
Many punk bands from that era inevitably fell by the wayside. Many have disappeared from the rock and roll history books; drugs, the changing tastes of their audience, apathy or a lack of material that stands the test of time have all but erased them. The English Beat, however, have managed to stay relevant and keep their audience while showing that a good time and dancing your ass off is always better than spitting on the band or leaving the club with a bloody nose.
The newly re-mastered songs that make up Keep The Beat sound as fresh, cool, and party worthy as the day they were first released. If the songs in the compilation were new to the world today they would be hits and that is the definition of great songs.
If you have ever been curious about The English Beat or you are just looking for an alternative to the bullshit music being churned by record labels and cookie cutter bands, go pick up Keep the Beat: The Very Best of The English Beat and dance the night away.