The Special A.K.A
In The Studio (Chrysalis/Capitol)
By: Alex Steininger
After two successful full-lengths, 1979's self-titled debut and 1980's More Specials, The Specials were on the rise. In July 1981 they topped the British charts with "Ghost Town", making them one of the most significant bands in Europe.
However, within two months of the release of "Ghost Town", The Specials ceased to exist, at least in their original form. Singers Terry Hall and Neville Staples left to form The Fun Boy Three with Specials rhythm guitarist Lynval Golding.
At the same time, lead guitarist Roddy Radiation left to focus on his own side-project, The Tearjerkers.
Principle songwriter Dammers regrouped The Specials with the original rhythm section of bassist Sir Horace Gentleman and drummer John 'Brad' Bradbury, reverting back to their original name, The Special A.K.A.
Bringing in guest musicians and vocalists, Dammers' vision for the elusive third album, a Specials album without The Specials, was a lot more flexible. The band never played live, rarely appearing on television. Instead, a the title suggests, they purely a studio band, where they could really experiment with their sound and not limit themselves to a certain sound or style.
The outcome is a much more flexible record, one that didn't revolve around ska, but various pop and dance grooves. More experimental, but not as innovative as The Specials' previous two records, by 1985 The Special A.K.A existed only in name, with Dammers performing "Nelson Mandela" for the Artists Against Apartheid U.K., an agency he helped form.
A classic record in its own right, and one that documents the The Specials tremendous history, In The Studio is their weakest album, partly due to its all-over-the-map approach, as well as its complete departure from the sound that made The Specials so great. I'll give it a B-.