Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating * * * *
To feel the beat you have to allow yourself to be infected by the strength and depth of the musician and the artist, from them the music has to dominate their every breathing moment, from them the infectious delivery has to insurmountable, it has to consume and devastate, it has to be magnificent. If it fails to raise the heart rate, if it doesn’t install a sense of drama or unrequited love in your very being then throw it away, consign it to the forlorn pile and let it be judged harshly.
For Neville Staple, a King in a room of princes, the continuation of spirit, the immensity of the calling in his musical art is such the judge and jury have nothing but the urge to send him on his way, back into society and allow him to preach the good fight, unhindered, unconstrained by anybody’s straying hand; for this King of Ska, a man behind so many revolutions is once more leading the way and the Return of Judge Roughneck heralds the laying down of the law once more.
It is heavy duty, a deep intake of breath that preludes the pronouncement, but from the start this is no ordinary sermon, no chucking out words as if they were made of jagged or irregular rhythm, this is a double exposure into the mind of the man who was part of history, who with The Specials and Fun Boy Three, made and shaped history in music in Britain and beyond.
Return of Judge Roughneck is the culmination of work by Neville Staple, a critical look at his ability to make music accessible and one that punches hard at stupidity and narrow minded thought but one that caresses gently those whose open mind is attuned with precision to hear the thoughts of this once and future King.
The album is a combination of reworked Jamaican styles and the cross over in which he made his name, the songs are elegant, they have so much fire in their belly that it is no wonder that dragons look to him to restore pride. In tracks such as Down My Street, Crime Don’t Pay, Politician Man, Sweet Sensation and Lunatics, Neville Staple and the selected entourage that takes the wheel with the musician of renown, take the listener on a two way journey that made Two Tone such a rich tapestry of sound; the memories of past conquests and the road ahead, the signposts are equally cool and perfectly measured.
A wonderful return for the King of British Ska, heritage is preserved; the Return of Judge Roughneck proclaims it so.
Neville Staple releases Return of Judge Roughneck on Cleopatra Records on February 17th.
Ian D. Hall