Anyone lucky enough to witness, close up, any of Neville Staple Band’s blistering Rude Boy manna shows, might just about understand my untamed enthusiasm, even when confronted with so many songs, 21 tracks are here and present on the new studio album. ‘Return of Judge Roughneck’ via Cleopatra Records. This double LP features new re-workings of classic Jamaican cuts, further completed by some brand new material as well as a few gems from Neville’s past along with a bonus dub album offering serious bass-bin shaking mixes. The second single ‘Down My Own Street’, follows up the brilliant lead track ‘Return of Judge Roughneck’.
As it happens, today I am unwittingly wearing my tour t-shirt from The Selecter, so subconsciously I am already strapped in and ready.
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.
In 2004, Neville formed The Neville Staple Band, releasing the critically acclaimed album ‘The Rude Boy Returns’, with contributions from Clash guitarist Mick Jones and Damned drummer Rat Scabies, with Flipron’s Joe Atkinson on organ. The group also featured former members of the British ska band Bad Manners.
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.
Here Neville Staple recreates his famous Judge Roughneck character, who first emerged as part of the ‘Stupid Marriage’ song from The Specials’ debut album on 2 Tone Records. Early on, it;s the pre-released title-track single ‘Return of Judge Roughneck’ and future single ‘Down My Own Street’ matched by a re-working of of ‘Lunatics’ complete with vocal samples that resonate so well with this listener.
‘Politician Man’ carries fresh gravitas, whereas ‘Crime Don’t Pay’ and ‘Maga Dog’ benefit from the production side, the sound is ably handed. Also ‘Run’ conjures thoughts of packed to the gills festival set, everyone relieved they can have a break, sorry to say, many blades of grass were damaged as a result of Neville Staple Band’s multiple festival outings.
‘Be Happy’ is entertaining as ever, and feels solid and wholesome as ‘Enjoy Yourself (Ragtime Lounge Mix feat. Jessy Greene)’ everyone will have their own choice of favourite, but for a whole new generation and older fans, fresh takes on classics is no errand, any quibbles lost it’s lost in the ambience delivered.
‘Dub Fever’ has much to praise, but how many dogs? Don’t misunderstand, I’m as big a fan of dub as I am of ska vut thinking a little less is more here. ‘Jah Baddis Dubplate’ is loose and flows well. ‘Dub Street’ also builds nicely with some good bass and vocal refrains notching up close to 6 minutes. ‘Bang Bang’ works although it’s a bit out there imagine giving Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry a Red Bull after a 14 hour recording session and asking for musical direction. Really like the ghosting of The Specials with lyrics drifting in and out of busy mix, pinned by a heavy dub bass on ‘Dub Crazy feat. Jessy Greene. Then it’s the last track with the worthwhile ‘Legal Dub’, it feels over too soon.
It’s not that easy to sum up a new Neville Staple release, such is his creative legacy, his history to his present. Luckily the new album, ‘Return of Judge Roughneck’ may not see The Original Rudeboy wander too far from his past pastures, but is totally worthwhile. Collectively there is a furtive and dexterous team in 2017, that create and deliver for the most part, not that every song is a home run, but collectively a fine album, with good handful of winners. 7.8/10
1. Return Of Judge Roughneck
3. Down My Street
5. Crime Don’t Pay
6. Gang Fever
7. Politician Man
8. Maga Dog
10. Be Happy
11. Sweet Sensation
12. Enjoy Yourself (Ragtime Lounge Mix feat. Jessy Greene)
13. Maga Dub
14. Crime Dub
15. Roadblock (Slam Door Dub Mix by Ed Rome)
16. Dub Fever
17. Jah Baddis Dubplate
18. Dub Street
19. Bang Bang
20. Dub Crazy feat. Jessy Greene
21. Legal Dub
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 14 Chesterfield, UK – The Avenue
Apr 22 Northampton, UK – The Roadmender w/ Don Letts
Apr 27 Exeter, UK – The Terrace
Apr 28 East Kilbride, UK – The Union
Apr 29 Skegness, UK – Skegness Scooter Rally
May 26 Peterborough, UK – DJ set
May 27 Porthmadog, UK – Snowdonia Scotter Rally
May 28 Southend, UK – In The Park
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
Aug 18 Derby, UK – The Venue