On some level, one might think of Special Beat as an elaborately designed package act; after all, the Portmanteau name belies the band’s relatively simple DNA: members of The Specials and The English Beat, combined to perform hits from both bands. Not surprisingly, then, that live albums are the only documents of this compelling collaborative project, other than a few lost demo tracks from the band’s beginning.
It would be easy to write off Special Beat as a somewhat pathetic ploy by less successful members of these two bands to cash in on their storied past, but to do so would be shortsighted. In spite of nostalgia, it’s quite obvious the members of Special Beat are all highly talented musicians at the top of their game, even though they might not have had the post-breakup successes of their former band mates. Furthermore, as the band recreates Specials classics like “Gangsters,” “Doesn’t Make it Alright,” and “Too Much Too Young,” or English Beat hits “Save it for Later” and “Tears of A Clown,” it’s also obvious that these guys are having fun–and the audience is eating it up, loving every minute of this peculiar collective.
Included with Live in Japan is a reissue of the video of the same concert, entitled Enjoy Yourself. Watching the audience (and the band) having a good time, it’s easy to understand and appreciate that title. All in all, a fun document of a fun time.