Long before a bunch of SoCal white kids got the sublime idea to round up the local high school band nerds and form a ska group, there was the English Beat. A multiracial outfit from Birmingham, England, that combined working-class punk with Jamaican R&B, the Beat was the leader of the ska revival that hit the U.K. right around the time punk was bleeding into new wave. Dave Wakeling, the white singer, and Ranking Roger, the black toaster, set the precedent for many acts to follow. After three great albums in the early '80s -- I Just Can't Stop It, Wha'ppen?, and Special Beat Service, all reissued a couple of years ago and all worth picking up -- the English Beat splintered, with the rhythm section founding Fine Young Cannibals and Wakeling and Roger starting General Public. A few years down the road, Wakeling is back at it, billing himself as the English Beat's Dave Wakeling. Without Ranking Roger, one can only assume that Wakeling will be doing some tunes from his solo album, now a decade old, as well as the expected English Beat and General Public favorites. The king of 2-Tone has also been playing some new songs in concert, gearing up for that long-delayed General Public album. In the meantime, tube fans can catch Wakeling on VH1's Where Are They Now?, talking at length about his whereabouts these past few years; more active folks should just check out the man himself this week.
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