By Ray Sidman
"The Complete Beat"
Shout! Factory (5-CD box set)
Just try to get through a day of listening to New Wave radio without hearing “Mirror in the Bathroom” or “Rotating Head” — the latter made famous in part by “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and the former made famous by the band’s talent.
Fans of The English Beat — those who prefer to call them The Beat, as they had to change their name stateside because that moniker was already taken — will rejoice accordingly. In general, any fan of New Wave, reggae, ska and related ’80s pop-rock should take notice, as well.
This set includes all the albums the band released, plus plenty of cool extras adding up to 80 tracks total. Founders Dave Wakeling and Andy Cox, and later members Ranking Roger, David Steele, Everett Morton and Lionel Augustus Martin, started in 1978 and broke up a mere four years later. The fragmented membership formed the bands General Public and Fine Young Cannibals, but during their time together, The English Beat’s members put out some fantastic music that has provided notable influence for many performers since. There are a few songs in the bunch that are subpar or worse, as would be expected of any performer, but overall, The English Beat built a solid New Wave oeuvre.
The set’s packaging is simple but attractive and sturdy. The open-ended box holds the trio of albums in their own CD casings; a two-disc CD casing; and the well-written, 24-page booklet by Alex Ogg that provides a history of band. There are plenty of photos in the booklet, though there’s nothing here that loyal fans haven’t seen before. Every track has been remastered and sounds great, and it includes the band’s many B-sides, remixes and live releases. Also, though there are no previously unreleased songs here, many of the rarities are receiving a CD release for the first time with this set.
For an even more complete Beat experience, order the set direct from Shout!, which includes a two-disc CD/DVD set, “Live at the U.S. Festival.”