The Beat featuring Ranking Roger
Produced by Mick Lister and Ranking Roger
The English Beat’s story can be long and convoluted if you really dive into it but here’s the short and sweet version: Birmingham, England’s The Beat were initially party of the Ska Revival movement in the late ‘70s alongside The Specials, The Selecter, Madness, and Bad Manners to name a few.
Due to the existence of an American Power Pop band of the same name, The Beat changed their name to The English Beat for the U.S.
Their 1980 debut album, I JUST CAN’T STOP IT, was warmly received but it wasn’t until 1982’s SPECIAL BEAT SERVICE that the band achieved success in America.
Sadly, the band split the following year. Front men Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger went on to form General Public while guitarist Andy Cox and bassist David Steele formed Fine Young Cannibals.
General Public achieved some success in the U.S. while FYC had a great run on the charts during their short existence. Wakeling and Roger released solo albums in the late ‘80s, briefly reunited in the ‘90s as General Public, and then eventually formed two separate versions of The Beat – in the UK, Roger fronted The Beat (featuring Ranking Roger) while Dave has continued to work under the name The English Beat in America.
Roger’s version of the band was the first to release new studio material, issuing the excellent BOUNCE album in 2016. Wakeling’s English Beat released HERE WE GO LOVE in 2018, another fantastic addition to the band’s legacy. In March of 2019, Ranking Roger passed away, leaving behind a legacy of music and positivity…
Just two months prior to Roger’s untimely death, The Beat featuring Ranking Roger released PUBLIC CONFIDENTIAL, their final studio album. Like BOUNCE, PUBLIC CONFIDENTIAL pays tribute to the band’s signature sound while also bringing it bang-up-to-date. Unlike many other artists over the years who try to stay relevant by ‘modernizing’ their sound, Roger & Co. don’t shy away from the core ingredients that put The Beat on the map.
While Roger is the only member from the original Beat line-up, the other musicians gracefully slide into their positions on the album, embracing the sound of old while also making it all sound fresh. On PUBLIC CONFIDENTIAL, you’ll find the distinctive and creative bass lines that help propel the songs forward and the honking sax that is eerily reminiscent of original Beat member Saxa. With Roger assuming most of the lead vocals, his son Ranking Junior steps in on toasting duties, essentially filling the shoes his father had occupied 40 years ago.
While Ranking Roger is in the driver’s seat, a lot of credit should be bestowed upon producer, co-writer, and guitarist Mick Lister (The Truth), who has helped Roger craft another fine album. While PUBLIC CONFIDENTIAL isn’t quite as brilliant as BOUNCE, it is still a wonderful platter that brings the past and present together.
Perhaps a tad less ‘Pop’ than the previous album, this collection of tracks delves a little deeper into Reggae and Ska, offering up songs that can stand proudly with Beat classics yet still stand on their own. “Dangerous,” “On The Road,” “Skank Away,” “Long Call Short Talk,” “Maniac,” and the title track are definitely Reggae-influenced gems. “A Good Day For Sunshine” is straight-ahead Pop that sounds like the frisky little brother to The (English) Beat’s “Best Friend.” At first, the song “Who’s Dat Looking” may sound too close to their classic “Mirror In The Bathroom,” but upon further investigating, it becomes obvious (even by the title) that the song is merely a loving homage to their original classic.
At the end of the day, PUBLIC CONFIDENTIAL is a very important entry in the Beat’s catalog. Not only is it Roger’s final musical testament, it also shows that he was still creating magic until the very end. The king is dead – long live the ranKing (Roger, that is)!