Rare & Fatty: Unreleased Recordings 1976-1997
Moon SKA NYC
I'm usually not much for "rarities" collections. Most of them are really only of value to a band's most rabid fans -- to anyone else, the tracks sound like they went unreleased for a reason! That's why Bad Manners' Rare & Fatty is such a pleasant surprise. This "odds & sods" collection from the venerable 2-Tone survivors is a reason to rejoice -- it's a fun set of covers, alternate takes, and unreleased material that's just as good as anything the band has ever released.
The unreleased originals are probably the big news for the avid collector. Of this batch, my favorite is probably "Tighten Up," a fast paced track that wouldn't have sounded out of place among the classic singles of the 2 Tone era. Elsewhere, "Jezebel" is a real oddity for the band -- a serious, sincere love song that surely would've been huge had it been released in the early '80s. "Paranoid" and "Are You Monster?" are silly fun, while "Help Me" is the classic Bad Manners mix of ska and R&B.
The band also tackles a diverse set of covers. Of course, there are plenty of ska and reggae classics, including Dave & Ansel Collins' "Double Barrel," Dandy Livingstone's "Suzanne Beware of the Devil" (in a dub version retitled "Devil's Dub"), and "Shakin' Up (Dowling Street)" (a surprisingly political reworking of Prince Buster's "Shaking Up Orange Street"), but there's also the mambo of Perez Prado's "Why Wait?" and pop hits like Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'," and most surprisingly, Viola Wills' "When Will I See You Again," a song that I out-and-out hated in its original version, but somehow, it's made palatable by Fatty and the boys.
Rounding out the record are alternate takes of "Night Bus to Dalston" and "Elizabethan Reggae," and an absolutely killer remix of "That'll Do Nicely." Rare & Fatty also gets bonus points for clever package design (it looks like the Cliff's Notes to Bad Manners) and especially its detailed liner notes. All in all, it's a winning package that's well worth your time, even if you're just a casual fan of the band.
Moon SKA NYC, P.O. Box 1412, Cooper Station, New York, NY 10276; http://www.moonska.com