The Specials is one of the great ska records of all time, a truly captivating record that blew through the hearts of a generation of youth who knew next to nothing of ska before they heard the record but who dived deep into the well of the original stuff afterwards. Without The Specials, released in 1979 (and produced by a young Elvis Costello), a case could be made that we never would have experienced a third and fourth wave of ska.
Regardless of "influence," though, the record and its follow-up, More Specials, still, to this day, burn. Rising from the ashes of both Thatcher's and the Sex Pistols' England, the band smoldered with offbeat energy that combined ska rhythm with punk energy and resulted in the heaven of "Nightclub," "Too Much Too Young" and "Do the Dog." Even more impressive than these, though, was their amazing follow-up single, "Ghost Town," a mournful song about the death of England. It's one of the great songs of the last half of the 20th century.
The Specials have been gigging for the better part of the '90s, after lying low through most of the '80s, and it's hard to tell which of the original members, besides vocalist Neville Staples (and perhaps Lynval Golding) are gigging this time around. Regardless, it is the Specials, so it should be worth it.