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UNTOUCHABLES (Buy CDs by this artist)
Live and Let Dance EP (Twist/Enigma) 1984
Wild Child (Stiff/MCA) 1985
Dance Party EP (Stiff/MCA) 1986
Agent 00 Soul (Twist/Restless) 1989
A Decade of Dance (Restless) 1990

There were other hybrid R&B/ska outfits on the LA scene at the time, but it was only the worthy Untouchables who caught Stiff's attention and wound up with a label deal on both sides of the Atlantic. Live and Let Dance introduced the band's energetic dance attack with a half-dozen exciting numbers, starting with the unforgettably catchy "Free Yourself." (One listen and you'll swear you heard it on a 1980 2-Tone single.) The 12-inch also presents solid reggae and ska in the UB40 mold; the live take of "(I'm Not Your) Stepping Stone," however, asserts real individuality.

Reprising "Free Yourself," Wild Child surrounds it with ten other strong items, including the similarly effective title track, a cool version of "I Spy (for the FBI)" — an obscurity also recorded by John Hiatt — produced by Jerry Dammers, a slice of straight rap-funk ("Freak in the Streets") and a synth-tinged rock tune ("Lovers Again"). Stewart Levine's production could be more full-bodied, but the sextet's enthusiasm and precision keep things rocking from start to finish.

With no new material forthcoming, a 12-inch compilation EP was released. Dance Party contains four remixed album tracks, including "Freak in the Street" (by Don and David Was) and "Free Yourself," a tune from the first EP and a new live funk workout.

Agent 00 Soul (titled for the Edwin Starr oldie, which the group covers blandly) reveals the Untouchables to be suffering from multiple personality disorder. On some songs they're a brassy soul revue putting hip-hop moves to Rick James sex-funk, elsewhere, they're a rocked-up reggae band. On the ska beat, there's a snappy translation of the Coasters' "Under the Boardwalk" and an inferior rewrite of "Free Yourself." Only one of the originals (the '60sish "Shama Lama," buried in the middle of the second side) is really good; while Agent 00 Soul has its moments, the album doesn't hang together at all. (The CD adds three bonus tracks.)

[Ira Robbins]