Ali Campbell left UB40 in 2008. He was later joined by Astro and Mickey. They all got together in 2014 to release ‘Silhouette’ under Ali’s moniker, ‘The Legendary voice of UB40 reunited with Astro and Mickey.’ As has happened other bands, legal reasons has prevented them using the original band name so “UB40 featuring..’ is the trios way out of this.
As well as featuring covers, this ‘Unplugged’ album is the first time that UB40’s catalogue has been stripped back and given the acoustic treatment. The collection opens with ‘Kingston Town’ which features a beautiful Hawaiian sounding acoustic guitar while Ali’s vocals are awash with reverb.
The tracks we expect to hear from UB40 are there, ‘Red Red Wine’ with a new talk/rap over it, ‘I Can’t Help Falling in Love’ and ‘I Got You Babe’ which features Ali’s daughter, Kaya Campbell on vocals. Sidebar: She’s got a great tone to her voice.
Pato Banton also makes an appearance on ‘Come Back’. This version of the track has the tempo slowed, which is this album’s greatest downfall. Many of the tracks are too similar in tempo which could easily lead it to fall into background music territory. I just want Pato to get that 1994 original tempo going. This crosses over to ‘Purple Rain’, here, it’s reggae tempo is speeded up.
That’s not saying it’s a bad album. One of the standouts, the trio’s version of ‘Many Rivers to Cross’ features great musical arrangements. Perhaps, with the re-workings the problem is that we are too accustomed to the original versions.
This makes the decision to include a second disc of all the original UB40 versions slightly baffling. But, with all legal things in the music industry, this may have been part of a deal to use the ‘UB40 featuring’ name. It could also be something to do with another ‘Essential UB40’ album being released earlier this year.
Back to Disc 1, the ‘Unplugged’ side of things. It’s not a bad collection, though it continues at a steady pace without many hills and troughs. It would be perfect for a long hot day in Summer, with a barbecue going in the garden. There are places where the arrangements flirt with genius, like the drum and bass-esque opening for ‘One in Ten’. I’d love to see this revisited for a full DnB treatment. ‘Rat in Mi Kitchen’ a la 2016 is refreshing and when stripped down could be rebuilt for 2016’s EDM world.
No doubt, Ali Campbell’s reggae delivers what the UB40 fanbase will love. What they really need is some new material under the ‘UB40 feat’ moniker. I just wish that they hadn’t touched Purple Rain.