Saturday, 27 April 2019

UB40 - Bagariddim (1985)

  

Released on 2 September 1985

This was one of UB40's heaviest and most authentic albums. However, it is in no way a typical UB40 album. They play contemporary (in 1985) dancehall/ragga "riddims" over some of their previous material, and invited several guest singers to "toast" (Jamaican reggae rap) the vocals. The results are certainly an acquired taste and would not appeal to those attracted by the group's many accessible covers of classic reggae songs and indeed their own, often commercially appealing material. It has never particularly appealed to me, because my own reggae tastes are from the earlier periods of ska, rock steady, early pop reggae, roots, rockers, dub and lovers rock. I can tolerate bits of dancehall and ragga but not too much, to be honest, therefore I can dip into this album for an occasional blast, but half an hour or more is a bit like too much stodgy food.

Now, that is not to say that there isn't a lot of atmosphere or indeed quality on here. The sound quality is big, bassy and resonant and, if you like the genre you will very much enjoy this. As I said earlier, it is very authentic stuff.

TRACK LISTING (stating guest vocalists and original source songs)

1. The King Step Mk. 1 (Feat. Pato Banton and If It Happens Again)
2. The Buzz Feeling (Feat. Gunslinger and Cherry Oh Baby)
3. Lyric Officer Mk. 2 (Feat. Dillinger and If It Happens Again)
4. Demonstrate (Feat. Admiral Jerry and As Always You Were Wrong Again)
5. Two In A One Mk.1 (Feat. Pablo & Gunslinger and The Pillow)
6. Hold Your Position Mk. 3 (Feat. Stones and If It Happens Again)
7. Hip Hop Lyrical Robot (Feat. Pato Banton and Your Eyes Were Open)
8. Style Mk. 4 (Feat. Pablo and If It Happens Again)
9. Fight Fe Come In Mk. 2 (Feat. James Bon & General CP and The Pillow)
10. V's Version (Feat. Sister V and Version Girl)
11. Don't Break My Heart
12. I Got You Babe (Feat. Chrissie Hynde)
13. Mi Spliff

I am not the best person to advise on dancehall/ragga grooves, but both "The King Step Mk. 1" featuring Pato Banton's lilting voice and Gunslinger's "The Buzz Feeling" have a certain loose, dubby infectiousness about them. I can certainly take small doses of this. However, the toasting on "Lyric Officer Mk. 2" just isn't for me. "Demonstrate" has a quirky appeal, but to be honest I prefer the toasting of the seventies DJs such as Prince Far I, U-Roy, I-Roy and Big Youth. Admiral Jerry's lyrics make me smile on occasions, but I don't want to listen to the track too many times. The backing is good though.


Pablo and Gunslinger's vocals on "Two In A One Mk. 1" are amusing and provide a bit of light entertainment. One of my favourites is "Hold Your Position Mk. 3" which has Stones sounding quite a lot like Prince Far I, in that gruff, throaty way. Even better is "Hip Hop Lyrical Robot" which is the most musically appealing. I really like the lighter skank of  "V's Version" as well. Sister V's female vocal is a pleasant change from all the previous male vocalists too.

Strangely, at the end of this mix of dancehall/ragga toasting are included two commercial, poppy singles in the evocative, more typical UB40 of "Don't Break My Heart" and the laconic, slightly underwhelming cover of Sonny & Cher's "I Got You Babe", which was a duet between Ali Campbell and The Pretenders' Chrissie Hynde. These were originally released as an EP, and the EP has been tagged on after the album's original ten tracks, hence the slightly incongruous feel.

Just to reiterate the point I made at the beginning, this is a dancehall/ragga album and not what the uninitiated would expect from a UB40 album.

C

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