Thursday, 23 May 2019

UB40 - Labour Of Love III (1998)

Train is coming....


Released on 17 November 1998

Running Time 62:56

After two very successful Labour Of Love albums of reggae covers, this was the third UB40 released in the series, and was nowhere near as successful. What it is, though, is more eclectic, obscure and rootsy. There are dancehall and lovers rock sounds in there too. It is actually an underrated album, although it has never been given much credit, critically.

TRACK LISTING (in brackets are the original reggae artists)

1. Holly Holy (The Fabulous Flames)
2. It's My Delight (The Melodians)
3. Come Back Darling (Johnny Osbourne)
4. Never Let You Go (Junior Delgado)
5. Soul Rebel (Bob Marley & The Wailers)
6. My Best Girl (The Paragons)
7. Good Ambition (The Ethiopians)
8. Train Is Coming (Ken Boothe)
9. Blood And Fire (Niney The Observer)
10. Mr Fix It (Winston Francis)
11. Stay A Little Bit Longer (Delano Stewart)
12. Someone Like You (The Mighty Diamonds)
13. Time Has Come (Slim Smith)
14. Crying Over You (Ken Boothe)
15. Legalize It (Peter Tosh)                                          

Holly Holy, while a second Neil Diamond cover after Red Red Wine, is more inspired by the reggae version of it done by The Fabulous Flames in the "skinhead reggae" era of the early seventies. It's My Delight has a lively, dancehall-style beat and a quirky keyboard solo bit. Come Back Darling was a minor hit, featuring a huge bass line, great horns, dancehall digitally-programmed percussion and a classic, yearning Ali Campbelvocal. Never Let You Go is a bouncy, horn-driven stomper in which the brass overwhelms the skank somewhat. Bob Marley & The Wailers' Soul Rebel is one of the best cuts on the album, with a great vocal from Astro and a real atmosphere to it, which captures the essence of Marley's original.

My Best Girl is a soulful slow groove with crystal clear percussion and another excellent Campbell vocal. The Ethiopians' Good Ambition is upbeat and melodic, although its nineties-style beat dominates a bit. Ken Boothe's Train Is Coming has a big, thumping, infectious beat and the same uplifting feel of the original. Blood And Fire is a roots reggae classic from the mid seventies. It is given a deep, heavy nineties makeover here, but retaining its righteous feel and toasting vocals. Mr. Fix It is a smoochy ballad with a bit of a country feel to it, certainly to its vocal and melody.

Stay A Little Bit Longer is a poppy skank. Unfortunately, as this album was recorded in 1998, the drums are quite programmed in places. I would have preferred an authentic "one drop" reggae drumming style, but reggae had gone digital by now, so it was in tune with the contemporary trend. Someone Like You has some deep, bass grooves behind its romantic ballad tones, particularly near the end of the song. Time Has Come is another with a sonorous dancehall/ragga beat although its vocal is light and appealing (not sure if it is Campbell, I think it is one of the others). It ends with an extended bit of contemporary reggae.

Ken Boothe's seventies hit, Crying Over You is a nostalgic one for me with some nice dubby parts and there is some more credible roots material on the cover of Peter Tosh's Legalize It. Bizarrely, after five minutes, the song ends, only for the sound to come back on a few minutes later with the sound of someone loudly snoring! Just in case the album had sent you to sleep. As it is, it is a good listen, better than many say it is.