What happened to UB40....
Released on 15 March 2019
Running Time 51:07
Having enjoyed UB40's music since 1980, I find the current situation which has two feuding incarnations of the same band very sad. I do not take sides, I listen to the output of both groups and enjoy them. This version of UB40 contains five members from the original band - Earl Falconer, Jimmy Brown, Robin Campbell, Brian Travers and Norman Lamont Hassan. Since Labour Of Love IV and the country/reggae album Getting Over The Storm, Duncan Campbell has been lead vocals and, as we know, he sounds a lot like original vocalist Ali Campbell. The latter is part of the other version of the group with toaster Astro and Mickey Virtue. Confusing, isn't it?
Anyway, this is a laid-back pleasant enough collection of catchy reggae numbers given that familiar UB40 brassy treatment. It has a nice, warm sound quality to it as well, with none of that too heavy bass that blighted late 1990s/early 2000s albums like Guns In The Ghetto. The bass is solid and full, as it should be, but not distorted.
The cover is a somewhat shocking impression of a city skyline based on the Grenfell Tower fire.
1. The Keeper
2. Broken Man
3. Gravy Train
4. I'm Alright Jack
5. Moonlight Lover
6. You Haven't Called
7. What Happened To UB40
9. Poor Fool
10. All We Do Is Cry
The Keeper is a breezy, brassy and summery typical UB40 groove, while Broken Man has a deeper, dubbier rhythm but retains the trademark horn backing. Additional vocalist Kabaka Pyramid has a toasting part near the end. Lead vocals are taken by Norman Lamont Hassan, who has a deeper voice than Campbell. Gravy Train is a Gregory Isaacs-inspired melodic skank, with a nice dubby bit at the song's conclusion. UB40 have always been a band with a social conscience and this is expressed in the cynical I'm Alright Jack. Its concerns are the unfairness of the property market. Pablo Rider provides the gruff, ragga-style toasting vocals. More authentic dub is featured on the
Midnight Lover has Hassan on vocals again on an infectious Lovers Rock-style number. You Haven't Called is a slow-pace, dubby love song. Great bass and saxophone on this. What Happened To UB40 is a disappointing, unnecessary toasting dig at the "other band". While it has a great groove to it, its sentiments come across as churlish. No need for it. Once again, though, the dub sounds on the track are impressive.
Bulldozer goes full on ragga and Poor Fool is a return to that laid-back, sunny sound. All We Do Is Cry is an evocative, soulful number with Hassan again on vocals, at one point showing some Eastern influences. This album is notable for using Hassan quite a few times on vocals, so it doesn't come across like an attempt to sound like Ali Campbell, something Duncan is sometimes guilty of. This is an enjoyable forty-fifty minutes or so's listen. Recommended.