Monday, 17 June 2019

UB40 - Promises And Lies (1933)

Bring me your cup....


Released on 27 July 1993

Running Time 47:09

It was the nineties now. This was UB40 going full-on digital, nineties pop with a bit of reggae influence. Their socially-aware, authentic reggae grooves of ten-twelve years earlier had long gone. This was commercially-driven stuff and it remains the group's biggest-selling album, which is a bit of a shame in some ways, as it is nowhere near their most credible or crucial. It was here that UB40 gained a whole new generation of fans who were often not fully aware of the band's first couple of ground-breaking, vital albums. Those like me who had been around since the early days (I first saw them live in 1980) enjoyed the new material, but not in the same way. Time moves on, though, and I accepted that. It is certainly not a bad album at all.


1. C'est La Vie
2. Desert Sand
3. Promises And Lies
4. Bring Me Your Cup
5. Higher Ground
6. Reggae Music
7. Can't Help Falling In Love
8. Now And Then
9. Things Ain't Like They Used To Be
10. It's A Long Long Way
11. Sorry                                                    

C'est La Vie is a thumping, bassy, but highly programmed opener with some typical Ali Campbell vocals and hooks swirling around throughout the track. Desert Sand is a laid-back slice of slightly jazzy, summery easy listening fare. Campbell's vocals intertwine well with the sumptuous backing, though. Perfect wine bar background music, I guess. Nothing wrong with that, but people such as myself were fully aware that UB40 could produce better material than this. I still like the song, it has to be said. Brian Travers' saxophone is superb on here too. Maybe I was just living in the past.

Promises And Lies has that fast-beat semi-dancehall digital backing that UB40 would use a lot during the nineties. Bring Me Your Cup was a single and should have been a bigger hit than the number 24 it got to. I love it. It has a delicious guitar twiddle-diddle riff underpinning it, great saxophone and one of those great Campbell soulfully nasal vocals. I always enjoy the "sexy lady" toasting part at the end. The catchy Higher Ground was a much bigger hit, although I always preferred Bring Me Your Cup. An even bigger hit than both of them, of course, was the Elvis cover, Can't Help Falling In Love. It is done well, I have to say, but it is not the essence of UB40, for me. Campbell's voice sends shivers up the spine, however.

Reggae Music is a contemporarily-influenced attempt at merging ragga with the UB40 sound, with toaster Astro providing typical ragga vocals. It has an addictive chorus. Now And Then is a muscular, brassy but tuneful number. Things Ain't Like They Used To Be is a shuffling, brassy vaguely funky groover. It's A Long Long Way is given an infuriatingly programmed nineties backing, but its ragga vocals are authentic enough. It was a perfect mix of the often impenetrable sound of ragga with appealing pop/reggae. That contemporary vibe continues in the intro to the jaunty Sorry. There are hints of Sing Our Own Song from 1986 about it.

Listening to this again, it has been a pleasurable listen from beginning to end. The booming backing that would blight the group's next few albums was not present here. The sound is excellent.


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