Sunday, 4 August 2019

UB40 - Homegrown (2003)

Swing low sweet chariot....

  

Released on 2 December 2003

Running time 51.47

After several unremarkable albums over a fair few years, UB40 released one here with a bit of political vitality about it, lyrically. Sonically, however, it was a victim of the "digital reggae" that was popular from the early/mid nineties through into the new millennium. The bass is big and booming, the drums programmed and all potential rootsiness sort of computerised out of it, which is a shame. It was contemporarily on the money, however, so fair enough.

There are a fair few dubby passages, though, that give a little bit of roots feel to some of the songs.

TRACK LISTING

1. So Destructive
2. I Knew You
3. Drop On By
4. Someone Like Me
5. Freestyler
6. Everything Is Better Now
7. Just Be Good (Bushman Dub)
8. Young Guns
9. Hand That Rocks The Cradle
10. Nothing Without You
11. Nothing Without You (Dub)
12. Swing Low Sweet Chariot                       

"So Destructive" starts with a few weird, spacey sound effects before a digitalised, ragga style beat kicks in and Ali Campbell's trademark voice arrives. It has a nice enough beat to it, but I have always preferred "real" reggae, but as this was recorded in 2003, I have to get used to the "faux" sound. "I Knew You" is a big, rumbling slow burner, with hints of the group's mid eighties "Rat In The Kitchen" output. Initially, it is just another bit of digital reggae, but I have to admit that after a few listens, it starts to work its way into my consciousness. There is a good dubby/brass interplay section in the middle too. "Drop On By" has more dub enhancing its backing - a slow, deep skank together with a haunting Campbell vocal. This is probably as good as anything the group had put out for years. It has a great dub bass bit at the end.


"Someone Like Me" ploughs the same furrow, but has a slightly poppier edge to it. "Freestyler" utilises dancehall/ragga toasting on the vocals. Most UB40 albums in recent years contain at least one track like this. It serves to change the feel from the previous tracks a bit. "Everything Is Better Now" is pretty typical UB40 fare, but again they concentrate on the dubby aspects of the beat, which is fine by me, as lover of dub. Once more, the bass bit at the end is excellent. Full of dubby atmosphere. The same applies to the impressive "Just Be Good (Bushman Dub)". Once more the dub aspects are to the forefront, even before the infectious ending.

"Young Guns" has a catchy feel to it, a great vocal from Campbell and an anti-gun message. "Young guns never grow old...". Indeed they don't. "Hand That Rocks The Cradle" is a very digital-ish number with politically-motivated lyrics about the state of the world. I have got used to the digital sound by now, actually, and I am quite enjoying it. "Nothing Without You" is almost electronica in its backing. The dub version of the same song is obviously going to be enjoyed by me. The group's cover of "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" is enjoyable but somewhat inessential and incongruous in the context of the album as a cohesive whole.

This was one of UB40's best albums from their latter era career, before their big split up, which saw two groups splintering off from each other. It is easily the match of "Rat In The Kitchen" or any of the mid-eighties offerings.

B-

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