Monday, 5 August 2019

UB40 - Who You Fighting For? (2005)

Sins of the fathers....

  

Released on 19 July 2005

Running time 47.10

After an impressive album in 2003's Homegrown, UB40 delivered another solid album of relaxed songs - contemporary-sounding but with dubby influences. They are the usual mix of love songs and cynical observations on everyday life/political situations. This album has sort of slipped under the radar as the group moved inexorably towards their acrimonious split, which is a shame, as it is one of their best relatively recent releases. It is one of their liveliest, most uptempo albums. The great thing about this release is the move away from digitally-programmed rhythms to a more traditional reggae, utilising "real" drums and percussion. For me, this is always going to be a good thing.

TRACK LISTING

1. Who You Fighting For
2. After Tonight
3. Bling Bling
4. Plenty More
5. War Poem
6. Sins Of The Fathers
7. Good Situation
8. Gotta Tell Someone
9. Reasons
10. One Woman Man
11. I'll Be On My Way
12. Kiss And Say Goodbye
13. Things You Say You Love                              

The opener, Who You Fighting For is a lively, pounding thumper of a track, with that fore-mentioned "proper" percussion as opposed to the digital rhythms that had been used on the previous three albums. After Tonight continues the upbeat vibe, with another excellent number. UB40 hadn't sounded this ebullient in years. The 1980-style saxophone is back too, not before time. Bling Bling is also fast-paced, with toaster Astro on vocals. Plenty More is a bassy number with dubby strains that almost harks back to the glory days of those first two great albums all those years ago. The same could be said of War Poem which again features great bass and a typical vocal from Ali Campbell. There is definitely a bit of "regained mojo" to be detected in this material.

Sins Of The Fathers is a wonderful, evocative song, full of melody and one of those archetypal Campbell vocals where he just hits that sad, mournful-sounding sweet nasal spot. This was one of their best songs for quite a long time. There is a lovely bit of bass/drum interplay at the end. Good Situation has vague hints of The Paragons' The Tide Is High about it. It is a delightful poppy skank  delivered in a Gregory Isaacs style. Again, I have to reiterate how lovely it is to hear original reggae being played, as opposed to digitally backed stuff. Check out that Dave & Ansel Collins style organ and the "one-drop" drum sound, plus those sharp cymbals. Echoes of the seventies "flying cymbals" sound. Another great track.


Gotta Tell Someone is also a most impressive, fetching number. Full of toe-tapping rhythm. Something so absent from so many earlier albums. Reasons is probably more upbeat than anything they had done for decades. It also features some Eastern-sounding vocals, like Sufi chanting, behind the frantic, shuffling beat. One Woman Man is a slow-burning, horn-driven love song. Brian Travers' saxophone sounds out loud and clear on here once more, as it did in 1980-81. I'll Be On My Way is an old Beatles rarity from 1964. Here, it is given a tuneful easy reggae makeover. Another cover is up next, this time The Manhattans' sweet soul classic from the mid-seventies, Kiss And Say Goodbye. It would have fitted quite nicely on a Labour Of Love covers album. It is played here as an effortless, melodic skank. Things You Say You Love is a sweet slice of relaxing, romantic reggae, with those horns as sensual as usual. It was also a cover of a rare rock steady1970 number from The Jamaicans. So, the album ends in a real Labour Of Love fashion, but let that not detract from the excellent original material that had been before.

This really was a very enjoyable album - a good mix of vibrant new material and some attractive covers. It is a hidden gem amongst UB40s large pile of recordings. Surprisingly good, in fact.

B+