Monday, April 23, 2018


You have to have a lawyer with you to listen to the new album by UB40, or rather, UB40 Featuring Ali, Astro & Mickey as they are officially known in North America. That's because these three original members of the group all quit in disgust at various times, the group being in financial disarray and personal tumult. Heck, Ali Campbell said a whole bunch of very angry things about his brother Duncan taking his place and ruining his songs. Anyway, this trio has won the legal battle and the battle for listener's hearts as well, since they have the original two lead singers in their ranks.

They're calling this A Real Labour Of Love, because Labour Of Love 5 would seem like flogging a dead horse, no? Actually Labour Of Love 3 and 4 were pretty much doing that, but here there is a significant difference. For the most part, this is a jump to '80's reggae, or the dancehall days. Most of the tracks here were dancehall hits in at least Jamaica, if not wider. There are some exceptions, such as Ebony Eyes, which was a Stylistics cut before it was reggaefied, and here the group keeps that easy, sweet soul style with just a slight added beat. Then there's Stevie Wonder's '60's cut A Place In The Sun, which makes quite a nice transition to reggae, and Ali Campbell once again proves his worth with a great vocal.

The bulk though come with that trance-inducing dancehall bass line, drum machines and several shots of the infamous auto-tuning software. Now, I barely know my Eek-A-Mouse from my Beenie Man, but I can tell the group is playing it somewhat safe with their choices here, and smoothing things out for the broader audience, even on certified classics of the genre such as Barrington Levy's Here I Come and Wayne Smith's Under Me Sleng Teng, as rendered by Astro. Of course, that's what the Labour Of Love series has always been, making reggae more commercial for the broader audience. It's watered-down a bit, yes, but in the end in probably helps the original artists and the whole genre.

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