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TwentyFourSeven (Bonus Track Version)

UB40

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Album Review

Remarkably holding together without a single lineup change ever since their debut in 1980, at the time of the release of this album in 2008, UB40 had suddenly lost two of their eight founding members. Singer Ali Campbell announced he was leaving in January and keyboardist Michael Virtue followed soon after. What exactly caused the split remained in dispute between the band and its ex-members, but there remains the fact that UB40 would now have to master this new situation. Coincidence or not, this album actually already gives various examples of what UB40 could sound like without their strikingly unique lead vocalist. Being the longest UB40 album ever (at 72 minutes length), it is nonetheless once again carried by Campbell's familiar style and sound. However, normal proceedings (as ever in a reggae style) are interrupted several times by a string of interspersed cover versions sung by guests (such as Maxi Preist and members of Arrested Development). Just as was the case with Ali Campbell's solo album Running Free (which was released in 2007 and was one reason that the band's album release was put back until half a year later), the choice of covers is rather run of the mill and even substandard, compared to the quality of the new originals on both of those albums. The covers might be good for listeners just wanting to "party on," but they can compete with the originals in neither elegance nor earnestness. The jarring thing is that this album finds UB40 returning to political themes much more decidedly than they had for quite some time, but the potential coherence of this album gets chopped up by the smattering of cover versions, as if coming from some entirely different compilation album of some sort. Still, on the plus side, there are new songs with strong hit potential, immediate appeal, and some sweet melodies. As for politics, even the cause of Gary "Tyler" (first sung about on the 1980 debut album) is revisited in "Rainbow Nation." Though not often so specific, topical conflicts such as those in Darfur and Gaza also get mentions in closing song "The Road." Now, however, UB40 have their own conflict to resolve, and 2009 brought with it the decision to install Duncan Campbell, a brother of Ali and Robin, as new lead singer, already featured on this album on a version of the evergreen "It's All in the Game." To possibly boost their commercial fortunes again (after having been a bit sadly overlooked by radio in recent years), the next step planned was to continue their very successful string of pure cover albums by making Labour of Love IV.

Biography

Formed: 1978 in Birmingham, England

Genre: Reggae

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Named after a British unemployment benefit form, pop-reggae band UB40 were formed in a welfare line in 1978, and their multiracial lineup reflected the working-class community their members came from. The band consolidated its street credibility with political topics appealing to dissatisfied youth and got a boost from fans of the waning 2-Tone ska revival movement. Brothers Robin (lead guitar) and Ali Campbell (guitar, lead vocals) formed the centerpiece of the group, which also included bassist...
Full bio
TwentyFourSeven (Bonus Track Version), UB40
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