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Running Free

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Album Review

As the frontman of UB40 with a very distinctive voice and style, Ali Campbell was used to both original songs and covers, and there were a few of both on Running Free, his second solo album but his first without his bandmates in 12 years. He wasn't on his own, however, recruiting some friends and well respected musicians to duet with him on several of the tracks; most of them are namechecked on the album cover. Johnny Nash had already put a light reggae beat to his original hit "Hold Me Tight" as far back as 1968, and Campbell does not change much on his version 39 years later. Charles & Eddie didn't appear on this version of "Would I Lie to You," a song they took to number one in 1992, but the claim that this is a duet with Bitty McLean is rather dubious, as Campbell's nasally vocals dominate the song, as they do on "Hallelujah Time" with Smokey Robinson. Perhaps Robinson should have been asked to guest on the song "Being with You," which he'd originally taken to number one in 1981, but instead that honor went to Mick Hucknall, whose voice was clear enough to be heard alongside Campbell's. At least Katie Melua gets a couple of verses of her own on "Don't Try This at Home." As for the rest of the songs, there's not much that can be said for them, perhaps UB40's time had already come and gone, but one of the most poignant songs from Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life, "Village Ghetto Life," was given a lilting lovers rock beat but the whole song was spoiled by a pointless rap in the middle by Aston "Family Man" Barrett and Don Yute.


Born: 15 February 1959 in Birmingham, England

Genre: Reggae

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

A household name in modern pop-reggae circles, Ali Campbell (born Alistair Campbell on February 15, 1959, in Birmingham, England) was known -- mostly -- as the lead vocalist and guitar player for U.K. reggae act UB40. That band, which Campbell formed with the seven other members in the late '70s, was a U.K. pop chart stalwart, eventually cracking the worldwide market with its stylistic covers of popular favorites such as "Red Red Wine" and "(I Can't Help) Falling in Love with You." Besides being...
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Running Free, Ali Campbell
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