UB40 – Reggae Music

Release Date: Aug 94
Chart Position: 28

Blimey, this is badman style from the Yowbs it reminds me of listening to Rodigan on KISS whilst recording it faithfully on a C90 eagerly awaiting the next Elephant man tune or Goldfinger remix. Sorry, got a bit excited there, I’m now composed and will carry on accordingly. This is the side of UB40 I’m not familiar with as bassist Earl Falconer takes over lead vocal duties with aplomb, he comes in hard over a dub bassline and some acid squelches, I can only assume that the Yowbs had sorted out their differences with the Inland Revenue at this point and decided to record some original material instead of churning out chart friendly covers for film soundtracks which is a pleasing turn of events. The song takes a bit of a downturn for me when the rest of the band join in, stood around singing accapella style, it’s a bit too neggy for me taste. At the 2.50 mark we get a nice horn break and then towards the end there’s some Jurassic 5 style sampling of a 50s American TV cookery show. This is a fresh bit of neggae production and looking at the credits Bitty Mclean had a big part in this, which begs the question why on earth was his own stuff so MOR? The production’s so good it’s not aged at all, I think if you took the backing track, got some Rihanna autotune and a Pitbull rap over the top of it and you’d have a surefire hit (Are you reading this Bitty?).
Lyrically this is a nostalgic love letter to the Yowbs themselves as Earl chronicles the band’s rise from 11 year old ragamuffins to bostin’ 80s politicos to skint purveyors of soft reggae. It’s a Neggae ‘Stand by me’ as Earl is keen to stress it’s friendship first and band second. Fortunately Earl didn’t have the benefit of hindsight otherwise this song wouldn’t have been written as in 2008 the Yowbs went all ‘Let it be’ as Ali and his new squeeze did a John and Yoko, dutty raas claaat. The lyrics are a touching tribute from Earl as he name checks each member of the band and highlights their special talents as he’s used the classic ‘Defenders of the Earth’ theme tune lyrical template to structure each verse. Apparently Norman UB40 is a Don Gorgon, I think this means his dreadlocks are of an outstanding quality rather than he can turn people to stone with a single look, I’m not certain of this though so if you see him out and about do approach with caution.
The opening to the video shows yet again Neggae is well ahead of the curve trend wise as Earl pulls up on a bicycle, eight years before plastic mods started hero worshipping cyclists because they’ve got sideburns and listen to Ocean Colour Scene. That’s about the most exciting thing that happens in the video, don’t get me wrong, Earl is styling it out like the 3rd member of the London Posse but do we really need close ups of all the other yowbs looking thoughtful and moody? It’s like when the teams are introduced on TV before a big sporting occasion and whilst this is appropriate for the pressure cooker environment of International Sport I don’t think it really suits the laidback vibe of neggae. Overall this song’s a belter but the chorus spoils it a bit for me, however it’s good to see that the Yowbs have still got it when they put their mind to it.
Score: 8/10 – Lost 3 marks for the chorus but gained one when I found this in the Youtube sidebar, when did this happen?

UB40 are back in town with this slightly unorthodox take on reggae music. The trance-like intro gives it an edge that other songs in this list have not given us, certainly not for some weeks. Although it is an improvement on ‘C’est La Vie, it’s nowhere near the heights of previous successes such as I can’t help and Kingston Town. But a strong reminder that the boys from Birmingham were the real deal and up there with Johnny Gill in leading the neggae revolution.
Following the rap intro the boys get quite harmonic, almost like a 90s JLS (Jack the Lad Swing, or is it Swagger? Either way – berks!) and their unique tones then dominate the tune. The harmony and the rap complement each other well, better than I expected when I played it for the first time in years this morning.
Not much effort on the video, it was never a strong point for UB, choosing to let the song and their delivery do the talking. That’s fine. But I am coming to expect a higher standard of video these days, particularly in this genre which I feels lends its self better than most with so much great potential material. The dark and blue, not really happening type of effort does little for me in complimenting the song, I would much prefer to see more Island party lifestyle with plenty fruit punch. There is not single piece of Booty action in this – come on chaps!
Score: On the whole a good track, they have done better, but also a whole lot worse…..5/10 from me.

OK – I was going to write this review last night but decided to let UB40’s latest offering sink in for a while and start again with a fresh approach. 24 hours have passed, Youtube is now blaring and my Bud Light supply is dwindling and I’m still lost for words.
I’m really not sure how to start with this one. I’ve listened to this 10 times now and it really is puzzling.
Again Ali Campbell and co have produced ANOTHER weak video bereft of any colour (color for my American friends), fun or imagination. The best part about this one is the fact that they don’t feature too much in the video, just the posse hanging out in the background singing a high pitched verse here and there.
Actually, you know what? let me end this misery session quickly. I’ve been in front of this damn computer for over an hour now trying to come up with something clever but it’s just not happening. This is what I really think about it.
At the last Neggae council meeting, I aired my views that went something along the lines of “holy f$%K! this UB song is an ear bleeder, mind bender and brain melter.” My view has not changed after 10 listens. Thanks for another piss poor effort UB40 (even if you didn’t do anything to contribute to this song).
Score: A generous 2/10 for me….. bring on Here comes the Hotstepper!

This latest offering from the UB’s will no doubt split the judges. For me its a welcome return for Birminghams greatest export since the modern day Vindaloo. Its nice to see them getting back to what they do best. Making decent Reggae Music rather than MOR love songs or Mum albums.
Getting Earl Falconer on vocals and letting Ali Campbell take a back seat for a change is a masterstroke. Nothing against Ali but this is a fresh and welcome change. Campbell is still instantly recognizable on the chorus, which is simply a joyful celebration of Reggae Music. That aside his vocals are given a well deserved rest.
Its got decent beats, nice piano stabs and a bouncing bass line. The back minute or two builds with a good horn section yet and a vocal breakdown, all in all decent finishing touches to a great single from a band who have been round the block more than once.
Modern production techniques such as U.S radio vocal samples and digital sound effects stand this apart from the trade mark sound of the 80’s UB40. This number has two feet planted firmly in the realms of 90’s Neggae. Its not a throw back, it shows that the UB’s are capable of moving with the times, I just wish they’d make music like this more often!
Score: Well done the UB’s for this breath of fresh air. 7 out of 10 from me.

What a curveball! Did not expect this at all. Just when you think UB40 have settled into Neggae retirement, they rage into the night with this electro-Neg banger. Earl Falconer’s toasting is I think some of the best we’ve seen on this chart, and the lyrical content is endearing and uplifiting. The song is effectively a roll call, with Earl bigging up the various Yowb cohorts. I think my favourite pair of couplets are:

We got Em in the place who likes it in your face
You got G like MC who likes it on a…
Easy V doesn’t come for free, she’s a real lady
And as for me, ha you’ll see

Sorry – wrong song altogether. Here it is…

Me love me Ali C. with his golden voicee
Him nice up every dance nice up every party
Me love me Brian T. Pon the saxophonee
Buttons pon the bone, Patrick him a hit the high C

What I particularly like about this is Earl has used a rapping technique poularised by my Cousin James Brennan in 1999 during his garage MC phase. It’s called ‘it doesn’t have to rhyme just stick an ‘e’ on the end’. That said, it would take a heart of stone to not overlook this and savour the pure joy the song brings.
The acid squelches and stuttering electro rhythms are a joy, and not a million miles away from the sound the chemical brothers were perfecting at the same time in the Heavenly Social. And when you think its all getting a bit too repetitive, the breakdown and horn refrain around 2m41 gives ‘Reggae Music’ renewed vigour. The song has aged fantastically well, as evidenced by this fairly recent video footage of the boys rocking it in their hometown:

Score: Bloody well done lads – an inspiration to us all. 9/10.



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