UB40, the hugely successful Birmingham reggae band who have had over 50 UK hit singles and sold more than 70 million records have now presented us with a two-disc CD set comprising a selection of unplugged classic tracks and a bonus disc of 'Greatest Hits' original recordings. Since 1979 their music has been the soundtrack of our lives and this selection epitomises all those wonderful hits that are imprinted on our minds and on the tip of our tongues.
Red, Red Wine and (I Can't Help) Falling In Love With You, which omits the distinctive brass section from the original, replacing it with a taste of sensitive piano.
What's really great about the Unplugged version is the simplicity of it. It's very reminiscent of the early reggae imports from Jamaica of the 60s and 70s; definitely more Kingston, Jamaica than Kingston on Thames.
I Got You Babe appears as originally recorded with Chrissie Hynde on the bonus disc, but on the Unplugged album, the female vocal is taken by Ali's daughter Kaya, who puts in a rhythmic and contemporary vocal performance. As a tribute to Prince, the band take on one of his biggest hits, Purple Rain. Cover versions are notoriously difficult to accomplish, you don't want to just copy the original, you have to bring something new and unique – which the band certainly do. Prince's version is so iconic and musically epic that UB40 take embellish Prince's beautiful lyrics with a slow dance reggae beat and some New Orleans style trumpets giving it a slight cajun flavour. Rat In Mi Kitchen (with Astro taking on vocals) takes on a much more funky beat, with more of that perfectly spaced brass.
There are new approaches to all of the band's iconic songs from One In Ten to Cherry Oh Baby from Labour Of Love. If you excuse the hokey wordplay, it sounds as though this 16 track Unplugged album was also a labour of love for the band. It's very much a return to the roots of the band's music and a welcome return to form. The band have become known since reforming for their huge live shows and massive brass sections. These paired down versions would surely be a welcome addition to their set list. Until then, grab a bottle of Merlot, have Breakfast In Bed and relax to the UK's finest reggae sounds, redux.
Groupie Rating 4/5