ub40 unplugged

UB40 ft. Ali, Astro & Mickey – Unplugged

A reggae Unplugged album? Yes, really. Birmingham legends of the genre UB40 have made collection of their much-loved hits from throughout the years in a stripped-back style and while it words in part, a lot of it seems to wreck classics…

Vocally, the styling is very similar to the recordings from the accompanying Greatest Hits album. By the nature of the reinventions however, the lyrics and melodies stand out a lot more. The words in classics like Red Red Wine and Kingston Town are often fairly well disguised with instruments and singing tone, but with a lot less going on around the voice it is a lot simpler to hear.

The ability to understand vocals brings out the more emotional undertones in some of the tracks and the full meaning beneath the feel-good, bouncy instruments of the tracks. Red Red Wine (originally by Neil Diamond) holds the lyrics “Red red wine, can’t get you off my mind” which could relate to alcoholism or using alcohol as a coping method and when stripped back to basics the meaning is restored. Others like Rat In Mi Kitchen cannot be made any more rational or emotional though – it’s still got the zany lyrics the band have been known for which can never be taken away by an Unplugged reworking of the songs.

On the flipside though, when a lot of artists do Unplugged editions, they retain energy and feel of the original tracks when re-exploring. UB40 however have not succeeded with this at all. The “stripped back” nature of the recordings is too different from the original songs that gained them a lot of traction through the years and it seems to remove from a lot of the pieces what the fans loved about the originals: fun. A prime example of this is Baby Come Back with Pato Benton where there is a build-up to open it that seems to be taken from a far more energetic track which leads to an anticlimax when the music actually comes in.

The instrumentation throughout is solid though – minimalistic yet well-performed. On some tracks, steel pans are the shining feature as they play around the guitars and piano and in others it’s the retained reggae rhythm that remains in a few tracks past the best attempts to strip the tracks back.

Overall, a nice idea but it does sound very empty for a large portion of the release. A few of the classics have come out well, but the sadly the vast majority of the tracks have lost their energy. On the upside though, the record does come with the Greatest Hits CD which is a fantastic collection so still worth a buy, if for no other reason than that!

UB40 Unplugged

UB40 to release ‘Unplugged’ album

After a career reaching three number one singles and 70 million record sales, UK reggae pioneers UB40 are set to release their first Unplugged album on November 18th on Universal. The record will feature a collection of their hits reimagined and re-recorded by Ali, Astro and Mickey to provide a completely new experience within their sound.

The album will hold sixteen tracks on the Unplugged disc including Kingston TownRed Red Wine and Rat In Mi Kitchen and will come with a copy of their Greatest Hits album, perfect for bringing out the glory of the UB40‘s original tracks or listening to the intriguing new takes on the songs themselves.

Included within the new versions too are two guest vocal slots. The first comes in Baby Come Back which features Pato Banton, the original guest vocalist on the 1994 chart-topping recording. The second is from Ali’s daughter Kaya Campbell on I Got You Babe, the original of which featured Chrissie Hynde in the same spot.

The full Unplugged disc tracklist looks like this:

1.   Kingston Town
2.   Red Red Wine
3.   Many Rivers To Cross
4.   Baby Come Back (feat. Pato Banton)
5.   (I Can’t Help) Falling In Love With You
6.   Purple Rain
7.   I Got You Babe (feat. Kaya Campbell)
8.   One In Ten
9.   Homely Girl
10. Please Don’t Make Me Cry
11. Food For Thought
12. Cherry Oh Baby
13. Rat In Mi Kitchen
14. Tyler
15. You Could Meet Somebody
16. That’s Supposed To Hur

The first track released from the record is Many Rivers To Cross (Unplugged):