Picks and Pans Review: Labour of Love
A UB40 is the form you fill out when you apply for unemployment benefits in Britain. Having just filed UB40s was one thing all eight members of this group from Birmingham had in common when they got together in 1978. Like a lot of disaffected young people on both sides of the Atlantic, they formed a band first, then chose instruments and learned to play them. They learned better than most, and today UB40 is one of the most compelling and sophisticated reggae bands. A rock band equally as obsessed with racial and economic injustice (early Clash or Gang of Four, for instance) would sound angry, rivetingly discordant. But UB40's melodies, vocals and tropical rhythms are flushed with a beguiling, nonviolent grace, as if some private vision gives them faith in beauty in an ugly world. The melodies of such songs as Food for Thought, Don't Do the Crime, King and One in Ten are enchanting and inspired. The rhythms are vibrant and danceable, the lyrics provocative. "Our cries for justice are shots in the dark," vocalist Ali Campbell sings on I Won't Close My Eyes. "But our strength's in our bite and not in our bark." In the aptly titled Labour of Love, the band plays 10 classic reggae tunes recorded by the likes of Bob Marley (Keep On Moving), Jimmy Cliff (Many Rivers to Cross) and others between 1969 and 1972. "The UBs were very young at the time, and loved these songs as only kids can," Doctor X writes on the jacket. Not only kids will love this joyous, sensual record. (A&M)
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