Picks and Pans Review: Promises and Lies

updated 09/13/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/13/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT


It may be time to check UB40's collective pulse. This chart-topping work from the British ensemble is so laid-back it borders on inert. The group originally scored with their Labour of Love albums, which reverently reworked soul classics in a horn-drenched, low-key reggae style. Promises and Lies is their first collection of originals in several years. The notable exception is the Rasta-Lite hit version of Elvis's "Can't Help Falling In Love." That track is indicative of the group's problem. Rather than being a reggae band, UB40 plays at being one, especially on the appalling "Reggae Music," which sounds like theme music for a Shriners convention in the Caribbean.

There are bright spots, though. "C'est la Vie" churgles along at a sassy pace, while "Higher Ground" is a dreamy lilt, guided by lead singer Ali Campbell's plaintive (if somewhat whiny) vocals. Luckily for UB40, the world is big enough to encompass the real and the ersatz, and if their legions of fans ever disappear, there's always a hip cruise ship in their future. (Virgin)

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