In 1984, the British band UB40 released an album, Labour of Love, on which they interpreted some of their favorite songs by other artists in their own smooth reggae style. It contained their biggest hit to date, Neil Diamond's "Red Red Wine."
Now they've gone back to the well with this collection of soul classics and come away pretty parched. First of all, the songs are obscure, with the notable exceptions of Al Green's "Here I Am (Come and Take Me)" and the Temptations' "The Way You Do the Things You Do."
Predictably, these two gems, agile and uplifting, are the album's best cuts. But on most of LOL II, UB40's reggae treatments are perfunctory, sounding like a band just getting through another Tuesday night at the local pub. The group's saving grace is the mahogany voice of Ali Campbell. You don't realize how important he is until you hear the letdown on those songs he doesn't sing. If there's a sequel trend in pop music, Labour of Love II should nip it in the bud. Just in time too. Are you really ready for Tommy II or West Side Story III: Tony's Revenge? (Virgin)