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Non-Prog CD Reviews

UB40

Greatest Hits

Review by Gary Hill

UB40 are an intriguing act and always have been. They’ve done a great job of bringing reggae to a wider audience by blending it with more pop oriented textures. There is, perhaps, no better demonstration of this than a collection of hits. As such this is a great testament to the talent and success of this band. The music here is for the most part quite strong. There is only one number that seems substandard to me.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
(I Can't Help) Falling In Love With You
As the title of the album suggests, here’s the first hit on the disc. This starts off like a mellow balladic soul number. It takes on a more electronic texture after the first vocal segment. It’s a great tune.

One In Ten
This is far more typical reggae in texture. It’s another strong tune and reminds me a lot of Bob Marley. Of course, can you really do “real” reggae and not have it call to mind Marley? There’s a killer guitar solo on the outro.

Red Red Wine
Bouncy and “oh so tasty,” this is a classic. This is probably the version we’ve all heard on the radio, but I’m not sure how it differs from the album rendition - if at all.

f It Happens Again
The motif that makes this up feels to me like a cross between pop rock like Squeeze and reggae. It’s a catchy tune, but perhaps not a highlight.
Here I Am (Come And Take Me)
Take the last number, shift it more towards reggae and take a bit of the “happy” nature from it. OK, that should give you a good picture of this.

Sing Our Own Song (Edit)
Bouncy and a little on the techno side, they still manage to let the reggae shine through here. I like this tune a lot, even if I can’t tell you why. Somehow I get a Bob Marley meets Lenny Kravitz vibe on this at times. The lyrics’ empowering “we’ll build our own society” themes are great.

I Got You Babe (featuring Chrissie Hynde)
Yep, this is the song that Sonny and Cher used to do. Chrissie Hynde takes the Cher role here and the track has the UB40 markings all over it. I’ve always loved this track and this is a great version.

Groovin' (Out On Life)
Bouncy and fun, this is a pretty typical UB40 song, but really doesn’t that mean it’s good? It’s a bit percussion heavy.

My Way of Thinking
The change may be only minor, but we get a gritty, jazzy feeling to this track. It’s got a cool vibe.
The Way You Do The Things You Do
This is a catchy one and I’ve liked every version of this I’ve ever heard.

Higher Ground
They bring back hints of jazz on this, but overall it’s not dramatically different from a lot of the other music here. Still, when it’s this classy it works.
Please Don't Make Me Cry
The reggae modes are not very pronounced on this track. I’d have to say that if there’s a weak point here, this is it. It’s just a little too generic and has a pretty clichéd 1980’s sound to it.
Kingston Town
I get a 1950’s doo wop meets reggae vibe on this.

Come Back Darling
The rhythm section on this has a definite techno texture. This one feels like a dance remix in a lot of ways. It’s a good tune, but a little too “gimmicky” in terms of the studio stuff.

Don't Break My Heart
This is slower, but it’s quite cool. There are some nearly progressive rock keyboard textures and the song in general is more dramatic and powerful than some of the rest of the material here.

Cherry Oh Baby
Here’s a bouncy number that has a lot of reggae in it, but still manages to feel like a pop song.

Breakfast In Bed (featuring Chrissie Hynde)
Chrissie Hynde is back on this cool number. It’s got more of that 1950’s texture but also jazz and reggae.

Rat In Mi Kitchen
Starting with percussion, this rocks out more than pretty much anything else here. It’s energetic and fun. I like it a lot. I’d have to say it’s one of the highlights of the set.

Homely Girl
This has more of a pure reggae feeling to it. It’s a tale of the “ugly duckling.”

Until My Dying Day
That dance remix feeling is here, but it’s not a detriment this time. There are also moments on this that make me think of classic Traffic. This is proggy at times. It’s also quite powerful and probably my favorite piece here.

Swing Low (featuring The United Colors of Sound)
UB40 bring their stylings to this old spiritual. It’s a good tune and a nice way to end things.

 
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