Once one of the more exciting reggae bands of the 1980s, UB40 have long since metamorphosed into little more than a slick cover band. If recent releases such as 2005's Who You Fighting For? hinted at a much delayed return to their roots, the arrival of a compilation album such as Love Songs puts any such hopes in temporary hiatus. Among all the UB40 releases, Love Songs is probably the band's most unabashedly commercial venture ever. Released expressly for Valentine's Day on February 2, 2009, Love Songs groups together 20 of UB40's most romantic songs, leaving aside their political material. Predictably, the bulk of this collection comes from the various Labour of Love volumes of covers. Many of their hits are included, such as "Can't Help Falling in Love"; the two duets with Chrissie Hynde, "Breakfast in Bed" and "I Got You Babe"; and the one with Robert Palmer on Dylan's "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight." By the way, and most unexpectedly of all, this is likely the only UB40 compilation where you will not find "Red Red Wine." Other highlights include "Homely Girl," "Don't Break My Heart," and "Where Did I Go Wrong." Of course, there is nothing essentially wrong with these songs. Many are quite beautiful and all are impeccably executed. Still, they work much better in the context of their original albums, or even previous greatest-hits compilations. When they sit side by side with less syrupy material, these songs shine in a different light, offering the variety and contrast that is sorely missing from Love Songs. As it is, this compilation paints a one-dimensional portrait of the band that not only does not render justice to UB40's music, but, more worryingly, makes the 80-minute listening experience of Love Songs a rather boring affair in the end. UB40 could occasionally be great; this collection grants them no favors, presenting them as a mood music outfit. Sadly, it may be just what their post-'90s audience wants: Love Songs went straight to the number three spot on the British charts upon its release.
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AllMusic Review by Mariano Prunes
feat: Chrissie Hynde
feat: Chrissie Hynde