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UB44 Review

by Sharon Mawer

UB40s third album, not counting The Singles Album, which summed up their short career to date, or the Present Arms in Dub remixed dub version of the second album, was a step away from the brooding soulful reggae that one had come to expect from experiencing Signing Off and Present Arms. Despite the fact that by 1982 the 2 Tone sound of the Specials had vanished and other successful ska bands had moved on, notably Madness, UB40 released a mixture of horn-driven pop/ska and reggae songs that, in the main, had two major faults, a lack of melody, which never helps any style of music, and a loss of the sense of political injustice that had dominated the first two albums. It couldn't have been easy; all their vitriol had been directed against the government of Margaret Thatcher and how, in their opinion, the fabric of the country was systematically being destroyed, but late in 1982, the government was riding a wave of popularity, having won the war in the Falklands, and it was suddenly out of step to disagree with them. Although UB44 hit number four, the singles released were at a low point, all three of them -- "So Here I Am," "I Won't Close My Eyes," and "Love Is Here Is Alright" -- all failing to hit the higher regions of the singles chart, and without melody, UB40 songs tended to have little to offer. As "The Key" merged into "Don't Do the Crime" into "Folitician," it was difficult to appreciate that one song had ended and a new song had begun. A change of direction was called for, and after a live album released early in 1983, UB40 Live, the band found their way again big time with their next project, Labour of Love.

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