Friday, October 08, 2010

FDF Volume 3 Issue 203: UB40 - Promises and Lies

By: March

Album - Promises and Lies
Artist - UB40
Key Players - Astro - vocals, percussion, trumpet. James Brown - drums, Robin Campbell -lead guitar, vocals. Ali Campbell - lead vocals, guitar. Earl Falconer - bass. Norman Hassan - percussion, trombone, vocals. Brian Travers - saxophone, Lyricon, wind synth. Michael Virtue- keyboards.
Produced By - UB40, co-produced by Gerry Parchment and Delroy McLean

Release Date - July 27, 1993

What caused me to blow off the dust?
- I've been a pretty casual fan of the band for a while, and honestly don't own many of their cds. When I went to try to decide what to do for this week, I figured most readers would at least know this band in "name". Trying to continue being a little more broad in what we cover gets you this album.

Overview - Formed in 1978 this Birmigham, England based reggae band, has been one of the most successful international acts. Taking their name from a document issued to people claiming unemployment the band would go on to sell over 70 million albums world wide. Known for their cover versions of "Red Red Wine" (a Neil Diamond song) and "Can't Help Falling in Love (made popular by Elvis Presley) the band would be an active live band before the members have fully honed their craft. The band would become more successful in the US come 1983 with the release of "Labour of Love". This album here would be the bands 10th studio album.

FDF Comments (aka the songs) - The album opens with a looping keyboard on "C'est La Vie". It slowly builds and the horns are heard in the background. Campbell comes up and immediately you know "this is UB40!". The looping keyboard is the primary instrument until the second verse when Campbell has some harmonization going on. It is a fun and bubbly song but the full band never really seems to be included. This could be how it was mixed, but Brown drums seem very canned and match the electronic keyboard from Virtue. We get more a full band feel as "Desert Sand" starts. Travers saxophone is up to get things rolling. The band still relies heavily on a very "precise" drum line. The percussion instruments fill any lulls. Campbell is playful in his vocal work with the supporting cast. The title track "Promises and Lies" has a more uptempo feel that the other two. The band is very comfortable in their roles. Each player is key to their sound, you are not going to get a guitar, bass or drum solo. The band sets the tone for the song and Campbell just lets it flow. "Bring Me Your Cup" is the first really "reggae" feeling song with some great chant singing at times and the overall vibe of the tune is what you'd want/expect. The band seem to hit their stride as "Higher Ground" is another song that picks what the band does well, and that is craft a really fine song. The laid back feel is endearing to the ears and soul. The vocals are laid back and the music will surround you. The saxophone is a lot more prevalent on this track and the keyboard portion is tight and in control through out. "Reggae Music" finds Astro taking the lead vocals. Its a choppy vocal delivery until the chorus when the band does a lot of high harmonies. The tempo is driving, but remains tight. One of the biggest songs from the band is their cover of "Can't Help Falling in Love". The tempo is a little quicker than most are used to, but it is a perfect rendition. Of the harmonies on the vocals are great and the band does a very honorable version. The horns add a great touch and are used just the right amount. The band uses a strong muted trumpet on "Now and Then". It stands out, then seems to fade, but comes right back at you. Campbell soars vocally leading in to each verse. The keyboard intro to "Thing's Ain't Like they Used to Be" has a bounce to it before the drums push the song. It seems to lock in to a tight simple beat but the band is focused on being a complete package and they continue to deliver. The keyboards keep everyone in strict time and there are occasional percussive fills, but it is not lavish. One of the songs I always really liked comes in "It's a Long Long Way". The keyboard loop starts and the horns come in with the drums. The lyrics are sung by Astro so it has an interesting drawl to them and its a lot more vocally punchy. Campbell offers the backing vocals and there is a sampled female voice crying "Oh my god" from time to time. The band comes back around to do the quick run of vocals once more and they extend the verses. My personal favorite from "way back when" still holds up. The album closes with "Sorry" another more uptempo affair from the band. Campbell seems to use Astro more on this (and likewise) as they both seem to be more in the mix. The band doesn't break any new ground on the track, but by the last song it is okay.

Where are they now? - UB40 are still active today. What many consider to be "the voice" of UB40 in Ali Campbell may be sad to learn he left the band in 2008. After 30 years Campbell left the band to pursue a solo career. The band felt that way, but Campbell said it was due to management issues. The band recently released another one of their successful series "Labour of Love" collections with the latest being Volume 4 and Ali's brother taking the lead vocal duties. Another vocalist that has been working with the band is Maxi Priest. The only other member of the band to leave has been Michael Virtue who also left in 2008.

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) - The only time I saw the band live as Great Woods in Mansfield on August 2, 1993. We had pretty close seats and at the end of the show one of my good friends who is/was a very big UB40 fan jumped up on stage. At least he waited until the end of the show so he/we didn't get tossed out.

FDF Overall Take - The band just has so much material that most would tend to lean towards the Labour of Love series. The band also has a best of collection that is a safe bet. From a "studio album" standpoint this a solid effort. Showcases the band as a collective unit and although its maybe not overly "interesting" it is still decent enough that many seem to skip right over them. You could play this record very easily at a gathering and not be embarrassed it is playing. Oh, one final thing, of you are in the mood, their live album is really very good too.

Official site is here and myspace is here.

Curious? Check out some MUSIC!

Can't Help Falling In Love
It's a Long Long Way
Bring Me Your Cup

Tracks taken from "Promises and Lies" which you can buy

Disclaimer - For the most part songs listed you can find on iTunes or your local cd shop. The idea is to give you a little taste of the music. Please support the artist buy purchasing some of their work. Songs are posted for about 1 week but can and will be removed at the request of the artist, band, band management etc. If you are one of those persons contact me via the email link in the profile and they will be removed as soon as we are made aware of the request.


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