‘Unplugged & Greatest Hits’ by UB40 feat Ali, Astro & Mickey (Album)

10 January, 2017 in Music Reviews

UB40 ft Ali, Astro & Mickey

UB40 featuring Ali, Astro & Mickey. Pic: Rob O’Connor

Ali Campbell and co serve up an acoustic collection, invent ‘cuddly reggae’ and chuck in a greatest hits to boot!

UB40 UnpluggedThey may not exactly have been critical darlings for a long time, but Birmingham reggae legends UB40 have sold in excess of 70 million albums, so they must be doing something right! Here, Ali Campbell’s version of the now famously fractured outfit – the ‘other’ version of the band, led by brother Robin, currently trade simply as ‘UB40’ – serve up an album’s worth of some of their classic tunes reimagined in purely acoustic form, accompanied by a second Greatest Hits disc that makes the overall album great value for money.

When we spoke to him recently, Ali told us that the band had come up with the name “cuddly reggae” to describe the sound of Unplugged, and talked of the challenges that are inherent if you try making a reggae record with no drums and no bass. It’s testament to the strength of the songs in question, then, that the album works surprisingly well.

Admittedly, unlike some similar albums, there are no great revelations in store here. Having been originally recorded for a series of Radio 2 sessions, the emphasis is on the well-known big hits and, instrumentation aside, the treatments don’t vary too wildly from the original recordings. But if you’re a fan of the band, you’re certainly not going to be disappointed. The cover of Prince’s Purple Rain is perhaps not an unqualified success, but overall Unplugged can more than hold its own alongside similarly themed recent offerings from artists such as Simple Minds and Status Quo.

As for the Greatest Hits disc, well… it does what it says on the tin. Existing fans will have everything here already, but it’s certainly a nice added enticement for more casual buyers, and makes for a very checkable package all round.

Verdict: All the big hits in both acoustic and original form – fans will love it

Russell Deeks