Who You Fighting For?

Studio Album by released in 2005
Who You Fighting For?'s tracklist:
Who You Fighting For
After Tonight
Bling Bling
Plenty More
War Poem
Sins of the Fathers
Good Situation
Gotta Tell Someone
Reasons
One Woman Man
I'll Be on My Way
Kiss and Say Goodbye
Things You Say You Love

Who You Fighting For? review

If it comes as some surprise that UB40 are celebrating a quarter-century of success since their first hit, it seems even more remarkable that Who You Fighting For? is their 23rd album. It's a rare act that can combine such longevity with such a high level of consistency. That consistency is again the defining characteristic of their new album. Ali Campbell's sensitive, sometimes fragile voice remains the focal point of the band, but tribute should also be paid to the horn arrangements of saxophonist Brian Travers, which are a source of great joy throughout. They epitomize the simple but impeccable standards of the band. Who You Fighting For? is a contender for the summer album of 2005.

Who You Fighting For? includes signature ballads, politically charged lyrics, toe-tapping summer reggae tracks and wonderful covers. There is a sense of effortlessness about songs like Sins Of The Fathers and One Woman Man that it's hard to believe that they're newly minted – like all great pop songs, they feel on first hearing as though they've been around for years. The group's gift for instant and accessible melodies is undiminished. Lyrically too there's a toughness here that harks back to the early days: three of the first five tracks the title song, Plenty More and War Poem are political without being polemical, clearly inspired by the state of the world, but approached from a personal, human viewpoint. By way of balance, we end with a brace of lovely covers: a version of the Manhattans soft soul classic Kiss and Say Goodbye that will surely become their 50th hit single, and the Jamaicans' Things You Say You Love.

At some indeterminate point in their now 25 year long history and with serenely inconspicuous efficiency, Birmingham's UB40 rose to a level of peerlessness as the first-family of British reggae. While they've absolutely nothing left to prove, Who You Fighting For? finds UB40 shouting more loudly than usual; the likelihood being - even at this autumnal stage of the band's career - that less partisan ears may be pricked by such refreshing spices as the Bhangra chorus of Reasons or even by more traditional summer reggae sweeteners as Gotta Tell Someone or the dark, philanderer-reformed ruminations of One Woman Man. For the last few albums, UB40 often wrote different elements of the songs separately, but for this long-awaited return, they not only jammed, but also wrote the songs together as a unit. By doing this and recording in an open-air style studio environment, the overall sound and quality of the album really shines through with Ali Campbell's voice sounding richer and more soulful than ever before.

Named after a British unemployment benefit form, pop-reggae band UB40 was formed in a welfare line in 1978, and its multiracial lineup reflected the working-class community its members came from. The band consolidated its street credibility with political topics appealing to dissatisfied youth. Brothers Robin (lead guitar) and Ali Campbell (guitar, lead vocals) formed the centerpiece of the group, which also included bassist Earl Falconer, keyboardist Mickey Virtue, saxophonist Brian Travers, drummer Jim Brown, percussionist Norman Hassan, and toaster Terence "Astro" Wilson. The band purchased its first instruments with compensation money Ali Campbell received after a bar fight, even though few of the members knew how to play them. But by the end of the year, the group was invited to tour with the Pretenders. For UB40 not much has changed in the years since they first made their debut Signing Off: they still purvey an orthodox reggae style, unfazed by all subsequent developments, as though we were still in the late-70s era of British bands like Steel Pulse and Matumbi (the latter's After Tonight is one of the five covers their new album). But the sheer freshness and vitality of the music after all this time can't be denied. Still boasting the same eight-piece line-up that they started with, this is a band which sounds above all else comfortable and at ease with itself.

(03.07.2005)
Rate review2.57
Total votes - 80


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