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UB40 turns-in their
smooth ska hits... again

UB40 - Greatest Hits
(Virgin Records
2 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Sept. 23, 2008

Review by Tony Bonyata

Don't get me wrong; I like UB40. While I've always preferred the reggae / ska / pop sounds of early '80s English 2 Tone bands such as The Specials, Bad Manners, The Selecter and Madness (which were not only edgier, but retained more of the rootsier elements of early '60s Jamaican music) this Birmingham octet (one that still has the same eight members as when they started three decades ago) managed to break through the underground UK music scene with their well-polished, pop-tinged, radio-ready reggae - "smooth ska," if you will.

With the release of their debut full-length, Signing Off, in 1980 UB40 were on their way to an extremely lucrative career in music - not only in the UK but worldwide as well. Fifteen of their nearly sixty singles from 1980 through 2008 managed to crack the Top Ten in the English music charts, with three of those (all cover songs it should be noted) topping the charts at number one.

So while this collection of twenty-one of their career spanning greatest hits is a fine place for the uninitiated to become acquainted with this band and their music, it smacks of a direct sell-out from their label Virgin Records, who just released the very similar compilation The Very Best of UB40 1980-2000 just seven years ago (never mind their other "best of" compilations that were released in 1987 and 1995). Last May their most recent studio effort, Twentyfourseven was originally issued as a free cover-mounted CD with the U.K. daily newspaper The Mail, and was followed by the CD release in-stores in June, but this was also the first of their studio albums that failed to crack the Top 50 on the UK Albums Chart. Perhaps because of this tepid response to their new music Virgin was compelled to cash-in once again on UB40's past successes.

Of course with all of their biggest hits being represented here, such as their reggaefied covers of Neil Diamond's "Red Red Wine," Elvis Presley's "(I Can't Help) Falling In Love With You," Al Green's "Here I Am (Come And Take Me)" and their delicious duet with The Pretenders' Chrissie Hynde on Sony & Cher's "I Got You Babe," it's hard to fault many of these songs being re-released yet again... especially if you don't happen to already own any one of their previously released greatest hits collections.

Watch UB40 - "(I Can't Help) Falling In Love With You"

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