UB40 featuring ALI CAMPBELL, ASTRO & MICKEY VIRTUE
Silhouette is the new album from Ali Campbell, the legendary voice of UB40 reunited with Astro & Mickey, released October 6th 2014 on Cooking Vinyl. Recorded in London’s renowned RAK Studios, the album is an inspired mix of freshly-minted new songs and sparkling, reggaefied cover versions of classics by The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Chi-Lites and others.
As founding members of UB40, Ali, Mickey and Astro helped to define reggae music for a generation. The iconic Birmingham reggae troupe topped the UK singles chart on three occasions and sold 70 million records as they took their smooth yet rootsy musical blend to all corners of the globe. Campbell left the band in 2008 after 29 years and has since released four reggae-themed solo collections, with Mickey, who left UB40 soon after Ali, joining him on keys. Astro remained with the band until November 2013, when he left to team up again with Ali and Mickey.
Among the album’s highlights is the title track and first single Silhouette. A 1957 hit for the American doo-wop group The Rays, though the yearning take that appears on the album owes more to an early 1970s version by the crown prince of reggae, the late Dennis Brown. “We’ve always mixed covers and originals”, says Astro. “On the first UB40 album, Signing Off, we had one song by Randy Newman (I Think It’s Going To Rain Today) and another made famous by Billie Holiday (Strange Fruit).”
Silhouette also includes an upbeat reggae interpretation of Any Time At All (from The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night album), a cover of Bob Dylan’s enigmatic 1966 single I Want You (a number Ali remembers from his childhood) and an inspired take on The Chi-Lites’ Yes I’m Ready (a song originally on the B-side of the soul standard Have You Seen Her). Says Ali: “Have You Seen Her was a song that meant a lot to me in the 1970s. I used to listen to the seven-inch single on my Dansette record player in the dark. And, in Yes I’m Ready, there was also a great track on the flipside – a song that nobody has really heard of.”
Two other covers that may be less familiar are Sha-La-La, once a harmony hit for The Pioneers, and Jamaican singer Ernie Smith’s Ride On Sammy, a cautionary tale that warns a philandering rude boy to change his ways. There is also the lilting lovers rock of Missing You. It was written by Lionel Richie as a tribute to his departed friend Marvin Gaye, it was a hit for Diana Ross, though Ali is covering the Lee Roy Gibbons version. “Lee Roy misinterpreted it as a love song,” he says. “He assumed that Lionel Richie wrote it about a woman he was missing, but it was actually inspired by his memories of Marvin.”
Amid such originals as the self-explanatory Reggae Music and Cyber Bully Boys, the album contains the poignant Tomorrow On My Shoulder, a previously unpublished track written by Ali’s father, Scottish folk singer Ian Campbell. “It’s a song about parenthood,” says Ali. “My dad gave it to me when I had my first son.”
With the redoubtable Astro lending strong vocal support and Mickey’s keyboards to the fore in a new band that includes a three-piece horn section, their lithe but potent sound should delight fans old and new.