Live at Montreux 2002
(Eagle, 2007)

If you listened to top-40 music at all in the 1980s, you surely know the hit "Red, Red Wine" by reggae/ska band UB40. In their day, this band has sold over 50 million records worldwide. In 2002, UB40 played at the Montreux (a music festival). A live recording of the concert -- 16 tracks in all -- was released in 2007 by Eagle Records. (Why this CD took five years to be released is not explained in the promotional material.)

UB40 is a large group fronted by brothers Ali and Robin Campbell. The band seems to excel at taking other people's songs and making them their own. "Red, Red Wine" is a case in point. How many of you knew this song was penned by Neil Diamond? Similarly, UB40 made "Here I Am (Come & Take Me)" performed by Al Green, "The Way You Do the Things You Do" by the Temptations and "(I Can't Help) Falling In Love With You" by Elvis Presley into "reggae classics." All four tracks made it on the CD.

About half the songs are UB40 originals. You might remember "Rat in Mi Kitchen" and "Cover Up," which were also the names of two of the band's albums. "Rat in Mi Kitchen" is a good song with a lot of bounce in the beat. Unfortunately, I think the band messed up this live version by stopping the song about a minute in to get the audience to scream to show they were feeling good.

I already mentioned the Campbell brothers who both sing and play guitar. UB40 also includes Earl Falconer (bass, vocals), Norman Lamont Hassan (percussion, vocals), Brian Travers (saxophone), Michael Virtue (keyboards), Astro (vocals, percussion), Martin Meredith (saxophone), Laurence Parry (trumpet), Mark Overton (saxophone) and James Brown (probably not the one that comes to mind, on drums).

The sound on the CD is decent in that audience noise is minimized as much as possible. But there certainly is a lot of it. Also, the vocals are not quite as crisp as you would hear on a studio album. This is especially true on the favorite "Red, Red Wine." Still, outside a "best of" album, this is a pretty decent CD that covers a lot of UB40 material. However, unless you are truly a fan of the live format or just have to get everything released by this band, Live at Montreux 2002 might be skipped and not missed. The same may or may not be true of the DVD of the same concert, which I have not seen.

review by
Wil Owen

19 April 2008

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