UB40, the multi-racial band, formed in 1979, helped define reggae music for a generation, transforming their working class roots into a global clarion call. The original line-up of UB40 with Ali, Astro and Mickey experienced huge success over a period of 30 years, including number 1 albums and multiple top 10 gold and platinum selling albums and Grammy nominations and 4 number ones worldwide. The band’s fresh, indigenous slant on Jamaican reggae resulted in a total of 70 million plus sales.
Ali Campbell departed in 2008 after 29 years and a dozen major world tours with the band, and Mickey Virtue followed shortly after. Campbell, with Mickey lending a helping hand, has since released two solo albums. Astro left the band in November 2013 to team up again with Ali and Mickey. Now, the trio is facing the future with renewed confidence and vigour. Upon Ali, Astro and Mickey’s departure, the rest of the band carried on using the name UB40 and brought in new members.
Since reuniting, the three founding members have become a formidable touring outfit with highly successful treks to South America, Nigeria, South Africa, Dubai, Papua New Guinea and Australia. With Ali Campbell, the legendary voice of UB40, reunited with Astro and Mickey, audiences get to experience the closest thing to the sound of the hugely successful original line-up of UB40 as all the hits are played.
“When we play live now, it feels like a real group,” says Ali. “The musicians in our band have all played with other reggae acts, so they love what we’re doing. And the fact that Astro is back with us after six years speaks volumes about the music we are making.”
Released in 2014, Silhouette, recorded in London’s legendary RAK Studios, plays unashamedly to the trio’s strengths. Ali’s voice remains as strong as ever – rich, melodic and instantly recognizable. 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.
“Going into the studio with Ali again took me back in time,” says Astro. “We hadn’t recorded together for years. But, once he started singing, the years just rolled away.”
The album’s highlight is the title track and first single “Silhouette”. The album also includes an upbeat reggae interpretation of “Any Time At All” (from The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night album), and a cover of Bob Dylan’s enigmatic 1966 single “I Want You” (a number Ali remembers from his childhood). Listen to “Silhouette” here:
“For me, it’s all about promoting reggae,” says Ali. At the end of the day, the fans don’t care about what goes on behind the scenes. They only care about the music, and I’m sure they are going to love this record.”
This internationally acclaimed British reggae/pop band is only making two stops in Ontario during this tour. Hear them live on the Main Theatre on September 1.