You ‘ ll find their lp’s everywhere at a low price. Really hate their pop-reggae mid 80’s hits . This is different. Was a little bit sceptical (unknown producer) but no need to worry.! A certain «white» touch here and there with the synths in the background, makes it a little bit different from the usual Jamaica producrions. Nice!
Like the Clash, UB40’s Present Arms is laced together with lyrics that inspired political and social change, dropping the clampdown on both President Ronald Reagan and Margret Thatcher back in 1981, sporting anti-militaristic themes, along with a strong manifesto for the legalization of marijuana … and it was all done by creating a heavy reverb drenched atmosphere that delivered the message, while the music inspired an intoxicating smile.
To be quite frank, there seems to be little middle ground when it comes to UB40, with people either falling line and loving the sound, or those who dismiss it offhandedly, though there are few who will claim a true dislike for their brand of articulation. UB40, if anything, are understated and subversive, and even so, they manage to capture hearts with their harmonic melodies that contain no angles, their music is nearly ascetically round, seeming inspired to infect the listener, to fire them up and to cool them down simultaneously, giving enough space to both breath and think, while feeling comfortable. All and all, most of the albums from UB40, especially this one, are keenly in spirit for the emancipation of summer sun and surf … and within that construct they’ve laid some important messages that are smartly delivered, yet without the need to pound on their chests, or make their listeners feel preachingly uncomfortable, as many political songs can do.
One would easily think from this description that UB40 burn with a passion, and that that fire surrounds their music and inspires their stage presence, yet it doesn’t. While they do belay a passion, rather than burning with a fury, UB40 are like warm glowing embers, certainly capable of igniting, thought by instilling a sense of warmth an compassion they slowly heat the metal, allowing their ideas to bend and morph with the listener, driving their sonic creations home with groove laden riffs and washes of romantic sparkling effervescence of intelligent uplifting spiritual honest and soulful music.
In all aspects, UB40 are a proper universal multi racial band, and this album is somewhat of a landmark for both its production, message, and for the times from which it rose, with roots that can be traced directly back to Birmingham’s unlicensed Jamaican reggae club scene that emphasized a flowing bottom heavy bass-line that inspired dub in all of its themes and variations that where to follow.
Both Labor of Love and Present Arms have been reissued as tasty collector’s packages, both filled with and additional disc of bonus and live material, though I will say that the additional discs offer little to excite the listener, other than the live recordings, which give a fine feel for what you missed if you’ve never managed to see the band live. Now … the remastering of the material has been handled well, and makes these release a delight in that aspect, perhaps the only reason to spent the dollars.
That being said, there is something still magical about dropping UB40’s actual records onto the turntable, pops scratches surface noise and all, as these fanciful platers from the past are quite lovely in their way, with the flaws and all moving in, mixing with the music, and creating something larger than life that transcends time and space.