Ali Campbell - Running Free
Almost 30 years after the release of the first UB40 album, Ali Campbell has decided to take take time out from his day job and put together a second solo album, and not too surprisingly he doesn't see fit to veer too far from the tried-and-tested formula that has given his band such longevity. This release is a mixture of original material and tracks close to the singer's heart, including an incredibly dour, saccharine take on Devoted To You by the Everly Brothers that sees Campbell duetting with his brother. And it doesn't get much better.
Running Free sees Campbell drawing upon a veritable who's-who of the verily yawnsome MOR market, with the promise of guest appearances by the likes of Katie Melua, Lemar and *shudder* Mick Hucknall unlikely to set many pulses racing. For the most part these guests are relegated to the background anyway, as Campbell's vocals are pushed way up in the mix - no great loss for the most part, though Melua doesn't sound half bad for once. The album receives a much-needed shot of credibility thanks to a smattering of beats courtesy of Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare as well as an appearance on a cover of Stevie Wonder's Village Ghetto Land by legendary bassist Aston Barrett, who's worked with the likes of Bob Marley and Lee 'Scratch' Perry in a highly distinguished career. Elsewhere, Bitty McLean manages to outshine the star of the show when the pair take on Charles and Eddie's early-Nineties' smash Would I Lie To You, which suffers from the inclusion of a teeth-gnashingly ridiculous tempo change whenever the pair swap chief vocal duties.
Anyone with the slightest interest in this LP will know exactly what they want from it and so does Campbell - there's neither a smidgen of excitement nor the merest hint of risk-taking waiting to be discovered. The relentless cheeriness and samey production proves incredibly draining and the whole sorry mess seems more than happy to plod along aimlessly until it reaches its end. There's little else to say - it's just horribly boring, sorry. I'm off to listen to In Rainbows again.