Various - Young Gifted And Black 2
They are dull, of that I will brook no argument, but UB40 mirror the acceptance of reggae in the UK so well that it's difficult not to think that Ali Campbell and the rest didn't have some plan in mind when they began playing clubs in Birmingham long before the Neil Diamond covers crept in. Two members of UB40 - brothers Ali and Robin Campbell - make an appearance here, as does almost every other reggae band you can think of who've had a taste of success in the UK charts but, in doing so, they only indicate just how far reggae has fallen from the high of Bob Marley and the Wailers.
Of course, we shouldn't really be surprised that something that began as a take of blues, soul and rock local to Jamaica - and occasionally very raw with it - should end up so light and easy-listening. After all, almost all music does in the end, given how the squall of alterative rock has been reduced to in the limp-wristed, narrow-shouldered music of Snow Patrol and Keane but, as you discover on listening to Young, Gifted And Black 2 from Sanctuary Records, few kinds of music changed as much and as quickly as reggae when threatened by dance music and hip-hop.
The first disc is mostly what you might call classic reggae given that, asidee from a few strays that really belonged on Disc 2 - Chaka Demus & Pliers, Bitty McLean, both 1993 - it takes the listener from the 1969 sound of Desmond Dekker And The Aces to Musical Youth's Pass The Dutchie from 1982. The importance of Desmond Dekker should never be dismissed as, for many first generation immigrants from the Carribean or for their children, he was the first Jamaican musician to bring popular reggae to the UK and although his one song included here, It Mek, doesn't drift from the template he established with The Isrealites, it's a strong song with a rough but groundbreaking sound. Similarly, The Maytals' 54 46 Way My Number, Jimmy Cliff's The Harder They Come and Vietnam are all early classics and with I Can See Clearly Now, Johnny Nash recorded a song that's lasted from his recording of it in 1972.
Disc Two, however, is a very different story and if the inclusion of Chaka Demus & Pliers and Bitty McLean hinted at the pop turn that reggae would take, then the likes of Shabba Ranks' Mr Loverman, Aswad's Don't Turn Around, Beenie Man's Who Am I and Apache Indian's Boom Shack A Lack show that reggae's current lack of success is as a result of it failing to cope with the rise of hip-hop, dance and, more lately, r'n'b. Ali and Robin Campbell of UB40 make an appearance here, although it's with Baby Come Back, their version of the song that they recorded with Pato Banton but special mention must be made of Boris Gardiner's I Want To Wake Up With You, which bears as much of a connection to reggae as it does to Throbbing Gristle and to the title of this album, given that he is neither gifted nor was he young when this song was released in 1986.
The baffling inclusion of songs like those from Boris Gardiner - You're Everything To Me is here as well - means that Young Gifted And Black 2, although split nicely into two discs, one great/one not, fades away instead of holding your interest to the end. Along the way, there are dotted some reminders of how good reggae can be but, with the last but one song being a dismal cover of Bacharach and David's Close To You by Maxi Priest, this album is more successful at suggesting what went wrong that being a reminder of a time when reggae was Jamaica's most greatest export.
Last updated: 19/04/2018 12:16:54