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UB40- Neil Sedaka

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Kevin Wierzbicki is kicking off 2014 with a special look at recent home video releases from Eagle Rock. Today he tells us about UB40's Live at Montreux 2002 and Neil Sedaka's The Show Goes On: Live at the Royal Albert Hall.

UB40
Live at Montreux 2002

Eagle Rock
4 Stars

UB40 only had two #1 hits in the States ("Red Red Wine" and "(I Can't Help) Falling in Love with You") and both are performed near the end of this 21-song performance. But the band also had a ton of songs like "Rat in Mi Kitchen," "If it Happens Again" and "Don't Break My Heart," all also performed here, that bubbled under at alternative radio and ultimately made the band the most successful reggae/pop band of the '80s. This show from a little more than a decade ago finds singer Ali Campbell showing his proclivity for American soul music and the Motown sound as the show opens with covers of Smokey Robinson's "The Way You Do the Things You Do" and Al Green's "Here I Am (Come and Take Me)" before moving into a band original, the harder reggae protest song "One in Ten." UB40 is not prone to histrionics on stage and sublime takes on "Homely Girl" and "Love it When You Smile" typify the laid back set-list but there are a couple of crowd-stirring moments here; bassist Earl Falconer does some dancehall toasting on "Reggae Music" and the band's dreadlocked percussionist Astro leads a rousing "Are you feeling irie?" chant adjacent to the irrepressible "Rat in Mi Kitchen." "Johnny Too Bad," "Rudie" and "Kingston Town" are among the other selections played and the show closes with "Cherry Oh Baby" and the Jimmy Cliff chestnut "Many Rivers to Cross."

Neil Sedaka
The Show Goes On: Live at the Royal Albert Hall

Eagle Rock
4 Stars

Sedaka has one of those voices that you either love or hate but much of his most-beloved music from the late '50s and '60s is so drenched in happy-go-lucky that millions found (and still find) it irresistible. Performing alone seated at a Yamaha Grand piano, Sedaka mines this fertile early era for takes on biggies like "Calendar Girl," "Oh Carol," "Happy Birthday, Sweet Sixteen," "Where the Boys Are" and others including the goofy "I Go Ape" which scored him his first hit in the U.K. even though it bombed in the U.S. Sedaka had a second heyday in the '70s, here best represented by "Laughter in the Rain" and "Love Will Keep Us Together;" the latter was a #1 hit for The Captain & Tennille and Sedaka demonstrates how he wrote the song by coming up with the jaunty rhythm first, followed by the melody and ultimately the words. The 28-song set is almost a one-man show; Tony Christie, who wrote the song, joins Sedaka for a take on "Is This the Way to Amarillo" and Sedaka sings with daughter Dara via a video link on "Should Never Have Let You Go." In one of the show's most poignant moments, again through the magic of video, Sedaka sings a duet with the late Dinah Washington on the doo-wop number "Never Again." Washington had a hit with the Sedaka-penned tune but the two never met. This nice career retrospective ends appropriately with the melancholy "That's When the Music Takes Me."

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