UB40 - Signing Off (40th Anniversary Edition)

Our spotlight on vinyl listens to a reissue of UB40's very first album The album title Signing Off sounds more fitting for a band's final effort than it does for a debut, but in this context the two words are a reference to the finalization of an application for unemployment benefits. It's likely that most UB40 fans in England know (unlike, probably, most US fans) that the beloved reggae band named themselves after form UB40, which at the time (early '80s) was the name of the English unemployment benefits application. It was the band's clever way of saying that they were broke, and the Signing Off album cover featured a replication of the form, as does this new reissue. And while the band wasn't making a fortune after the release of Signing Off, at least they were no longer skint. While it didn't trouble the charts in the US, Signing Off went to #2 in the UK and stayed on the charts there for well over a year. Reggae lovers in the US who actually heard the album began building UB40's fan base stateside after hearing luxurious cuts like the easy-skanking "Tyler" where the melody is driven by Brian Travers' sax playing, "King," about MLK Jr., which really conjures a Jamaican reggae dance party, and in a similar vein to the Clash's take on reggae, the political commentary of "Burden of Shame." It would be a few years yet until UB40 would hit big with their cover of Neil Diamond's "Red Red Wine" but they have always had a fondness for covers including a take here on Randy Newman's "I Think It's Gonna Rain Today." Found on the second disc of this 2-disc set are three bonus cuts not originally on the album, including the band's own lengthy groove "Madam Medusa" with its warning of "Run for your life before she eats you alive!" The other cuts are a take on the Billie Holiday-associated tale of racial injustice that is "Strange Fruit" and another band original, instrumental "Reefer Madness." While the LP with the original album's 10 cuts spins at 33 RPM, the bonus disc, with just three cuts, spins at 45 RPM. Both discs are pressed on red vinyl.

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