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Ali Campbell Flying High Review

Album. Released 2009.  

BBC Review

This new set is his most authentic sounding yet.

Angus Taylor 2009

Ali Campbell’s third solo outing (his first since quitting UB40) is called Flying High, suggesting an upward trajectory from its UK charting predecessor Running Free. And if you prefer his reggae side it represents a definite progression away from radio-friendly soul covers to a more contemporary Jamaican sound.

There are reggae rhythms aplenty (including a retread of John Holt's My Heart Is Gone) and lots of cameos from the music’s stars. Instead of UK mainstream names like Mick Hucknall, Katie Melua and Beverly Knight, he pairs up with gruff lothario/philanthropist Shaggy and the plaintive German singer Gentleman.

Most surprising of all is the autotuned What You Gonna Do About It, featuring sexually empowered deejay Lady Saw, whose hard voice is a good foil to Campbell's softer, nasal tones. He also finds the time to duet with Craig David and UK mc Sway.

Reggae concerns infuse his lyrics. During Visions (with the Soweto Gospel Choir) he sings, ''Rise, Africa, rise'', whereas Don't Shoot The Messenger is a gushing, somewhat guileless Bob Marley tribute.

Sure, it's poppy as hell – all big multi-tracked choruses and synth wash strings – but no more so than the recent output of Jamaican singers like Jah Cure. In fact, on ballad Out From Under, Ali seems to be copying Cure's anguished vocal style.

Campbell's still going to have a tough time convincing reggae die-hards or partisan UB40 lovers, angry about the split. But if you're an Ali fan, or just enjoyed his last album, this new set is his most authentic sounding yet.

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