Monday, February 19, 2018

Ali Campbell: Happiness

"I was born with so much love I burst each time the sun rises.
I reserved the hurt I feel to make happy surprises.
... Happiness is knowing you are loved."

Rarely does a song lift me with such joy in the way Ali Campbell's Happiness fills my heart. There is no way to completely understand how or why a song can touch someone's heart and soul. It just inexplicably happens for different reasons and it happens again and again but remains an entirely subjective experience.

Happiness is precisely one of those songs for this music fan. From the very opening words the song lifts my heart and just soars. It is indeed a very primal reaction for me and music is indeed a very primal connection and experience in general for most fans of music.

Ali Campbell is the voice of UB40, the most successful British reggae-based act to come out of a slough of ska and British bands from the British isles amidst a wave of New Romantic and New Wave acts that flourished in the day.

Formed in 1978 Campbell exited UB40 thirty years later in 2008 under some still unclear contention within the band that sadly continues today. Campbell is now recording using the UB40 name alongside Mickey Virtue and Astro. Meanwhile his brothers Robin and Duncan Campbell carry on using the UB40 name with other originating members of the band. In other words, as they say, it's a bit of a shit show. It's a mess and clearly a feud exists to the detriment of a large group of talented musicians who enjoyed a long run of great music. On the up side, these artists are still making music.

Familial Schisms aside Ali is indeed the true voice of the band singing most of the groups songs along with a percentage fronted by Astro. And hell be damned Ali and Astro are riding high again with a new release forthcoming A Real Labour Of Love (2018) as UB40 featuring Ali, Astro And Mickey.

UB40 is a funny animal too, given its adherence to the reggae genre. You either are a fan of this music and the band's stylings or you flat out dislike the sound. It's a breezy sound that's hard to hate but runs counter to the more widely accepted often harder edges of the rap genre.

Ali Campbell's first foray into a solo career arrived with Big Love (1995). It's a solid outing and the recording from which Happiness was lifted. It opens the recording and just keeps moving onward and upward from there. Interestingly, despite my enthusiasm for this selection to be covered here at The Pop Song, the track was not a single release, but one of those classic album cuts that proves fruitful upon every listen. There are thousands upon thousands of them. Album track fans you know where they are.

To this day Happiness ranks among this listeners all time favorite songs. There is no explanation for it. UB40 was always about love songs and Happiness is no exception to filling that cup.

Big Love (1995). B+. This is big collection of strong Ali Campbell solo songs. Fans of UB40 will not be disappointed. That Look In Your Eye, You Can Cry On My Shoulder, Somethin' Stupid and others delight and shine on this collection of big love numbers.

Happiness. A. This is the outstanding opening track that is simple, spare in its musical accompaniment and arrangement with an impressively strong vocal from one timeless Ali Campbell. Come on get happy with me.


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