“Present Arms” by UB40 - album review

TJR says

Now that they were off the dole, the awesome Brummie octet wasted little time in getting their second record out, “Present Arms” arriving in May, 1981, just nine months on from “Signing Off”. Brilliantly, it raises the ratings bar to a new level, mainly due to being leaner with 8 choice cuts, half of which are fit to be labelled all-time classics. The first of these, “Present Arms”, opens the set dramatically with 30 seconds of military drums leading into a Sergeant major's cry of “Preseeeeeeeent Arms”. Immediately, the magnificent horns and rhythm section declare that UB40 have returned on serious reggae business, fronted by Ali's lyrics, bemoaning the poor prospects for the young men of the day who see the army as the only way out: “The khaki ranks of flesh and steel, learning how to smile and kill, they'll teach you to ignore the screams and tears”. “Sardonicus” was based on a 1961 horror movie and is here re-imagined for a developing 1981 horror story as drummer Jimmy Brown explained: “It's about a man who has a hideous grin frozen on his face. At the time it was aimed at Ronald Reagan. It was made by William Castle, a well known director of cheap, bizarre low budget 'shockers' in the fifties and sixties.”. The album's lead single, “Don’t Let It Pass You By”, a #16 hit in the UK, bravely carried an atheist message: “There ain't no heaven and there ain't no hell, Except the one we're in and you know too well, There's no-one waiting on, waiting on a higher high, Don't let the only world you're ever gonna live in pass you by” Well said that group! Taking time out to reflect, the instrumental “Wildcat” comes with some neat percussion to close side one.

Side two opens gloriously with “One In Ten” which was chosen as the album's second single (a #7 hit) in late July. This was another penned by drummer Jimmy Brown, completing his transatlantic barb against Reaganomics and Thatcherism. Almost 10% of the West Midlands working population were unemployed in the summer of 1981 and UB40 are dealing in a sad reality for many: “I'm the child that never learns to read 'cause no-one spared the time… I'm another teenage suicide in a street that has no trees… I'm a house wife hooked on Valium I'm a Pensioner alone… Nobody Knows me but I'm always there, A statistic, a reminder of a world that doesn't care”. There is no society, haven't you heard? It's every man for himself. What a state the country's in. The unrelenting brilliance continues on “Don’t Slow Down”, a pressure-of-life number which offers the smooth sax of Brian Travers to soothe the soul, offering respite for the troubled mind. This mood is maintained on the classic “Silent Witness” which is down with the downtrodden, reserving the utmost empathy for those with a rock for a pillow: “The neon haze of city lights, The tribal sound of marching feet, Cuts through the gloom on cold dark nights, The tired and homeless roam the streets”. This, my friends, is the sound of compassion. Catch it in the right moment and the tears may well fall. The end conclusion on this classic LP is reached on “Lamb’s Bread”; there's nothing else for it, legalize marijuana! Not a single moment has been wasted on this offering; UB40 and The Beat position Birmingham as the reggae world's most vital city in 1981.

The Jukebox Rebel
22-Dec-2007

A1 [04:08] 9.7.png UB40 - Present Arms (Jimmy Brown, Ali Campbell, Robin Campbell, Earl Falconer, Norman Hassan, Brian Travers, Mickey Virtue, Terence Wilson) Reggae
A2 [04:29] 7.9.png UB40 - Sardonicus (Jimmy Brown, Ali Campbell, Robin Campbell, Earl Falconer, Norman Hassan, Brian Travers, Mickey Virtue, Terence Wilson) Reggae
A3 [07:45] 9.8.png UB40 - Don’t Let It Pass You By (Jimmy Brown, Ali Campbell, Robin Campbell, Earl Falconer, Norman Hassan, Brian Travers, Mickey Virtue, Terence Wilson) Reggae
A4 [03:04] 7.3.png UB40 - Wildcat (Jimmy Brown, Ali Campbell, Robin Campbell, Earl Falconer, Norman Hassan, Brian Travers, Mickey Virtue, Terence Wilson) Reggae
B1 [04:32] 10.0.png UB40 - One In Ten (Jimmy Brown, Ali Campbell, Robin Campbell, Earl Falconer, Norman Hassan, Brian Travers, Mickey Virtue, Terence Wilson) Reggae
B2 [04:28] 9.5.png UB40 - Don’t Slow Down (Jimmy Brown, Ali Campbell, Robin Campbell, Earl Falconer, Norman Hassan, Brian Travers, Mickey Virtue, Terence Wilson) Reggae
B3 [04:15] 9.3.png UB40 - Silent Witness (Jimmy Brown, Ali Campbell, Robin Campbell, Earl Falconer, Norman Hassan, Brian Travers, Mickey Virtue, Terence Wilson) Reggae
B4 [04:48] 7.7.png UB40 - Lamb’s Bread (Jimmy Brown, Ali Campbell, Robin Campbell, Earl Falconer, Norman Hassan, Brian Travers, Mickey Virtue, Terence Wilson) Reggae




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