Sunday, May 29, 2016

UB40 - Present Arms

Today (May 29th) marks the thirty-fifth anniversary of Present Arms, the second studio album from UB40. As with their debut, this 1981 record went Platinum in the UK, peaking at number 2. It also hit number 28 in Australia, number 20 in the Netherlands and number 13 in New Zealand.

Side one starts with the title track. "Present Arms" opens with a marching drum cadence before swinging into a horn driven, mid-tempo reggae groove.

"Sardonicus" refers to a medical condition Risus ardonicus which facial muscle spasm the produces a grin. The lyrics have an anti-military theme that denounces the US President at the time, Ronald Reagan, who was known for his jovial grin.

"Don't Let It Pass You By", the second single, went to number 18 in Ireland and number 16 in the UK. With a mid-tempo swing and a quirky, almost annoying, keyboard sequence through out, this mellow number is about seizing opportunities as they come. About halfway through the nearly eight-minute album version, the music gets even more trippy and the vocals shift into a reggae rub-a-dub rap style.

"Wild Cat", an up-tempo instrumental with a funky bass line closes out the first half.

Side two opens with "One in Ten". This single, which went to number 87 in Australia, number 20 in the Netherlands, number 18 in Germany and number 7 in the UK, addresses the problem of unemployment and is an attack on the policies of then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. As you might recall, the band's name comes from the "Unemployment Benefit Form 40" that had been used for awhile in the UK.

The mid-tempo "Don't Slow Down" was the B-side to the second single. It was popular with deejays and often got played as much as the A-side of the same single. The two songs really compliment one another well.

"Silent Witness" is another very mellow tune with a bit of a shadowy, secretive vibe.

The album closer "Lamb's Bread" promotes the band's campaign to legalize cannabis.

A two song EP was included with the original 1981 vinyl release. "Don't Walk on the Grass" and "Dr X" were both instrumental tracks which were included later on in the CD release of the album.

While I liked reggae well enough back in my college days, it was not at the top of my list for music I would seek out for purchase. Thus, I did not encounter Present Arms in the 80's. I did, however, added it to my digital music library, along with many other UB40 albums, within the last decade or so. I find I get more out of this one upon each listen.

For more UB40, click here.


HERC said...

Because of your review, I gave this one a spin having never heard it before. I am reggae fan who never really cared for UB40 but this one wasn't half bad. Imma give it 2.5/5.

Thanks for the tip.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't resist commenting. Very well written!