I know you should never judge a book by its cover, but I have to admit when Ali Campbell’s album sampler landed on my desk, I was half expecting tracks like ‘Red Red Wine’, which to be honest I’ve never really liked. The mix of teasers and full tracks however, was more enjoyable than I expected.
It’s been a long time since I’ve heard an Ali Campbell record, but I would agree with those who describe his voice as one of the most distinctive and familiar in music. Ali’s smooth and reflective vocal is one plus point on this album, though the Reggae style he sings in means not all of the lyrics are clear. But it’s not just the former UB40 front man you can hear on this album. Ali has collaborated with a variety of international artists on ‘Flying High’, including Sway, Shaggy, and the Soweto Gospel Choir. Highlights among the collaborations were ‘Everways’ featuring Craig David, and ‘Visions’ featuring Danny K and the Soweto Gospel Choir. For me, ‘Everways’ epitomises a Jamaican summer with its feel good melodies and classic reggae beats. Meanwhile ‘Visions’ could be something straight out of the Lion King films. It has a strong and positive message, interesting lyrical ideas, and the choir put in a great performance. Apart from being undecided on how well the collaboration with Sway works, my only other criticism of the collaborations, is that at times I would’ve liked to hear more from the other artists. Sometimes they seemed a bit lost in the background and needed more presence on the song.
Ali’s solo efforts on ‘Flying High’ range from the well written ‘Out From Under’ which will be his next single release, to the funky, danceable beats in ‘Don’t Shoot The Messenger’. There was also an instrumental sample from title track ‘Flying High’, and the wistful, slightly cheesey track, ‘My Happiness’. He’s certainly coming at Reggae from a few different angles, though the overall effect doesn’t seem quite as original as publicity might suggest. Critique aside, the overall effect of the album on my music psyche wasn’t a bad one, and I think this summer record will shortly be blasting out of the C.D players of music fans of all ages.