I will preface this review with I never initially appreciated UB40 for all they were worth.
Growing up in the 80s/90s, certain hit songs played over and over on the local airwaves to the point I mistook them for a UK pop band. I basically wrote them off until the day I played Signing Off in the record store I managed years back.
At first, the album was tossed in the mix just to ensure everyone shopping in the store that day was not stuck listening to hip hop, metalcore, or punk rock music. Little did I know, I would soon appreciate and adore the entire album a mere hours later as it shuffled throughout the morning.
It was more post-punk than reggae at times, with strong political lyrics as well as just telling it how it is without holding back. As someone who loves ska and 2 Tone, I was just amazed of the music throughout. I started hearing other bands in them realizing how big of an influence they must have been for bands to mimic their style. I remember calling myself a fool for not getting into them earlier.
UB40’s debut release, Signing Off, was released 4 decades ago in the summer of 1980. To celebrate, the band has released a 40th anniversary edition double LP for fans old and new to adore. Featuring the singles “I Think It’s Going To Rain Today,” “Food For Thought,” and “King”, the release also includes three bonus tracks.
With the pandemic of 2020 causing a world of pain to so many, the politically-concerned lyrics throughout the album are more relevant today than ever. Case and point, “Tyler” easily could have been a modern day release based on the current events that seemingly remain unchanged.
“King” is as powerful as it was the first time I heard it. With this listen, I was reminded how poignant this track pertaining to Martin Luther King Jr. was. Last year’s actions by so many hateful people really proved nothing has changed as “they’re not ready to accept that dream situation, yet.”
Randy Newman’s “I Think It’s Going To Rain Today” remained an incredible cover. This was one of the tracks that helped UB40 get noticed as it hit number 6 in the UK.
I still adore “Food For Thought.” This hypocritical song about Christmas carried a chipper sound but the lyrics of suffering and poverty called out so many who fake their way towards the end of the year.
Title track “Signing Off”, still gets stuck in my head hours after I listen to it. That saxophone playing just is so likable that I find myself humming it randomly. There are plenty of ska moments in this track. I think the best part is how the lyrics pertain to today probably more so than they did 40 years ago when so of us just have reached our limits and need to log out of social media.
The translucent red 2LP release is just stunning to look at. The original album artwork remains the same. My only hope was that perhaps the band could have included more than three unreleased songs that honestly have already been released. I would be interested hearing some demos and alternative takes on some of these classic songs, plus a unused side of a record is always a sad thing to see.
Regardless, this is a great release that I feel more people need to give a chance and include in their collection.
Get past your feelings about their hit songs you may not agree with and dig deep into the UB40 catalog for their debut is monumental when it comes to music in more ways than one.
A3. 12 Bar
A4. Burden of Shame
B2. I Think It’s Going To Rain Today
B4. Food For Thought
B5. Little By Little
B6. Signing Off
C1. Madam Medusa
D1. Strange Fruit
D2. Reefer Madness
You can purchase your own copy by clicking on the following link: