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UB40 tours with a different voice

Despite decades of success and a huge fan base, lead singer Ali Campbell, center, angrily left UB40 in 2008. But his brothers have kept the band on the road, and they play St. Petersburg on Sunday.

Getty Images (2007)

Despite decades of success and a huge fan base, lead singer Ali Campbell, center, angrily left UB40 in 2008. But his brothers have kept the band on the road, and they play St. Petersburg on Sunday.

It's been 20-plus years since UB40 dazzled U.S. and MTV audiences with reggae-pop fusion hits like Red, Red Wine and I Got You Babe. But the British act — its name an abbreviation of their country's jobless claims form — has never really gone away.

Finding success by covering classics by Neil Diamond and Sonny & Cher with a Caribbean feel, UB40 finally struck solid gold in 1993 when their reggae take on Elvis Presley's (I Can't Help) Falling In Love With You landed atop the charts after being featured in the Sharon Stone flick Sliver.

But even with 70 million records sold and widespread love from fans back in the U.K., frontman and singer Ali Campbell angrily left the group in 2008, fuming over differences with management.

The dispute still makes headlines back home, where Campbell recently told the British press he was stunned that his brothers Robin and Duncan still kept the band on the road under the original UB40 name.

"It's like going to see the Rolling Stones with Derek Jagger singing instead of Mick," Campbell told the Sunday Mail earlier this month. "People will feel very duped when I don't appear."

Ali Campbell is no Mick Jagger, but fans should still expect a "guest vocalist" to grab the microphone when UB40 plays St. Petersburg's Jannus Landing at 8 p.m. Sunday.

Tickets are $29.99 in advance or $38 on Sunday.

Steve Spears, Times staff writer

UB40 tours with a different voice 04/29/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 29, 2009 4:30am]
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