So we've all heard Ali Campbell of UB40 fame sing cool reggae covers of songs by Elvis ("Can't Help Falling In Love") and Neil Diamond ("Red, Red Wine"), but how about the Beatles' "A Hard Days Night" or Prince's "Purple Rain?"
"I've just recorded 'Purple Rain' with the Fun Lovin' Criminals, and it's set to be a smash hit," Campbell reports, calling from his home town of Birmingham, England. "It's one of the best tracks I've done in a decade. They've made an album called 'Purple Reggae,' and Jamie Foxx, Sinead O'Connor and a bunch of other people are on it, all singing Prince's songs from 'Purple Rain.' I got 'Purple Rain,' and everyone I've played it for is going nuts about it."
The former UB40 lead singer also has a new project with Jamaican heavyweights Sly and Robbie, recording a collection of classic British songs by artists like the Beatles, the Stones and the Kinks.
"A couple of years ago I was asked to do a great British songbook like Rod Stewart did the great American songbook," he explains. "That's a franchise owned by (BBC) Radio 2, so I dumped that, and now I'm doing my own version. It's basically a collection of great British songs by great British composers, with tracks like 'A Hard Days Night' and (Roxy Music's) 'Love is The Drug.' "
For 30 years Campbell was the voice of UB40, one of the U.K.'s most successful bands, with sales of more than 70 million records. Departing, reportedly because of management problems, at the beginning of 2008, for the last two years Campbell has pursued a successful solo career.
Reflecting his new sense of liberation, he titled his most recent solo CD "Flying High."
Ali Campbell and the Dep Band perform on Saturday at the Lahaina Civic Center. The concert also features California's Rebelution and Three Houses Down from New Zealand. Gates open at 5:30 p.m., music begins at 6. Tickets are $45 presale, available at West Side Vibes, Request Music, Hana Highway Surf, Solid Clothing Co. and online at www.islandtix.com.
"Absolutely I'm flying high," he says. "It's brilliant after being with eight people and compromising, to being on my own and calling the shots, it's very emancipating."
One of his songs on "Flying High" was recently picked as the official South African anthem for this year's World Cup soccer competition. It's the inspirational "Visions," featuring the Soweto Gospel Choir.
"FIFA (International Federation of Association Football) wanted an international star to do a song with a South African star and I already had one," he explains. " 'Visions' had the Soweto Gospel Choir, the Soweto Drum Caf and Danny K, an R&B star from Johannesburg. I performed it for FIFA, and we went on the radio and I asked everybody listening to vote for 'Visions,' and we got 94 percent yes votes. We're going back there, and they reckon the gig they're going to put on is going to be the biggest gig ever, bigger than Live 8 and Live Earth combined."
Besides South African artists on "Flying High," Campbell collaborated with Jamaican dancehall singer Lady Saw, British rapper Sway, and reggae star Shaggy, on a surprising updating of Tom Jones' old hit "She's A Lady."
"I love that tune," he says. "It's from the '70s, when I was a little kid, but when you listen to it now as an adult it's a bit misogynistic and politically incorrect. I thought I'd do it, but make it more interesting by sneaking Shaggy on the end. I'm saying, 'she's a lady,' and he's going, no she's not mate, we've all **** her. I thought it was hilarious."
On his previous album, "Running Free," Campbell had worked with some stellar guest artists including Simply Red's Mick Hucknall, Katie Melua, Beverly Knight and Motown legend Smokey Robinson.
"He was lovely," Campbell enthuses. "I was doing 'Running Free' with Sly and Robbie, which was good enough for me, but then to work with Smokey Robinson who is everybody's hero. He was on his way to Amsterdam and I nicked him for three or four hours in a studio and wrung a tune out of him."
Obviously relishing his new career path as a solo artist, Campbell still honors his many years fronting UB40 by highlighting their hits in his own shows backed by the Dep Band, which includes former UB40 keyboardist Mickey Virtue.
"I do all the UB40 hits I'm famous for, and a smattering of songs from my three solo albums and a few surprise ones too," he notes. "Generally I'm getting the best reviews I've ever had. I can't wait to bring the Dep Band to Hawaii."
If French composer Maurice Ravel was still alive today, he'd be a very wealthy man. The publishing rights to this deceased artist's work have generated millions of dollars, roughly $70 million to date. And most of this impressive stash is derived from his most famous work, "Bolero," probably the world's most frequently performed piece of classical music.
Apparently played somewhere in the world every 15 minutes, we'll have an opportunity to hear this legendary work on Sunday at the MACC, performed by the Maui Pops Orchestra, who will pay $500 for the privilege of renting - not buying - this music for just one presentation.
"You can't purchase the music," explains Maui Pops Orchestra Music Director James Durham. "Just to play one concert it's $500. The music we do is expensive, that's why we request donations. On Our Christmas concert with Willie K, he sang the opera piece 'Nessun Dorma,' and that cost us $375 to rent a three-minute piece. You kind of go, no wonder the Honolulu Symphony is in bankruptcy."
Themed "Famous Orchestra Solos," Sunday's concert also features "Capriccio Espagnol," by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, the Overture from "Carmen"by Bizet,the Nocturne from "A Midsummer Night's Dream"by Mendelssohn and "Oklahoma" by Richard Rodgers.
"Every time I do a concert I try to have a theme, and this concert it's orchestral solos," says Durham. "So these are pieces where the composer has a particular instrument playing a very significant solo. In 'Bolero' you have a rhythmic motif that repeats all the way through on the snare drum; then you have a melodic motif repeated first on flute, then clarinet, and bassoon, saxophone, and then trombone and finally the entire string section plays."
Based on Spanish folk tunes, Rimsky-Korsakov's "Capriccio Espagnol"spotlights several instrumental solos, including the violin, flute and harp.
Comprising mostly Maui musicians, the Pops Orchestra includes four high-school-aged musicians: Preston Jones (percussion), Sharon Nakama (second oboe), Skyler Mendoza (percussion) and Samuel Lim (first violin).
A Baldwin High sophomore, Nakama also plays with the Hawaii Youth Symphony II. Playing the oboe since the age of 11, she says she likes performing with the Pops because: "It's a mature orchestra, not just kids like the Youth Symphony. I get to experience a more complex orchestra, and it's challenging."
A member of Zenshin Daiko, Jones is a Maui High senior who has played percussion with the Pops since 2007. "The Pops Orchestra has such a wide variety of music," he notes. "I get to listen to such wonderful music."
Preston, who also plays with the primary Hawaii Youth Symphony, credits his Pops experience with igniting a passion to study music. "It was because of the Pops that I want to purse music," he says. "It got me excited about pursuing music as a career."
"One of our mission statements is to provide an opportunity for younger players," Durham concludes. "It's extremely gratifying that they can play in a symphony and improve themselves. I'm just thrilled."
The Maui Pops Orchestra performs on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. in the Castle Theater. Tickets range form $10 to $36, and half-price for kids.