The origin of the cover: Released as a single
Original recording artist: N/A
The London Boys could be seen as a forward thinking dance duo.
After all, their cover of ‘Baby Come Back’ was released a whole year before Pato Banton’s version. That’s something what Channelling Opinions (@challopz) would tweet.
And, thankfully, @challpoz is a parody account, because no sane person would actually think that the London Boys were ahead of their time.
They released tacky and shallow Hi-NRG, and few music fans cried when they split up after their 1993 LP ‘Love 4 Unity’.
But, in 1995, they reformed – and re-branded themselves as The New London Boys – to release ‘Hallelujah Hits’, which featured religious and spiritual hymns in Eurodance arrangements.
The album consisted of covers like ‘Wade in the Water’, ‘Go Down Moses’, ‘Go Tell It on the Mountain’ and ‘Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho’. Unsurprisingly, the results weren’t good.
Alongside ‘Gospel Train To London’, ‘Kumbaya’ was released as a single in Germany and the Netherlands.
And it’s easy to see why: it was probably the strongest track on the album.
For example, it’s not as bad as ‘Lay Down Your Body’ – which sounds like a happy hardcore version of ‘She’ll Be Coming Down the Mountain’.
But that doesn’t mean this cover version is good. Far from it.
It’s a stretch to make a four-minute Eurodance version of ‘Kumbaya’, and it really does show. The track quickly becomes repetitive and the breaks fail to dissolve its tedium.
It also sounds sloppily produced – the listener should not be surprised if this track was hastily put together at the last minute.
The dance undertones are also ill suited to the religious theme, and thus the song sounds graceless.
The beat squeezes out the original meaning of ‘Kumbaya’, in that it was associated with human and spiritual unity, and something similar would be said if Technohead or Whigfield covered ‘I Surrender All’. It just sounds very inappropriate and awkward.
But it is clear that the duo’s aims were well intentioned, and there should be no objections to the idea that they were genuinely enthusiastic and sincere about this project.
Becoming a religious Eurodance act may have stunk of self-indulgence and lacked mass-market appeal, but at least it seems like they felt that ‘Hallelujah Hits’ had more creative meaning than ‘Requiem’ and ‘London Nights’. Good for them.