REGGAE star Maxi Priest is to replace lead singer Ali Campbell as the new frontman of Birmingham superband UB40.
The band have decided to carry on despite an acrimonious split from Campbell after a festering row with management.
The collaboration with Maxi Priest, expected to form a more permanent alliance, has already yielded a recording of Bob Marley's I Shot The Sheriff and is expected to form half of a double A-side single soon.
A source close to the band said: "The recent recording session with Maxi Priest turned out brilliantly and the band are really buzzing about the year ahead."
Maxi Priest joined UB40 on tour last year, culminating in sell out shows at the NEC in December.
He had top ten hits with Wild World in 1988 and Close To You in 1990.
He has worked with Sly & Robbie, Roberta Flack, Shaggy, Shabba Ranks, Joe & Dennis Brown.
Meanwhile, Ali Campbell is currently based in London where he is rehearsing a new band for probably the most important gig of his career, a showcase for his second solo album, Running Free, at the Royal Albert Hall.
"We've got an explosive set planned," he promised. "It's going to be a historic night. Pato Banton will be there, Sly and Robbie are coming over and, most thrilling of all, I'll be sharing the stage with my all-time hero Smokey Robinson."
After that he has a world tour planned, taking in such exotic dates as Seychelles, Mauritius and Hawaii.
Keyboard player quits UB40
ANOTHER member of UB40 has quit, with keyboard player Michael Virtue resigning from the band. It follows the shock departure in January of lead singer Ali Campbell who blamed management difficulties for his leaving.
In a statement released through his agent, Virtue said today: "I can no longer work with the management team and I am joining Ali Campbell in his investigation into the handling of the band’s business affairs.
"I am very upset to be leaving the band who have been like family for the last 30 years, but feel under the circumstances that this was the only option left open to me."
Mr Virtue added that he had been unhappy with the way things have been run for many years and he wanted to get to the bottom of the Birmingham band’s business affairs, which he had been unable to do while he was still with the group.
He said Campbell had no contact with the band since the last UB40 concert in Uganda so he rang him last week and asked to speak with him.
"I have now had a meeting with the legal team who are representing Ali and are now also representing me," he said.
"It certainly cannot be said that I am leaving to pursue a solo career and neither did Ali.
"Suffice to say, I am extremely disappointed."
It is another blow to fans still left reeling at the unravelling of the band, which has sold in excess of 70 million records.
UB40 had three UK number one singles in Red, Red Wine, I Got You Babe, and Can’t Help Falling In Love.
The band released their own statement in January blaming Campbell for the split.