When I found out Simply Red were celebrating 30 years of making music by going on tour later this year I was one of the first in queue to get tickets. It’s been a number of years since I last saw them live, you have to go back to 2003 and around the time of the album ‘Home’ when I saw them in Manchester. Before that it was Paris on March 20th 1992 for the ‘Stars’ tour, it seems I get around to watching them every decade, this kind of fits as this is the third time i’ll see them in three decades.
About a month ago, the official Twitter account of Simply Red announced a surprise on its way, and that surprise was a new studio album called ‘Big Love’, not only that, it was a very short lead time until its release, it seems that Mick Hucknall and the band had been very busy in secret for a while.
So it was released on 1st June and like most Simply Red fans I was excited but I guess a little apprehensive as so many bands reform these days and are never quite as good in my view, I hoped this wouldn’t be the same.
The first thing to mention is that I was pleased to see Ian Kirkham continuing on woodwind and keyboards, Ian is one of the original line up from the ‘Picture Book’ era. The rest of the band are from the late nineties and the naughties. A new drummer has joined for the ‘Big Love’ era, Roman Roth.
So what’s the album like? It starts with a bang as ‘Shine On’, the debut single is typical Simply Red, a song harking back to the style of the ‘Stars’ album. It’s the type of song that sticks in the mind, one that you can’t stop singing after listening to it. It will end up as a classic Simply Red song when we look back in the future.
Mick Hucknall said that he wanted to make a more consistent album this time, one dealing with “Birth, love, death and everything in between.” He seems to have pulled that off as each song seamlessly blends together despite being individual, I know that sounds strange but when you listen to it you’ll understand what I mean.
I’m not going to go through every song individually, you’ll either listen to them yourselves or read about them elsewhere, instead I want to give you a feel for the album as a whole. For fans this is a mix of styles from ‘Stars’ and ‘Home’ (ironically the two tours that I have seen), however there are moments of unmistakable ‘New Flame’, especially when the woodwind and brass instruments get used to full effect. The song ‘Tight Tones’ is slightly different to the rest, a bit rock and roll with a 70’s disco riff. Perhaps this is the departure from the typical Simply Red song that we are treated to on most of their albums, although they normally delve into Reggae.
So does the album live up to expectations? Or is it a disappointment? Well, Mick Hucknall has once again put together a line up of fantastic musicians, the tone of the album is a little more subdued than some we have had in the past, I’m thinking of songs like ‘Sunrise’, ‘Fairground’ and ‘Something’s Got Me Started’, but that’s not a problem as I enjoyed ‘Home’ and the chilled tone here is similar to that. What about Mick’s voice? He doesn’t seem to lost that amazing range, although these songs don’t allow him to show off the range he had in songs like ‘Picture Book’, ‘Stars’ or ‘Heaven’, I guess the real answer on Mick’s range will come when I see them live in December. I remember my absolute shock and awe when in Paris in 1992 he belted out ‘Picture Book’, I never believed for one minute that he’s pull those notes off but he did.
Like them or not, you will find yourself singing along to most of these songs, each one is catchy and thats a rare thing these days, all to often albums have 3 or 4 good tracks and are filled out with rushed nonsense. Buy this album, you won’t regret it.
(Coming in December 2015 – My review of Simply Red – Big Love Live)