Simply Red – [Album]

Monday, 26 July 2010

Some readers will cringe and some will cheer, but there is no mid-point in possible reaction; such is the polar nature of the reactions to Simply Red, and it has been since the band formed out of the ashes of a punk band in 1985 (no joke – singer Mick Hucknall used to front The Frantic Elevators before founding Simply Red) and that disparity is likely to be more accentuated with the release of Songs Of Love. Now, twenty-five years after it started, Simply Red has matured into the adult contemporary, John Tesh-identified entity everyone assumed it would become; and on Songs Of Love, they wear that mantle incredibly well.

Whether listeners are expecting the warm (the punk in me wants to say 'static') outpouring on Songs Of Love or not, their jaws will still  will drop as “Say You Love Me” opens Songs Of Love. From note one, Hucknall returns with a neo-Soul croon that smacks of the influence of the adult contemporary greats (not surprising, given that half of the songs on the record are covers by the likes of Leon Huff), and backed by a string-laden band of (presumably) session musicians, but the surprise comes in just how well the singer has adapted to the form; while he hasn't exactly lost all the clip in his tenor, Hucknall rolls out his melodies as smooth as silk (or a less baritone Teddy Pendergrass) and with an almost alarming facility. These is no kind of rocket science to covers like “You Make Me Feel Brand New” and “If You Don't Know Me By Now,” nor is there any ground broken in the original cuts like “Holding Back The Years,” “I Have The Love” and “You Got It” other than the fact that they're all well performed in spite of being previously assumed to be well outside the singer's melodic depth. No matter what he tries here (the cover of the old Phillie International chestnut “If You Don't Know Me By Now” stands out, and is the greatest shock), he seems to carry off ably and, even if you're not a fan of either the singer or the band, you have to respect the ability of both given that they're able to make a venture like this work. There's no arguing that Songs Of Love won't be for everyone (the adult contemporary slant of each song will be too much for those who consider themselves to be of discerning taste), but those with an open mind won't be able to find real fault with the record; in fact,  Simply Red could easily sustain themselves on albums like this (there are more than enough tracks here that could see a lot of play at weddings and as incidental music for old Super 8 films that have been transferred to DVD), if they so chose.


Songs Of Love is available as a European import now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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