Take a good look....
Released on 8th November 2019
Running time 33.00
Look, you know what you’re going to get from Simply Red, even all these years later - immaculately played white soul/funk topped off with singer Mick Hucknall’s genuinely credible soul voice. This album gives you just that - ten tracks of largely upbeat soul and/or funk full of instantly singable hooks but nothing particularly remarkable. It is just a pleasant thirty minutes or so. It is also nice for an album to be the traditional thirty minutes plus in length, as opposed to a bloated seventy minutes. Yes, you get less music, but, strangely, the shorter time allows the album to be enjoyed more. I’m sure you understand what I mean. An hour of it would have been too much but half an hour suits me fine.
The first four tracks are more what you expect from Simply Red in their eighties soulful style but thereafter the album turns impressively funky. It is far more of a gritty funk offering than a softer soul one, in my opinion. Anyone looking for an album of poppy, chart fare will not find too much of it here. For me, this is credible stuff.
1. Thinking Of You
2. Sweet Child
3. Complete Love
4. Take A Good Look
5. Ring That Bell
6. Bad Bootz
7. Don’t Do Down
8. Riding On A Train
Thinking Of You kicks things off in fine mid eighties style with a real throwback to the group’s first few albums. Hucknall’s voice is strong throughout and the track pounds along with some great bass, guitar and punchy brass. It has strong echoes of Jamiroquai for me. Great saxophone in it too. Sweet Child also sounds very mid eighties, this time in a slower, more laid-back way, as Hucknall revisits his Holding Back The Years vocal style. It has a bit of a Stevie Wonder feel to it in places. As I said, there’s nothing particularly challenging in this perfect Radio Two fare, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. It is what it is.
Complete Love is a slow-paced, beautifully soulful number ideal for late night radio, with a great vocal and a string-enhanced but bassy Stax-ish backing. It is like some of the great Philadelphia label ballads of the seventies. Take A Good Look has a sublime, deep and bassy Al Green-style backing and it goes without saying that the vocal is on the money. Great stuff. I can’t help but really like this.
Time to get a bit funky and we duly do so with Ring That Bell which cooks and boils with rumbling funk. “There’s some bad men messing with our future, let’s give them hell...” may be a lyric that attracts scorn from some but it serves its purpose perfectly for me. I love the funky vibe on this. A funky clavinet introduces the even more cookin’ but ludicrously-titled Bad Bootz. Sure, the lyrics are nonsense but then so was The Funky Chicken - instrumentally, this track is red hot. These last two numbers have shown that the group could funk out with the best of them. The sound is superb on the whole album, by the way, but is noticeably good on these funky offerings.
A James Brown-influenced guitar groove powers the irresistible Don’t Do Down as Hucknall rails against those who put him down. Once again, the track is superbly funky and full of bassy oomph. I’m really impressed. Riding On A Train has some rumbling Blaxploitation-influenced bass lines and it pulsates with rhythmic funk as indeed does Chula, with its very Blaxploitation horns.
The album finishes with a bit of Teddy Pendergrass-style late night soul smooch in Tonight, which is probably the only serving of cheese on it. It still has its appeal, though.
There will probably be a fair few who criticise this album, as seems to be the way for any long-estabished artist when they release new material these days. I'm not bothered about that. I like it.