Sunday, 24 November 2019

Simply Red - A New Flame (1989)

Love lays its tune....

  

Released on 13th February 1989

Running time 41.03

Simply Red's third album found them further establishing their middle-of-the-road popularity. Its obvious highlight is a cover version, Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes' impassioned soul ballad, If You Don't Know Me By Now, which was seemingly made for Mick Hucknall. The album's other big hit was the smooth, late night jazzy soul of It's Only Love. Despite having been remastered in 2008, some, but not all, of the album suffers like many others from the mid-late eighties from a slightly sterilised, cool sound, with keyboards to the fore at the expense of the bass, leaving a slightly treble-heavy feel to it. It is nowhere near as trebly as lots of other albums of the time, however, and the bass is still quite audible. To be fair, it is only really the first track that it is clearly apparent, things improve after that. The third hit, and another that is familiar to many over the years is the appealing A New Flame. Thankfully, this one is a tad more bassy than It's Only Love.

TRACK LISTING

1. It's Only Love
2. A New Flame
3. You've Got It
4. To Be With You
5. More
6. Turn It Up
7. Love Lays Its Tune
8. She'll Have To Go
9. If You Don't Know Me By Now
10. Enough

The album was the group's first number one and, as I said, saw the group cementing their mass appeal, to the possible detriment of their credibility, which was a bit of a shame as they were still producing quality blue-eyed soul, witness a track like You've Got It, written by Hucknall with the legendary Motown songwriter Lamont Dozier. Most of the album finds Hucknall trying to evoke classic soul/funk on his compositions, such as on the brassy, punchy funk/soul of To Be with You, that turns the bass up higher than the keyboards, rightfully. More has a nice, soulful depth to it as well, enhanced by a sublime bass line. Perfect late night fare. I love it.



It is on the cover version of the real thing, though, that he steals the show. Turn It Up is full of that typically mid/late eighties white funk sound so loved by Level 42, Heaven 17 and, at times The Style Council. All those chicka-chicka frantically-strummed guitars. Love Lays Its Tune, if sung by Chaka Khan, for example, would have been received as a copper-bottomed piece of soul. The fact it is Simply Red should not stop it from being similarly acclaimed. It is a high quality track. Enough is overflowing with funky appeal, too, the same applies to the cool pop/funk of She'll Have To Go. As was often the case with Hucknall, he managed to insert his cutting, heartfelt political comment into an otherwise jaunty tune. The "she" in this song is the Prime Minster at the time, Margaret Thatcher. There is something a bit Style Council-ish about the lyrics of this one.

Overall, this is a perfectly listenable album, and, despite its obvious eighties musical sensibilities, it is nowhere near as awash with synthesisers as many albums of the era. A listen to this will always be enjoyable. I really quite like it, far more so than I ever did at the time. I have to say it really is quite good.

Incidentally, the expanded version includes some great bonus material in an live instrumental cover of Stevie Wonder's I Wish, and further impressive instrumentals in X, Sugar Daddy and Funk On Out.

B-