Sunday, 24 November 2019

Simply Red - Stars (1991)

Something got me started....

 

Released on 30th September 1991

Running time 41.17

Mick Hucknall's stated aim for this top-selling album was to sound even more soulful and less "clean" than on previous offerings, which was a bit odd, because the previous three albums had certainly been very soulful and this one was met with many accusations of being over-polished and soul-less. These criticisms were, in my opinion, unfair. Yes, it was an album popular with those who probably didn't have James Brown, Jimi Hendrix or Tom Waits in their collections but so what. It is still a credible release, for me. Tracks like the white funk of Something Got Me Started or the smooth, infectious groove of Stars are simply excellent soul/pop music, end of story. Most of the "buy this for your gran" sneering came from predictable sources - the NME and Melody Maker - but over time, in retrospect, the album has been praised for being what it is - an admittedly polished but addictive slice of finely-crafted funky pop soul. There is a place for it, as far as I'm concerned, and I am a fan of many of those more "credible" artists as well.

TRACK LISTING

1. Something Got Me Started
2. Stars
3. Thrill Me
4. Your Mirror
5. She's Got It Bad
6. For Your Babies
7. Model
8. How Could I Fall
9. Freedom
10. Wonderland

Thrill Me is appealingly shuffling in its jazziness, enhanced by some killer saxophone. This track, along with the rest of the album, is pleasingly more deeper and bassy in its sound as we moved into the nineties and many of the sonic curses of the eighties were dispensed with, thank the Lord. This was a sonically much improved album. Model, for example, has a lovely deep bass line and some seriously funky guitar. Your Mirror was a hit, like the previous three tracks and is an intoxicating one, one of my favourites.



The Stevie Wonder-ish She's Got It Bad is a convincing slice of funk, if it had been sung by a black funk artist it would have been received as such. For Your Babies is another one I love. It is just a beautiful song, beautifully played and sung. Check out that saxophone on How Could I Fall, impressive stuff. Similarly, the funky James Brown-esque drums on the chunky, muscular strains of Freedom. The left-leaning Hucknall was also politically sound, as far as I was concerned, and he often managed to insert a bleak message into his attractive songs, as indeed he does on the cynical but melodic Wonderland, which was a condemnation of the Conservative government of the time.

Simply Red's problem was that they could never climb the credibility wall, away from the sanitised poppiness they were supposed to represent. I always felt they had more to them than that, however, and albums like this prove it. Stephen Thomas Erlewine, writing on the AllMusic site, said that this was Simply Red's finest album. He was right, too.

B