Sunday, 1 December 2019

Simply Red - Life (1995)

We're in this together....


Released on 24 October 1995

Running time  47.18

Four years after the multi-million selling Stars came this album from Simply Red, their fifth. It had many signs of contemporary “r ’n’ b” programmed, thumpingly bass heavy soul stylings. It is consummately delivered by Mick Hucknall and his very competent band, but its contemporary beats and rhythms have, for me, taken just a little of the genuine soul of the previous albums away. Just a little, as the music on offer is still of a high quality, but there was always something a little  “clean” and “polished” and lacking in edge about much of mid-nineties music. That said, though, it is still an album full of some really good material.


1. You Make Me Believe
2. So Many People
3. Lives And Loves
4. Fairground
5. Never Never Love
6. So Beautiful
7. Hillside Avenue
8. Remembering The First Time
9. Out On The Range
10. We’re In This Together                               

You Make Me Believe is so very 1995, full of the afore-mentioned big, powerful, programmed backing (as opposed to “real” drums). It has the now expected, effortless, laid-back Mick Hucknall vocal. So Many People is in the same vein - immaculately sung and performed. Perfect late night easy listening white soul. There is some nice, gentle, chicka-chicka guitar lurking beneath the slow beat, and brass too. Lives And Loves uses that very typical, deliberately scratchy mid-nineties backing and also features some nice late-night saxophone backing Hucknall’s slightly deeper, soulful vocal. That sax has a few echoes of that used on Paul Weller's 1993 debut solo album.

The big hit from the album was the rhythmic, shuffling catchy groover, Fairground. It was one of those songs  where the title didn’t feature in the chorus that everyone sang along with - “I love the thought of coming home to you..”. It is a very addictive song, very poppy but with an upbeat, clubby beat and equally “house” piano near the end, latching on to contemporary trends. Another beat very much of its time is the “chill-out” backing of the slow burning Never Never Love. It is all very pleasantly relaxing, I have to say.

That programmed bass and percussion backs the extremely laid-back So Beautiful. Hucknall gets cynical with the line “she was so beautiful but oh so boring”. It is a very appealing track, though. Hucknall dabbles with poppy, nineties-style reggae on the equally attractive Hillside Avenue. There are some intoxicating rhythms on this one, it sounds pretty authentic (to the pop reggae of 1995, anyway). Remembering The First Time has a lovely, deep, melodic bass line and is another very likeable number. The same can be said for the wah-wah backed, powerful funky soul of Out On The Range. In many ways this album gets better and better as it progresses.

It ends with the anthemic We’re In This Together, which sits alone from the rest of the album. It is a track that reminds me vaguely of Peter Gabriel’s Biko. Legendary South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela plays flugelhorn on the track.

This album marked the last of the truly huge selling ones from the band, everything from this point on were successively lower-key releases, punctuated with cover versions and the additional appearance of several “greatest hits” collections.

Below is a clip of Simply Red performing Fairground on Top Of The Pops in 1995.