The dreads are gone but the pipes remain.
Alex Forster 2007
As tempting as it is to launch into some smug diatribe about the flame-haired lothario, his legion of mondeo-driving fans and penchant for loungecore muzak, let's rise above the obvious and do as our mothers would have us do and look for the good.
I always liked ‘'Fairground'’ (hit single from 1995’s Life). It was a good pop tune and only the coldest of heart could deny being moved by the image of the protagonist’s fiery natties carving up the night sky as the big dipper drops. But that was 12 years ago. Several million albums later, Mick Hucknall - like climate change - isn’t going anywhere. The dreads are gone but the pipes remain.
Slightly short of a flying start, first track ‘'The World And You Tonight'’ is instantly forgettable. Thankfully, soulful ballad ‘'So Not Over You'’, shows Hucknall’s voice to great effect; melodic, controlled, and devoid of vocal showboating. ‘'Stay’' is also - dare we say it - vintage Simply Red; big chorus, polite air punching, Special K, you know the sort of thing.
Unfortunately, like the big dipper, what goes up must come down. ‘'Oh! What A Girl!'’ is dire, possibly the least sexy thing you’ll ever hear; watery soul funk nonsense. '‘Good Times Have Done Me Wrong'’, is, according to the press release, 'almost autobiographical' - don’t tease! A Hammond-driven, bluesy number where we find our host in contemplative mood. 'I didn’t really love too much, I didn’t really care too much' .
The cover of Ronnie Lane’s '‘Debris'’ shows Hucknall as a skilful vocalist once again, slightly ruined by an over-egged guitar part. Followed by '‘Lady'’, as good a tune as any Lemar track.
But, just as you're beginning to think that Simply Red aren’t such a poor advert for turning 30-something, Huckers hits us with a low blow. ‘'Money T.V'’ is a thoroughly naff ‘insight’ into the demons of modern life, lamenting over 'kids watching videos on computers' while finale ‘'Little Englander'’ is just frankly odd. Carrying on like some demented Daily Mail advert, a children’s choir sings 'Let me smash the plastic face of my lovely country'. Revolutionary zeal perhaps picked up on Simply Red’s recent live dates in Cuba – surely sanctions were enough.