Please, don’t let him be misunderstood…
Daryl Easlea 2012
Whatever you think of Mick Hucknall, or more pertinently of his previous output, you can never doubt his integrity as a performer. And Hucknall has always been a devoted enthusiast of music.
However sniffy one wants to be, certain audiences would never have heard of Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes, Gregory Isaacs or the Valentine Brothers were it not for Simply Red’s committed cover versions of their material. Hucknall’s first solo album was 2008’s respectful yet gritty Tribute to Bobby, where he homaged the work of Bobby "Blue" Bland.
American Soul is Hucknall’s first release since Simply Red disbanded in 2010. Its 12 tracks have been handpicked and all have a deep resonance with him. That’s How Strong My Love Is demonstrates his ability, and setting Otis Redding’s great ballad in a smooth wash of radio-friendly soul carries on where Hucknall’s old group left off.
Tyrone Davis’ Turn Back the Hands of Time highlights Hucknall’s ability to take a lesser-known song outside of the soul cognoscenti and make it available for people who would not normally know where to start. Even an old warhorse like Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood is added to.
His take on the Perry Como standard, It’s Impossible – a song that Hucknall learned when he was a waiter in a working man’s club – stops you in your tracks. For those of a certain age, it’s one of those songs that’s been heard so many times you never want to hear it again. But then Hucknall does that occasionally remarkable thing of his and ensnares you with just how great his voice is.
The 38 minutes of American Soul zip by. Of course, the originals are better, and Hucknall is no Otis Redding (as he’d probably be the first to admit). But he is genuinely enthralled by the beauty and the influence of these records, and gives a bravura performance throughout. Hearing these songs in any format is a tremendous pleasure, and Hucknall here does them credit.