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Simply Red - 'Blue Eyed Soul' Album Review


1. Thinking Of You

2. Sweet Child

3. Complete Love

4. Take A Good Look

5. Ring That Bell

6. BadBootz

7. Don’t Do Down

8. Riding On A Train

9. Chula

10. Tonight

‘Blue Eyed Soul’ was a term which was coined by Georgie Woods, who was a Philadelphia DJ, in the mid-1960s, to describe white artists who performed Soul and R&B. As this album was recorded as live, with few overdubs, and draws on inspiration from classic Funk and Soul from the likes of Isaac Hayes, Curtis Mayfield, James Brown etc, the title seems apt.

It seems a long time since I was at the ‘final’ Simply Red concert at the end of 2010’ Since then they have reformed and released the rather underwhelming ‘Big Love’, four years ago, so I was interested to see what their twelfth album would be like. I was delighted to find that their mojo is back with avengence.

Simply Red have not tried to replicate ‘A New Flame’ or ‘Stars’, but have focussed on Hucknall’s funky soulful voice. Mick Hucknall’s voice takes centre stage on the album and he has said “I wanted to push my voice a little harder, challenge it a little bit, give myself something to really sing to.”

The album opens with a statement of intent with ‘Thinking Of You’ which was released as a single in August and is a funky burst of high tempo Soul. Hucknall’s voice shines through. It’s a great song to blast in the car or to dance wherever you are with its heavy Soul beat and blaring horns.

Another previously released track ‘Sweet Child’ is a dreamy ballad, which reminds me of one of my favourite Simply Red songs ‘For Your Babies’. It is a completely different song, sung in a higher octave, but has the same effortless soulful delivery, and is an adults song of love to their child. The album maintains its slow tempo with exquisite ‘Complete Love’ a meandering gospel Soul number with Mick going all low. Before 'Blue Eyed Soul' takes it up a notch we have ‘Take A Good Look’ with catchy guitar riff and a vocal that is more than a nod to Marvin Gaye. I defy anyone not to sing along to this.

The peace is shattered with sirens and a heavy 70’s style bassline and another singalong ‘Ring That Bell’. With great horns percussion and hi hat, this is a smorgasboard of sound, and the siren is ever present in the background. ‘BadBootz’ continues the 70’s vibe with irresistible guitar licks heavy drum beat and horns. Whether you are sitting in your car or on your feet you will boogie along to this. The lyrics leave no doubt that, that is the whole point of the song. ‘Don’t Do Down’ is vintage Simply Red, reminiscent of the early works, especially with the duelling with the backing singing but with an obvious maturity. There is even the old trumpet solo. ‘Riding On A Train’ has a samba beat with the percussion front and centre, the backing vocals and horns add a sense of fun that instantly raises a smile. The last high tempo number is ‘Chula’ and I imagined seeing Huggy Bear walking into a club to this. If you are too young to get the reference, Google is your friend. Catchy guitar riffs and the samba drums, along with Mick’s, James Brown like ‘woooowl’ make your whole body move.

By now your feet will be aching from all that boogie, so Mick, ever the considerate frontman, slows the album right down with a crooning ‘Tonight’. This is probably the most recognisable Simply Red number on the album, and the dreamy ballad is a fitting conclusion

After Simply Red reformed in 2014 and released the unforgettable ‘Big Love’ I was worried that they had lost their way and were cashing in on past glories. Well hold on to your hats they have found the sat nav and are back on course.

‘Blue Eyed Soul’ is Simply Red back to what they do best, blasting out funky floortappers and crooning soulful ballads. Mick Hucknall is back on top form and stories of their demise have proved over exaggerated. This album reminds me what it was like hearing ‘Picture Book’ for the first time. Safe to say I love it.

Blue Eyed Soul is Released on November 8th.

Review - Tony Creek

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