Simply Red: Big Love

Big Love come across as a kind of audio time capsule, one that makes the passage of the past 30 years simply disappear.

Simply Red

Big Love

Label: Elektra
Release Date: 2015-06-02

Truth be told, it’s nearly impossible to separate Simply Red from the band’s forever leader, Mick Hucknall. It was as much about his ginger-colored, tousle-haired image as it was the raspy vocals that defined that group as one of the more successful ensembles of the mid-‘80s and early ‘90s. Their hits were plentiful indeed, a veritable roll call of chart triumphs that took their cues from American R&B and then filtered those influences with an essential English style. “Holding Back the Years", “Money’s Too Tight (To Mention)", “The Right Thing", “Stars", “Something’s Got Me Started” and a stunning remake of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes’ “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” all established the band as international stars and made Mick Hucknall a dynamic and distinctive singer to be reckoned with.

In fact, as Simply Red’s fortunes ebbed and flowed, Hucknall become the sole standard nearer when it came to preserving their legacy, and once the group ceased to be, Hucknall not only assumed the mantle but also found the confidence to venture out on his own and preserve the legacy as well. Still, there’s nothing like the original branding when it comes to rekindling the flame and putting fans back in the seats. Consequently, it’s not surprising that the announcement of a recent reunion should also be accompanied by the release of a new album, the first in eight years to bear the Simply Red handle. It’s also no surprise to find no new twists in the band’s tack; after all, other than drummer Pete Lewinson’s mere cameo role, the entire original line-up remains involved and intact. This, after Hucknall announced in 2010 that he intended to retire the Simply Red banner entirely.

That said, there’s ample reason for the group’s former admirers to celebrate the group’s return via Big Love, an album that retains their penchant for unapologetic pop and a sound so radio-ready, it’s bound to beg comparison with the Simply Red style of old. Giddy dance type tunes like “Shine On” and the “Ghost of Love” -- the latter of which recalls the sound of disco redux courtesy of its sweeping strings -- come across as a kind of audio time capsule, one that makes the passage of the past 30 years simply disappear.

Still, it’s hard to avoid the notion that as long as Hucknall is at the helm, the other players become all but incidental. After all, it’s his visage that graces the cover and dominates the inside booklet. Likewise, when he sings a lyric like “The way you smile that way / It sends me miles away / Daydreaming while I sit / And I think how lucky I am” (“Big Love”) the essence of emotion effortlessly shines through.

Still, whoever is responsible for that mighty chorus on “Dad” or that tear-drenched treatment of the title track does deserve kudos for stirring this success. Consequently, there’s reason to celebrate the whole, and a sound and style that are still spot on.






A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.


Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.


PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.


'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.


Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.


Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.


Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.


The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.


Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.


Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.


Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.


'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.


Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.


Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.


Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.


The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.