Music

Simply Red: 25 Greatest Hits

Mick Hucknall is closing up his British soul shop in 2010, but there's still time for another hits package.


Simply Red

Simply Red 25: The Greatest Hits

Label: Razor & Tie
US Release Date: 2009-02-03
Amazon
Amazon
iTunes

In a recent interview for Q magazine, Simply Red singer Mick Hucknall sported a diamond in his tooth. It looked a bit strange to say the least, but when you’ve had some of the hits the British band has had, well, you can sport some bling from time to time. So when Hucknall announced that the group would be no more next year after a farewell world tour, most people suspected that a hits package of some sort would be in the offing. And wouldn’t you know it, Simply Red have done just that, looking at some of the highlights (and a handful of signature songs) which have made them endure for a quarter century.

Fortunately, this collection doesn’t take the route of most hits packages, going from the earliest hits to the newest mediocre offerings. Instead, the disc kicks off with the group’s latest and better hits, starting with “Sunrise”, the sleek, polished easy listening number that falls right into Hucknall’s soulful, slow-groove alley. But the singer sounds far more in his element with the retro-sounding “Stars”, with all of its Motown-inspired R&B flavor.

At times Hucknall sounds like he could have been born in an era warming up for the likes of Sam Cooke and Otis Redding, hitting similar notes but never really routinely reaching down deep for that little extra oomph. This is particularly apparent on “A New Flame”, which sounds far too glossy for its own good, even with its slight tango-tinged accents fuelling the verses. The home stretch has some redeeming qualities, but it’s never enough to truly save the song.

When Simply Red opt for the principle that less is more, as they do with a somewhat silly but funky “The Right Thing”, the results are definitely impressive: the groove can do a lot in tandem with Hucknall’s old-school delivery and old soul pipes. Another example: the great “Something Got Me Started”, even though it has traces of dance pop circa C&C and the music factory they owned at one time. But none of these compared with the simplicity of the cover of the Stylistics' “You Make Me Feel Brand New”, for which Hucknall seems perfect. This gorgeous bit of work would make you dim the lights even if you lived alone.

Perhaps the biggest curse/blessing for Simply Red was “Holding Back the Years”, a timeless song that shot them to the next level of stardom. This tune, along with a select few other songs from the ‘80s, demands your attention whenever it comes on the radio (that medium preceding iPods, and often found in cars). As it was back in 1985, Hucknall’s performance on this track is probably his best ever, as it comes from the heart, relaying his thoughts of being abandoned by his mother at an early age. And it’s a rarity in that the second half of the song seems to be far better than the first half.

The group never really matched that success again, but they were able to muster up some decent pop efforts, such as the harmless, midtempo “Your Mirror”, with its subtle changes, and the slower, tender “For Your Babies”, which sounds like a song Rod Stewart should’ve had a hand in making. One track on here exemplifying the rather big, horribly overproduced method that bands still adhere to is “It’s Only Love”, with bland orchestral touches and terribly glossy keyboards that add nothing.

After the Rio-inspired Carnival feel oozing from the electro-dance mess that is “Fairground”, the record returns to the second glorious moment of the band’s career in “If You Don’t Know Me by Now”, with its graceful, delicate and soothing foundation. Here Hucknall seems to get lost in the song and ends up shining through.

The compilation contains a new song called “Go Now”, which, given its quality, might be a good instruction for Simply Red to follow. Nonetheless, it was a Huck -- oops -- heck of a good run.

7
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

12 Essential Performances from New Orleans' Piano "Professors"

New Orleans music is renowned for its piano players. Here's a dozen jams from great Crescent City keyboardists, past and present, and a little something extra.

Music

Jess Williamson Reimagines the Occult As Source Power on 'Sorceress'

Folk singer-songwriter, Jess Williamson wants listeners to know magic is not found in tarot cards or mass-produced smudge sticks. Rather, transformative power is deeply personal, thereby locating Sorceress as an indelible conveyor of strength and wisdom.

By the Book

Flight and Return: Kendra Atleework's Memoir, 'Miracle Country'

Although inconsistent as a memoir, Miracle Country is a breathtaking environmental history. Atleework is a shrewd observer and her writing is a gratifying contribution to the desert-literature genre.

Music

Mark Olson and Ingunn Ringvold Celebrate New Album With Performance Video (premiere)

Mark Olson (The Jayhawks) and Ingunn Ringvold share a 20-minute performance video that highlights their new album, Magdalen Accepts the Invitation. "This was an opportunity to perform the new songs and pretend in a way that we were still going on tour because we had been so looking forward to that."

Music

David Grubbs and Taku Unami Collaborate on the Downright Riveting 'Comet Meta'

Comet Meta is a brilliant record full of compositions and moments worthy of their own accord, but what's really enticing is that it's not only by David Grubbs but of him. It's perhaps the most emotive, dream-like, and accomplished piece of Grubbsian experimental post-rock.

Music

On Their 2003 Self-Titled Album, Buzzcocks Donned a Harder Sound and Wore it With Style and Taste

Buzzcocks, the band's fourth album since their return to touring in 1989, changed their sound but retained what made them great in the first place

Reading Pandemics

Chaucer's Plague Tales

In 18 months, the "Great Pestilence" of 1348-49 killed half of England's population, and by 1351 half the population of the world. Chaucer's plague tales reveal the conservative edges of an astonishingly innovative medieval poet.

Music

Country's Jaime Wyatt Gets in Touch With Herself on 'Neon Cross'

Neon Cross is country artist Jaime Wyatt's way of getting in touch with all the emotions she's been going through. But more specifically, it's about accepting both the past and the present and moving on with pride.

Music

Counterbalance 17: Public Enemy - 'It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back'

Hip-hop makes its debut on the Big List with Public Enemy’s meaty, beaty manifesto, and all the jealous punks can’t stop the dunk. Counterbalance’s Klinger and Mendelsohn give it a listen.

Music

Sondre Lerche and the Art of Radical Sincerity

"It feels strange to say it", says Norwegian pop artist Sondre Lerche about his ninth studio album, "but this is the perfect time for Patience. I wanted this to be something meaningful in the middle of all that's going on."

Books

How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.

Film

From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

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