CD simplyred, 50551317 0004 1, 2003, 11 Track
is the first album from Simply Red for more than three years. Their last (1999's Love and the Russian Winter
) was both underwhelming and underperforming--the result of the band's increasingly unfashionable status and the flame that once made Mick Hucknall a great songwriter starting to burn out. Many artists in this position attempt some kind of back-to-basics approach to remind everyone why they sold so many records in the first place. On the surface, this looks like what Hucknall has attempted, particularly with opener "Home". But scratch the surface and you'll find bold, upbeat and funky songs, full of joyous brass and strings.
Both "Fake" and "Sunrise" (complete with a forgivable Hall and Oates sample) are wonderfully reminiscent of early Hucknall but infused with a new-found confidence. Home is Simply Red in a nutshell--great, soulful songs, funky guitars and Hucknall's remarkable voice, the latter something that most people forget when criticising the band for their "coffee table" appeal.
The main problem is that there aren't enough of these songs. The album is bolstered significantly by a number of covers (most notably the inspired Dylan classic, "Positively 4th Street"). They're great, but ultimately B-side fodder, taking up valuable room on the album after a mammoth absence--what has Hucknall been doing for the last three years? Well, setting up his own record label to release this, for one thing. Hucknall should have capitalised on this opportunity more because despite the quality on offer here, it simply isn't enough. --Ben Johncock