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3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 15 November 2010
It's confession time. Take That are my guilty pleasure. I don't mind certain pop music, but primarily my musical tastes revolve around hard rock and alternative metal.
With that in mind, I set about impartially reviewing the sixth studio album from Take That. "Progress" is their third album since their much publicised reunion and the first to feature Robbie Williams in 15 years.

Let's get one thing clear from the start then. "Progress" sounds nothing like "Beautiful World or "The Circus." Both of those records were classic ballad oriented pop rock and both were multi platinum sellers.
"Progress" however is straight up electronic pop, with just a couple of songs the exception. Robbie's vocals are heavily present on many of the tracks; you could argue in fact that the sound of his last two solo albums rather dominates proceedings.

I certainly don't blame Take That for trying something new, but I really wasn't impressed on first listen. If there's one thing I've learned though it's that you never judge a new record on first listen, sure enough second and third time around I started to hear pleasurable music my ears missed the first time.

Lead single "The Flood" is classic Take That, a real epic pop song with a searing chorus, I'm surprised this failed to knock Rihanna's "Only Girl (In The World)" of the number one spot in the singles chart this week, but it could easily climb one especially after ITV's documentary and a performance on the X-Factor.
Beyond that, "SOS" is an uptempo number and likely second single, before the electronic influences really show face on "Kidz," "Pretty Things" and "Underground Machine."

Take That's customary piano ballad does finally show up at track 10 "Eight Letters," it provides a welcome break from the electronic rhythms and closes the album superbly.
As is standard these days however, hidden track "Flowerbed" shows up after a minute or so of silence on the disc, with Jason taking lead vocals.

One other noteworthy track is "What Do You Want From Me?" Mark takes lead vocals here and the lyrics seem personal to him, especially after his well documented relationship misdemeanours earlier this year.

In summary, "Progress" is an impressive album.
It doesn't quite deserve five stars for me though; I believe both their previous albums to be superior.
Somehow though it's very difficult to be overly negative about a Take That record, the boys have delivered an album that maybe wasn't what they initially had in mind but there's no doubting that "Progress" is another multi platinum seller in waiting.

Best Tracks: "The Flood" "SOS" "Eight Letters"
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on 10 January 2011
I have always admired Take That, and seen them as a level above the rest of their pretenders, but this is the first of their albums that I have actually purchased. I guess I did it partly becauise I loved 'The Flood' (single) and partly because I love the story of Robbie and the band, where a bona-fide superstar gets some humble and returns to the origins of his now fully blossomed talent, sharing his skills with a group, and the credit and adoration aforded by fans in the process. This is something that rarely happens in the music world at this level, and perhaps never will again. People can say he was a fading force and needed this, but lets not kid ourselves, Robbie needs nothing of the sort, and is only a minor re-invention of himself away from being at the pinacle again. He still can be whatever he wants, and this took some sacrifice on his part in my opinion.

It will be difficult to get a true idea of how good this album is from the opinions of fans themselves with so many split on Robbie coming back. Many people will hate on this record simply beacuse they didn't want to see their baby changed or hold a grudge. I agree with others that they were due a change after two similar albums. Robbie brings the rebel back to Take that, and that was missing for a long time. If you look at the profile of the four other band members, that personality type (and its input) was a gaping hole, even if they were able to make sweet music up until now.

In a time of so much mediocrity, where there is so little creativity, Take That have broken new territory, and continue to define the way forward, and in this instance I feel they owe a debt to Robbie for taking them there. His hallmark is clearly stamped across this album, and despite what has been said by others about him 'dominating procedures', I feel he should be a strong presence given his re-emergence, and that as per the title of the album, this is all about change, progress. Robbie should be portrayed as an integral part of Take That, and having him feature prominently goes some way to doing that. It is also worth keeping in mind that its probably important to the band and others carrying a financial interest in them that the Robbie fans are brought on board, and I say fair enough. It's interesting that people didn't seem to complain too much about Gary dominating previously, I have no issues with him taking a back seat for a change.

If you havent got it, go do so, and like others have said, give it more than one listen before paying judgement, as so much of the subleties come out that was. The lyrical content in this album goes to a higher level that has been seen previosuly from them, and you also only get that from investment in listening over time.
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on 19 November 2010
Well, where to start with this album?

I absolutely love it. I've almost been late for work the last two days listening to Progress!

I'm a take that fan and have been since childhood. I will say also I'm an avid Robbie fan and have all his solo albums ( minus rudebox and swing when you're winning). When I heard of the reformation I followed them and their work like I never could have done when I was 8 in 1993. I love the whole Beautiful world, and most of the Circus, although the latter wasn't my personal favourite.
I wasn't quite sure how I felt about Robbie returning...excited, obviously...but slightly sceptical about how it would be.

I first played this album as 'background music' when I was in the shower! Not the sort of thing you can do with this! Its too different for that. You have to sit down, listen, absorb it and get used to the change in sound. Its quite shocking at first!

The flood and Kidz stands out straight away as amazing songs.
By second, and third listen, you'll be humming everything else.

It is Robbie orientated, Mark features a lot, and Gary not so much, but that could be expected from the reunion line up. Howard and Jason get a song each too.

My favourite tracks:

The Flood- Epic classic Take that!
Wait- I just love this, its pretty mellow and sticks in your head
Kidz- Sums up the difference in sound, what a corker of a track! Proper stadium tune!
Happy now- Brilliant lyrics, sounds a little zany, but its nice to hear all the boys on one track
Underground machine- Robbie orientated, with extra swagger, but i love it since im a fan of his
8 letters- Gorgeous Barlow balladry, a welcome final track. I was moved to tears when I heard this and I'm not ashamed to admit it!!

SOS grabs you on the first listen but afterwards it wasnt my favourite. Pretty things is good, its hard to define how it sounds, its unusual lyrically.
Affirmation is ok but a little high in places! What do you want from me is a nice tune, I did nearly fall off my chair when Mark Owen sings ' I still want to have sex with you' ! But its obviously about his personal experiences.

The secret track, Flowerbed, is this albums 'wooden boat' and its Jason at his best.

I think die hard fans could well be shocked but they should welcome a new sound, like the reviews say this doesnt sound like a final destination, it sounds like a bold new start. I think Progress will appeal to previous non fans as its different and a bloody good record! Good on you boys, I love it and can't wait to watch you next year!

For people reading this..buy it and see for yourself!
To people who only gave it one or two stars, try and listen again, have an open mind!

:)
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on 22 December 2010
Take That as you have never heard them before. But be brave and give this very different sounding album a fair listen. Very electronic and technical sounding album perhaps, but because it is Take That you want to trust what you are listening to and hope the tracks will soon sound familiar and comfortable. Bonus track at the end is quite beautiful with Jason singing, very memorable track with simple lyrics but lovely!. The Flood track definately has that amazing ever lasting familar 'Take That' sound, the track is big and you just want more and more of it. It is more of a theme for major events and this fabulous track will live on and on. SOS and KIDZ will grow the more you hear them and EIGHT LETTERS is calmer and beautifully safe with Mr Barlow at the helm. Give this upbeat album a fair listen, it is different, it is grown up Take That with personal messages and lifes experiences from the much loved lads. Love it?....not sure, Like it?.....yes, Glad I bought it?......yes, because Ive grown up and had lifes experiences as well!
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on 26 December 2010
Lets make one thing clear from the start - I am no Take That fan! And, although I like some of his solo material, I am no Robbie Williams fan either! But this album is definitely a vast improvement on anything either of them have done recently! And the only person I can think who is responsible for that is Stuart Price, who produced it - who also produced Madonna, The Killers, Scissor Sisters and Kylie (all of whom I am fans of!). So perhaps I shouldn't be surprised that this album is as good as it is because, as far as I'm concerned, Stuart Price has an impeccable track record!
So, the music... The guitars and dross have disappeared to be replaced by upbeat, synth heavy, danceable songs. Think Robbie's Rudebox album but with better tunes! And that's about all I have to say about it as I have no intention of picking it apart song by song. Just buy it and enjoy it!
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on 26 December 2010
As an avowed hater of boy bands since Wham in the 1980s, I have naturally always resented Take That's brand of buoyant but bland pop music. However, as it seems to have become entirely acceptable to like the band in their latest incarnation featuring the original lineup for the first time on CD since 1996, I bought this for my wife for Christmas, willing to be converted.
The opening track (and lead single) The Flood, is a rousing statement of intent and immediately hooked me with its crowd-pleasing bassline and infectious chorus. The second track actually reminded me of a mid-period Erasure single - no bad thing - Mark Owen's piping vocals even contriving to sound like Andy Bell's; this Electro-Pop continues throughout the album, peaking with track 6 'Happy Now', an unashamedly upbeat number and sure-fire hit single. The lads even manage to employ the signature riff from Ultravox's seminal 80s smash 'Vienna' - a clear nod to the album's synthesizer-led roots, while the mawkish end track - Mark Owen's cloying apology to his wronged wife apparently - is the only real dud on the CD.
Despite all the tearful reunions and vows of future fidelity, Robbie's presence here clearly reflects the recent waning of his own star, but the joyously life-affirming sound of his vocals alongside those of Barlow et al will surely melt the most cynical of hearts. I'm not at all sure that this sound, released by a lesser-known band, would be such a success, however the boys are back in stlye and have at least attempted to move their sound on from the brasher releases of the past - progress indeed.
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on 7 January 2011
Well I have to admit that I have held back on this review and I am glad I did.
My first impression, like many others was that this album was trash. It seems to be influenced quite a lot by Robbie, who I am not a fan of as I am a 2nd time round fan and love the lads two previous albums, Circus in particular and I was lucky to go and see them in 2009.
I had already bought tickets for the new show and secretly hoped that Robbie would leave before the concert.
I have now had chance to listen to the album a few more times and the more you listen the more you get to like it, or is it just like ivy it grows on you.

I admit it I would say it was going backwards rather than progress, sounds like a lot like 80's music and one in particular reminds me of an old 80's track.

Having said that I am warming to it, some of the tracks are pretty weird but I have now been brainwashed and I like most of them, even to the point of learning some of the lyrics.

To those like me who have only started to like Take That since they reformed as a four piece it is really strange and is not like either of the previous albums. As with everything at the moment things seem to be going backwards and I suppose, for me at least, it may be an age thing, having lived through the 80's the first time round.

Anyway all i can say is stick with it for a bit, it's not as bad as you first think, first impressions aren't always right.
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on 24 February 2011
I was so excited to get this album in the post I listened to it straight away. I had watched the documentary they made before I got the CD so could see them in the studio recording these very songs!! A totally different sound to the last 2 albums, but I guess that was always going to be the case, especially with Robbie back. My 2 favourite tracks are The Flood and 8 Letters. I was very disappointed that there were only 10 tracks, was expecting at least another 2 or 3 than that, and they are certainly capable of it. Thought it was a bit of a Robbie "love-in" as it seems he has lead vocals on nearly every song. I love Gary's voice and Howard's so was hoping to hear a lot more of them on it!! They can all sing quite well and I thought there would and should have been space for all of them to since lead vocals and still keep everyone happy. Love it though and can't wait to hear the next album with Robbie on it too, they might have calmed down about him being back in the band. There are 4 other members too who are truly talented singers and songwriters etc. Definately worth your mum, love listening to this in the car turned up VERY, VERY LOUD!!! Enjoy fans!!
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on 22 November 2010
Firstly, I have been a fan since Take That were around the first time, from when I was 6 or 7 years old. Even back then, my love of them was for the music, I never saw them live because I was so young and rarely saw them on television, I only had the albums and loved to listen to them. Even back then, I wasn't very fond of Robbie as I disliked his vocals, whereas, Gary was my favourite because I loved his. When Robbie left, I was far from devastated...when the rest split a year later, I was still very young, and there were still many songs (b-sides) I hadn't heard, so wasn't upset...just started collecting as many of the singles as I could, on tape, CD or even vinyl(!) in an attempt to hear the songs I hadn't yet done so.

I was absolutely delighted when Gary, Mark, Jason and Howard came back as a four-piece a few years ago. My tastes in music had grown a lot by then, ranging from cheesy pop like Steps and more recently, Same Difference to classic bands like Bon Jovi, The Police or U2 via artists like David Gray, Damien Rice, Corinne Bailey Rae...I could go on - I like to give anything a listen at least once!
When it was confirmed that Robbie was going to be rejoining the band, I did have big doubts, I am one of the fans who was least willing to have him back. I still don't want it to be forever - one album, one tour - that'd be great. But, ultimately, it is only really up to the band whether it continues or not. Despite only having The Flood to go by, I happily pre-ordered the album and tried (for 6 hours non-stop) to get tickets for the tour.

Just days before the album was released, iTunes had 30 second previews of all the tracks...I loaded up the store to have a listen straightaway. As I played each clip, I did find myself feeling a little disappointed and very shocked. I liked Eight Letters and the hidden track Flowerbed (and of course, The Flood) but really wasn't keen on the rest. It did sound a little like there was too much Robbie, and that Take That's sound had changed a bit too much. I guess I was expecting the whole album to sound much more like The Flood.

But I kept an open mind and waited patiently for the release. Unfortunately Amazon didn't get my pre-ordered copy to me until Thursday 18th (hmmm) but a local radio station played the album in full on the Monday morning. I was right to reserve my judgement until I had been able to hear the full album, as even through a slightly dodgy radio signal, I began to get more used to the new sound.

Having now listened to all the songs countless times I have found Wait to be the biggest grower, starting off as a track I wasn't very impressed with, to one that I find myself happily singing along to in my head. Flowerbed and especially Eight Letters, that had started off as favourites have now been overtaken by Happy Now, SOS and Kidz.
(I think. I do reserve the right to change my mind depending on my mood at the time of listening to the album...)

Least favourite tracks are Affirmation (mainly just because I'm not as keen on Howard's vocals, the song itself is good) and What Do You Want From Me, sung by Mark. The latter starts off quite well but I just end up finding myself cringing a bit if I listen too much to the lyrics!

Those that think it is all Robbie singing, it's not, it may seem like it on first listen but you can hear the other guys perfectly well, with the others all singing full lead on a song each (What Do You... for Mark; Affirmation for Howard; Eight Letters for Gary; and Flowerbed for Jason). Most of the other tracks have shared lead vocals (such as Mark and Gary on Kidz).

Another thing worth commenting on is the fantastic artwork - great concept!

Overall, the album is a grower, and you will need to allow yourself time to adjust to the new sound - don't start listening to it expecting to hear songs similar to their previous releases...
Take this album as a separate work and listen with an open mind to it through speakers, headphones, in the car, in the background and as the only thing you're doing - you WILL hear something different each time.

I read a review on here where someone rated this with 1 star after listening once and then throwing it in the bin...you should NEVER only judge anyone or anything on first impressions, and this album is no exception!
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on 23 November 2010
Hmmm... I have mixed feelings about this album. On first listen I have to say I was extremely disappointed and thought Robbie had completely taken over, but I decided to give it a chance, listen to it a few more times and try to let the music grow on me. To be honest, being a rock chick at heart I prefer the soft rock/pop anthemic sound of Take That's previous two albums rather than this electro style, but I suppose a change in musical direction keeps us on our toes. The problem is, I have always had reservations about Robbie returning to the fold and I really think, after hearing this album, it was probably a mistake. The two previous albums TT released as a foursome were far superior to this.

The first single to be lifted from the album 'The Flood' is, of course, classic Take That, and 'SOS' and 'Kidz' are ok. My favourite has to be 'Eight Letters' though, absolutely beautiful.

One thing though, why does Mark get so many solos when his vocals aren't, in my opinion, all that great? Gary has such a beautiful voice and yet he doesn't feature on this album half as much as I was hoping.

All in all though I suppose this is worth a listen so that you can make up your own mind. I'm giving it 3 stars.
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