From Manchester to Monza,
This review is from: A New Flame (Audio CD)
By the mid 1980’s, mainstream music had drifted into a banal and turgid cul-de-sac. The scene was set for someone with talent and a spark of originality to step forward. Mick Hucknall had the voice, the songs, the band and he was more than ready to grab the opportunity. In 1985 Picture Book went into the stratosphere and Simply Red became virtual mega-stars. Forward to 1989 and the band release their third album A New Flame. Inexplicably, this album did not receive quite the same level of attention or acclaim that was afforded to Picture Book and Stars. I don’t understand why because it’s a fine record.
The album opens with It’s only Love. The languid grove of the original tune (sung by Barry White) is replaced by a harder funk edge with more urgency and a fantastic vocal performance by Mick. A New Flame ups the tempo and there is an element of theatricality in the structure and delivery of the track. You’ve Got It is the first of two collaborations on the album between Mick and Lamont Dozier. It’s a nice, subtle tune beautifully delivered by Mick in his own inimitable (blue-eyed soul) style. Turn It Up is the second song on the album co-written by Mick and Lamont Dozier. Music history and jazz in particular, is littered with examples of artistic collaborations which produced unmemorable results. Happily this is an exception. Turn it Up is a great song. The lyrics may be forgettable, but when a song’s this good it doesn’t matter. The musicians are on top form and the grove is irresistible. Again Mick shows us the full range of his vocal talents - a Rolls Royce with Sinatra timing.
Love Lays It’s Tune is another gorgeous song in much the same vein as Track 2. If You don’t Know Me By Now couldn’t possibly fail with Mick at the helm. A faultless performance and a huge hit, but I don’t feel that this version adds anything to the original Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes classic. Track 10: Enough. Superlatives can’t really do this one justice. It’s one of the best breakup songs ever written. You’re immediately pulled into the vortex of a relationship in the final throes. You can feel the emotions swirling around – love, pain and regret. Is this Mick we’re talking about? Surely you could not write this song unless you’d been there yourself. Not only is the song a lyrical tour-de-force, it’s a musical one too. The track has a gorgeous spacey feel, reminiscent of Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On. A jazz grove is in place from the beginning and there’s some really good guitar, keyboard and percussion as the track moves into a stunning instrumental finale.
Mick must surely rank alongside Daryl Hall as one the great white male soul singers. He’s also a very good song writer and A New Flame finds him at the peak of his powers.