Mick Hucknall has always been one of those people that the public either love or hate. People on Simply Red's website forums seem to think of Mick as a God, whereas the press are not nearly as generous, often slating his music. Simply Red's 10th studio album is unlikely to garner favour from those in the `hate' category but it'll almost certainly be a hit with fans and should convert a few others along the way. `Stay' finds Mick at a happy point in his life - he now has a long-term girlfriend with a recently announced baby on the way and Mick wants to sing about this new-found happiness, and also have a rant or two at the end of the album. `Stay' certainly has an energy and vibrancy that has been unseen for a while. It's a welcome return to some new material, after 2005's effort `Simplified', which contained mainly re-workings of classic Simply Red tracks. The album is slightly rockier than previous releases, but that shouldn't put anyone off and it is a welcome direction for them.
The first five songs on the album are love songs, but they are not all mushy and they have a respectable melody to them. Many people will probably be able to identify with the lyrics of `So Not Over You', whilst `The World and You Tonight' has a refreshing and catchy tune to it. `Oh! What a Girl' provides one of the albums funkier tracks and the soaring horns and the slight hint of innuendo make for a good combination. Possible future single `Stay' also has a catchy pop tune.
Hints of soul are included with `They Don't Know' and the blues infused, autobiographical `Good Times Have Done Me Wrong', has a raw sound that suits Mick very well. It also showcases three of the band's brightest stars - Kenji Suzuki on guitar, Ian Kirkham on saxophone and Dave Clayton on piano. `Lady' is a sophisticated song and Ian Kirkham's sax solo at the end shows he has lost none of his talent over the years. Kenji gets another chance to shine on `Money TV', a cool sounding rant, possibly aimed at reality pop. `Death of the Cool' and `Little Englander' end the album nicely, although die-hard fans may find `Little Englander' a slightly strange song for Simply Red, what with the whistling and the child choir, but after a few listens it becomes surprisingly enchanting, as Mick launches into rant mode, possibly at his critics (`Judge me go on it amuses me...'). A mention also for the cover of The Small Faces song `Debris', another strong song, although unusually for a Simply Red cover, it is questionable whether it beats the original.
Overall, this is a good solid album from a good solid band. One of the problems Simply Red seem to have is that everything is compared to the `Stars' album, which may not be such a good thing as it could be said that it was an album for its time (although it still remains an all time classic). It's difficult to begin to compare `Stay' to other albums but Mick's voice is as strong as ever, the band is in top form and the album is very well produced. Well worth a listen.
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