Today’s POP RESCUE from a potentially loveless future, is the 1989 3rd Simply Red album A New Flame. Is this album a bright new thing, or is it lacking warmth? Read on…
This 10 track opens with lead single It’s Only Love, which has a funky intro before backing singers introduce lead singer Mick Hucknall. His vocals are strong and confident here and the song builds perfectly whilst still managing to remain somewhat mellow. This song is actually a cover of Barry White‘s 1978 longer-titled track It’s Only Love Doing Its Thing, and it remains fairly loyal to the original, although nothing can replaces White’s velvet tones.
Third single and title track A New Flame is up next, and this is a far catchier and upbeat song. There’s some great bass, guitar, and percussion duels here, and Mick’s rich vocals weave them all together. Surprisingly, this track only reached #17 in the UK charts – I’d always believed that it was a much bigger hit.
This is followed by You’ve Got It, the fourth and final single from the album. This was the first of two writer collaborations between Mick and legendary songwriter Lamont Dozier (The Four Tops, The Supremes, Martha Reeves and The Vandellas). This is a fairly mellow mid-tempo track, although it does bounce along a bit courtesy of some piano, and it comes complete with an Obligatory 80s Saxophone solo in the middle. Despite the music royalty, the song stalled at #46 in the UK singles chart.
To Be With You is up next, and this is certainly another funky number – the bass and ample brass sections ensure this. Mick’s vocals feel a bit buried in the verse, although the backing vocalists help to lift him up. The song improves as it moves along – with big brass being matched with big Hucknall vocals.
Next up is More, which takes on Simply Red’s occasional reggae sound. This song is quite a gentle meandering, through synths, bass, and vocals.
This is followed by the second of the two Hucknall/Dozier songs – Turn It Up, and its title is apt. TURN IT UP. This is a great song, and the vocals really do belt out. There’s no real indication of who is singing with Mick here, but their voice contrasts perfectly. This is a fantastic song, and one that really should have been a single.
By contrast the next song Love Lays It’s Tune is a far more mellow song. Again Mick’s vocals are perfectly off-set here by his backing vocalist. This song would sit perfectly on any of the next two albums (Stars or Life) and stands as a classic Simply Red album track song.
Again, by contrast, there’s a rockier sound of snarling guitars of She’ll Have To Go, although Mick’s vocals sound like he’s putting a slight character voice on, as he delivers some slightly sinister lyrics.
The huge hit If You Don’t Know Me By Now follows this and whilst this song has played in practically every wedding, and in countless films and maybe even adverts, this song is perfect. It’s one of the shortest songs on the album, but it’s also one of the slowest – yet it feels much longer and gives Mick plenty of time and space to deliver his emphatic vocals. This is not only classic Simply Red, it’s an 80s classic too… except that it is of course, a cover version from Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes, who had a hit with their version back in 1972. This song was their highest ever single (#2 in the UK) until 1995’s Fairground took the #1 slot.
The album closes with Enough, a song which features Mick solely without anyone else providing backing vocals other than himself. This is a fairly light jazzy number, with a delicate scattering of piano and guitar that both help to deliver the song into the second half perfectly.
Over all, this album really shows Simply Red at their best, although it does also show that not every great Simply Red song makes it as a single. Turn It Up really should have been a single, consigning You’ve Got It to the limits of an album track.
A great example of 80’s music, and one that led them perfectly into the huge success of their next album, Stars.
Where are Simply Red now?
Simply Red went on to record and release many more singles and albums, taking them to a peak of success in the early to mid-90s with album Stars (1991). Their popularity waned slightly in the singles chart by the 2000s, although they remained a strong force in the albums chart.
The band disbanded during the 2000s and Mick Hucknall embarked on a solo career. However, in a surprise move, the band reunited for their 30th anniversary, and have been touring during 2015.
They released their eleventh (so far) #4 UK hit album titled Big Love in June 2015, but have not returned to the UK singles chart.
It’s estimated that the group have sold more than 50 million records.
POP RESCUE RATING
- POP RESCUE 2015 RATING: 4 / 5
- 1989 UK CHART POSITION: #1, certified 7x Platinum.
- POP RESCUE COST: £1.00 from a Poundland store.