Today’s POP RESCUE from an uncertain fate, is the 1991 hit album Stars by the group Simply Red, but was this a glittering album, or was it just leaving you dazed and confused? Read on…
This 10 track album aptly opens with the simple soft synth notes of lead single Something Got Me Started before piano and bass jump in. Mick Hucknall‘s vocals effortlessly deliver the gentle besotted lyrics, and he’s joined by keyboard player Fritz McIntyre on backing vocals (repeating the line ‘yes I would‘), giving it a fairly unique sound for a Simply Red track. The vocal melody here, sat alongside the funky bass and piano, really gives this a light, upbeat feeling.
Title track and second single Stars follows this. Again, we have some light beats, but this time guitars play a stronger role here, although the piano returns. This creates a really nice combination. Mick hits those notes with perfection in the chorus, resulting in a wonderfully warm and catchy track.
Fourth single Thrill Me follows this. It feels much less structured and slower, and Mick’s vocals and lyrics here are weaker. Even the saxophone solo doesn’t give the song a much needed injection of whatever it is, other than usher in a key change. This track feels like not much more than a jam session. The single stumbled at #33 in the UK.
Fifth and final single Your Mirror is up next, and this song is at least stronger, with its bass and piano hooks. Mick takes a harder lyrical and vocal approach, almost menacing at times. The poor quality bird sound in the chorus feels clumsy, and at times the song reminds me for a second of 60’s hit Something In The Air by Thunderclap Newman. The song reached #17 in the UK, but by this time the album and tour was so successful, what did that matter?
A rattle of snares ushers in some more funky bass and guitars in She’s Got It Bad, which gives Mick plenty of time and space to show off his vocal capacity. It’s a simple track with echoes of disco and country music about it. The result is musically quite a catchy track.
Next up is For Your Babies, which is a wonderfully gentle track, laden with piano, bass, and acoustic guitar. Mick takes a leisurely stroll through the lyrics. I really like this song, even if it does remind me stylistically a little of their hit cover of If You Don’t Know Me By Now from 1989 album A New Flame. The song deserved a higher UK chart position, reaching #9.
Model follows this, and this takes on Simply Red’s occasional reggae-sounding style. This track gently drifts along with some really nice percussion and guitar riffs. It gives Mick the chance to show off some nice vocal harmonies with himself in the chilled out chorus. It kind of just drifts along.
Eighth track How Could I Fall is up next and we’re met by piano and saxophone almost instantly alongside Mick’s downbeat ‘how could I fall for someone so superficial?‘ comment. This track is a wandering track, echoing Simply Red’s jazz sound through out.
By contrast, Freedom shows off their funky side, giving this another bass heavy and almost soul toned sound. The lyrics and vocals here are fairly weak and intermittent – making this track feel like it’s from the interval in a tour where everyone goes backstage to mop their brow or take a costume change while an audience waits their return. I think that the main appeal of this song is definitely the funky music.
The album closes with Wonderland, which again sees the return of keyboardist Fitz to the mic, as he gives a great rich vocal contrast to Mick’s higher pitched sound. Fitz’ vocals are rich, perhaps a little nasal and soulful, and work really well here as the piano and beats gently meander their way through the song.
Over all, this album has some wonderful songs – For Your Babies, Stars, and Something Got Me Started are the highlights and thankfully made it as singles. Sadly She’s Got It Bad didn’t make it as a single. The remaining songs are somewhat weaker or fall into Simply Red’s commercially experimental tracks. However, the album has nothing bad on it, it’s just a bit of a mixture towards the end.
Where are Simply Red now?
Simply Red found phenomenal success with this album, which eventually became certified 12 times Platinum. It earned them the title of best selling album in 1991 and 1992, and gave them an extensive tour.
Shortly after, bassist Tim Kellett left to form dance act Olive, best known for their cover of You’re Not Alone, and also for writing for acts such as The Lighthouse Family, James Morrison, Emma Bunton, and Taio Cruz.
After a further string of albums, the group disbanded in 2010, with the Simply Red name having been used mostly as a brand for Mick Hucknall’s work with production teams.
The Stars album was re-released in 2008 with additional tracks and DVD footage.
POP RESCUE RATING
- POP RESCUE 2015 RATING: 3 / 5
- 1991 UK CHART PEAK: #1, certified 12x Platinum.
- POP RESCUE COST: £1.00 from a Poundland store.