Review: “In Your Own Time” by Mark Owen (CD, 2003)

Today’s Pop Rescue from a fate unknown, is the 2003 second solo album In Your Own Time by Mancunian pop star and regular Take That member, Mark Owen. Has this album been worth the wait, or do you need a Four Minute Warning before it plays? Read on….

Mark Owen - In Your Own Time (2003) album cover
Mark Owen – In Your Own Time (2003) album

This 13 track CD opens with lead single Four Minute Warning, and to be fair, this is quite a catchy and compelling track, loaded with strummed guitars and harmonica. The melody flows effortlessly along, which is great as Mark’s vocals are a little bit flat in the verses, but well suited to the chorus. He manages to put a lyrical nod to his previous single (the top 30 track I Am What I Am) mid-way through. The track works well despite it being 4 minutes and 5 seconds rather than the neat 4 minutes, and gives this album a nice warm mellow beginning. It’d been six years since we’d heard from Mark and Take That’s comeback was still 3 years away. Aptly, the song reached #4 in the UK singles chart.

Next up is Gravity and this serves as a nice continuation to the warmth found in the previous track. Mark’s vocals sound better suited here across the song rather than just the chorus. The electric guitar works well to offset his voice in the chorus. I could easily imagine Hanson taking this track on.

That’s followed by the album’s second single Alone Without You, opening as if William Orbit is holding the reigns with All Saints. The synth softly swirls in the background as the Feeder-esque guitars take over in the chorus. This track is pretty good to be honest, but the record-buying public didn’t agree, seeing it get stuck at #26.

Head In The Clouds follows this, leading with beats and a simple guitar. Mark’s soon on the microphone, and he’s got a lot of lyrics here in the verses, giving us a song with a downbeat love song narrative. The chorus is brief and not as strong as the verse.

Then it’s Kill With Your Smile, which opens again like an Orbit song with swelling synthscapes. A tamborine arrives alongside a strummed acoustic guitar. Mark sounds really good here, even when he says “I’m a dog, I’m a slag, I’m a disco queen” – what, little dewy-eyed baby Mark Owen from Take That? The title is a bit odd, but in context of the other lyrics (which includes an unexpected F-bomb), it works well. The song builds nicely, and is quite cheerful despite the lethal sound to it.

Electric guitars riff into next track Close To The Edge. The guitars and bass sound lovely together, but we’re beginning to wain in variance of style here, and leaning a bit close to emphatic X-Factor winner song. Still, with Mark’s voice set alongside the London Session Orchestra, they really help to build the song up and up in what could have otherwise have been sounding a bit tedious.

Then it’s How Do You Love and this pitches Mark’s lower register against more strummed guitars and some tinkling keyboard pianos. The song really gets going during the chorus, where the bass and electric guitars arrive alongside the backing vocals. This really helps to lift it up, resulting in a pretty catchy track, that really could have made it as a single if it had been released.

That’s followed by Pieces Of Heaven, which has a wonderful piano leading the way, again with the London Session Orchestra in on strings duty – and they perfectly underscore this sad song. The vocal harmonies are aptly somewhat dreamy as the strings swell around his voice. It’s again reminding me of Feeder, but their softer Feeling A Moment.

Turn The Light On follows that, and this is one of two tracks co-written by Mark with former bandmate, Gary Barlow, and weirdly a piano isn’t dominating the song despite Gary having a musician role. The track has a teaser intro before leading into a slightly unsteady verse. It’s an ok track really, but not that strong.

It’s Crush next, and this takes a harder sound that maybe echoes the sound of his debut album. The electric guitars tease in the intro, before being unleashed for the chorus. Mark’s voice is buried a bit in the guitars at times, and whilst the burst of energy is nice, the track is not particularly memorable.

We’re then on to Baby I’m No Good which sounds like a lullaby meets John Denver over a simple acoustic guitar. Mark’s Babe-esque soft singing voice works well here, and he delivers it tenderly. After a while, he’s joined by a simple electric guitar off in the distance, before if wafts away, returning to his vocals. It’s a really nice track.

Penultimate track If You Weren’t Leaving Me, the other track co-written with Barlow, opening with more strummed guitars. Again, no sign of his piano, instead we’re given roaring guitars. Whilst it has the energy that the previous song intentionally lacked, giving it a contrast, it’s not the greatest of songs. There’s some comedy ‘yeah yeah’ moments as Mark sings like he’s trying as hard as Robbie to be rock ‘n’ roll (“we could climb a tree”, “we could rob a bank”). It doesn’t quite work.

The album closes with a slow string-laden epic, My Life. Again, it’s laden with acoustic guitars, and vocal harmonies, but we’re back into pseudo-X-Factor winner single territory. Mark does get some chances here to show off his vocal power in his own slightly husky way. Musically, it’s a nice way to end this album, but again it’s not leaping out as single material.

Mark Owen’s lead single “Four Minute Warning” (2003)

Verdict

Over all, this album is much stronger than Mark’s debut solo one from 1997. The album feels far more mature and measured, which given the 6 year gap, is understandable. The musicianship is great, and it is very slick in production.

Four Minute Warning, How Do You Love, and Baby I’m No Good are three of my highlights here, two of which failed to get picked as singles. The low-lights are really only low because of tedium or for being mundane – and those are the two Barlow collaborations. They are just lacking in catchiness or memorable quality. It’s almost as if Gary agreed to take part and rushed the songs, or intentionally gave these two mediocre songs to ultimately bring Mark back into the Take That fold.

The styles here really do pre-empt what would come in 2005 with the reunion of Mark and the rest of Take That. It’s a more mature sound, and a greater reliance on musicianship. It’s just a nice album.

Rated 3 stars! It's a nice album.
  • POP RESCUE 2021 RATING: 3 / 5
  • 2003 UK ALBUM CHART PEAK: #59
  • POP RESCUE COST: £3.49 from an eBay seller.

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