Soul-pop stalwarts Simply Red are back with a bang with their 13th studio album ‘Time’, the follow up to 2019’s ‘Blue Eyed Soul’.
Intended as a deep dive of self-reflection by frontman and chief songwriter Mick Hucknall, ‘Time’ is a stellar showcase of pivotal milestone moments from Mick’s life. Entirely confessional, heartfelt and joyful, Hucknall’s heritage in delivering carefully-crafted timeless pop-soul songs is in abundance as it has been on their previous career-spanning 12 studio albums.
However, Hucknall’s songwriting and indeed storytelling on ‘Time’ is at its most sentimental and confessional and is a masterclass in carefully-crafted timeless pop-soul music that draws on the inspiration of classic funk, blues and R&B. Of which they have been delivering throughout their glittering four-decade strong career.
Mick’s motivation for the 12 tracks on ‘Time’ which was produced with longstanding collaborator Andy Wright was for the songs to ‘move the emotion and the imagination’ and this certainly rings true with the opening track and debut single, the stirring and sincere ‘Better With You’ which pays tribute to the time when he met his now wife.
Contemplative, endearing and sentimental, with lines like “I didn’t know what I was doing / What you were feeling and when did we know”, Mick’s heartfelt lyrics and velvety vocals are touching, yet rousing in equal measure.
The swaggering bass lines on ‘Just Like You’ bring the funk and yet again, Mick is showing all the love with a sumptuous retro-soul inspired sound. For those who can’t get enough of this track (and it’s set to be a live fan favourite) you can get double the fun with part two of ‘Just Like You’ which appears later on in the album which is a smidge baffling as to why this track was separated into two)
‘Let Your Hair Down’ is classic Simply Red with a deliciously catchy refrain of “someone I’d like to get to know” is a standout along and is the perfect showcase for Hucknall’s silky tones and sensual basslines. If that doesn’t get you on the dancefloor, ‘Slapbang’ with its retro-inspired and bluesy sonics certainly will!
Whilst there’s some absolute floor fillers on this album, there’s also some more poignant moments of self-reflection like on ‘Shades 22’ which use the metaphor of wearing sunglasses in the rain as hiding away. The introspection and weather references continue on the Sinatra-esque ‘It Wouldn’t Be Me’ continue with lines like ‘trust in the rainbows of time/she will never be gone’.
As well as reflecting on his life so far, Mick looks at the state of the world pondering if ‘It seems like the world is having a nervous breakdown!’ on ‘Too Long At The Fair’ where Mick wonders ‘Where do we go from here?”. This isn’t the band’s first rodeo on political commentary having assessed the state of the nation on the likes of ‘Wonderland’ over thirty years ago on 1991’s ‘Stars’.
‘Time’ builds up to the penultimate track, the highly infectious ‘Butterflies’, which was originally written as a rock ’n’ roll number for Hucknall’s good friend Cyndi Lauper and the album closer ‘Earth in a Lonely Space’ (which is one of the albums highlights) a rousing, gospel-inspired track with its anthemic chorus is set to become a Simply Red classic in years to come.
Simply Red’s ‘Time’ is another stellar example of a perfectly-crafted pop-soul album from the band which is chock-full of fantastic musicianship, powerhouse vocals and Hucknall’s impassioned delivery.
Words: Emma Harrison