Since the mid 1980s, Simply Red has been a constant presence contributing to the UK pop scene. They released an album, on average, every two or three years until 2007, but eight years have passed between the release of Stay, and their new album Big Love. So why the big gap? Lead singer Mick Hucknall had expressed the notion of “running away from Simply Red” with Stay, and after almost thirty years maybe it was simply time for a break. Whatever the reason, Big Love announces the return of Simply Red and shows the band completely embracing the ‘blue-eyed soul’ sound that they have become associated with.
The first two songs, Shine On and Daydreaming, reflect this and begin the album with a really positive feeling. The subtle and syncopated wah-wah guitar strumming coincides with the drumbeat to evoke a sense of soul and funk, even riding close to disco territory on the first track. The intricate strumming and sense of rhythm is something that’s carried throughout the album, giving a feeling of continuity.
One of the major strengths and identifying characteristics of Simply Red is Hucknall’s distinctive voice. He may have pushed past his fiftieth birthday since the last album, but his vocals on this album are strong as ever. He creates an intimate connections with the listener in the title track and The Ghost of Love, and reels off flourishes of poetic lyrics in tracks like Love Gave Me More: “Smile like a view on a misty garden/Eyes from the dew of a crystal dawn”.
Big Love brings together twelve strong original songs and unifies them with a distinct musical feeling and underlying theme. Yes, the album’s title gives it away, the album is about love. But more specifically, it celebrates familial love, whether that be through an ode of appreciation to the love of a lost father in Dad or the romantic love of a partner in Coming Home.
I feel like this album is also a celebration of Simply Red’s career. They’re well-renowned as a blue-eyed soul group, but they also mix in various influences like more gospel soul tones in Tight Tones, jazz lounge vibes in The Old Man and the Beer and various pop and funk nuances throughout. The final track Each Day wraps things up well, featuring an instrumental build up and a showcase of Hucknall’s vocal range. Leaving us with the sweet lyrics “Each day, each day together/Each day, each day forever”, Simply Red leaves their mark having embraced their own sound and nailed it.