Remember this band? “Holding Back the Years?” “Money Too Tight (to Mention)?” Thought they had died or ended up on a Living in Oblivion CD? Hell no.
In England they are still cool, having sold an astounding 40 million albums. Several years ago on the Disney Station, I saw Mick Hucknall perform along with kd lang and George Michael for a royal command concert. A screwy line-up, but what struck me was Hucknall’s arresting voice. I found myself buying this new album longing for that voice. I was not disappointed as I had been with the other albums, such as Men and Women, which was an unsightly mishmash of electronic sound. The quirky CD Blue covers “Mellow My Mind” by Neil Young. It is impossible to imagine Young’s nearly toneless voice doing justice to the playful lyrics
Baby Mellow my Mind
make me feel, like a schoolboy on a goodtime
Jugglin’ nickels and dimes
satisfied with the fish on the line
Hucknall manages to sound both sweet and cynical. For an unfathomable reason, he also covers “The Air That I Breathe” written by Hammond/Hazelwood and made popular by the Hollies in the early seventies. kd lang and Hank Williams jr. and many others have also covered this song. I don’t know why? The lyrics are sticky-gooey, “Sometimes all I need is the air that I breathe and to love you.” Ugh. The melody is high, almost unmanageable. Yet, Simply Red updates this song and gives it new life. The Reprise version twists a few words, thanks to Puff Daddy side man Stevie J, samples Jack & Diane by John Mellencamp, and has a rhythm that is easy to move to. A strange fetish song by Gregory Isaacs titled Night Nurse, “I don’t want to see no Doc/ I need attendance from my nurse around the clock,” sounds lovelorn and sick, while drawing attention to Hucknall’s vocals. Other standout tracks are “Come Get me Angel” written by Carolyn Franklyn and Sony Saunders, and “Blue,” words and music by Hucknall. The other members of the team are Andy Wright and Gota Yashki, who produce and program. Yashiki is also in on drums. However, Simply Red is simply (and not so Simply) Mick Hucknall’s huge pair of lungs.