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Simply Red - 25: The Greatest Hits

Simply Red, 25: The Greatest Hits

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

LISTENING to 25: The Greatest Hits of Simply Red, one thing you can’t deny is the diversity of their recordings over the past 25 years.

Mick Hucknall and co are undoubtedly the masters of the stylish ballad, as tracks such as Holding Back The Years and You’ve Got It will testify.

But when they put their minds to it, they’re capable of even wider appeal, whether it’s the upbeat pop/dance crossover of seminal hit Fairground (which still sounds fresh) or the unadulterated pop of Fake.

In the 25 years since Simply Red first broke onto the scene they’ve released 10 studio albums, racked up over 50 million global sales, notched up over 30 Top 40 UK singles, won countless awards, including three Brits, two Ivor Novellos and a Mobo Special Achievement.

They’ve also gained one of the rarest prizes for a British artist with no just one, but two US No.1 hit singles.

And the achievements keep coming: Stars was the biggest selling album in the UK for two consecutive years and they have played over 1,000 live shows to over 10 million people.

You could argue that their best days are behind them. More recent material, such as the lacklustre Sunrise, which is built around a Hall & Oates sample, or new recording Go Now (a tame cover version of a Moody Blues classic) lack the spark of their A New Flame era.

While they also seem content to stick to their own form of balladry, whether its emulating the work of their inspirations (either in style or by doing straight cover versions) and relying on the ballads. I suspect that even the most ardent fan would like to hear a change of direction like Fairground again – just to get the juices flowing.

But while Greatest Hits does serve to highlight this “decline”, there’s no denying they’ve delivered some great music over the years, in a number of different styles.

Fairground remains my personal favourite, but the romantic in me also loves Holding Back The Years and even less well known ballads such as the upbeat Never Never Love.

The highlights on the double CD do have a tendency to pick themselves, but it’s worth keeping an ear out for Angel, which contains a nice vibe, the reggae influenced Night Nurse (from reggae legend Gregory Isaac) and a strong cover of The Hollies’ The Air That I Breathe.

And for the utterly nostalgic, Money’s Too Tight (To Mention) and Something Got Me Started have a cheesy, “where were you when you first heard them” quality.

Such moments even make the more emotionally manipulated tracks – You Make Me Feel Brand New and Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye – forgiveable… but only just.

Download picks: Fairground, Stars, Holding Back The Years, The Air That I Breathe, You’ve Got It, Fake, Never Never Love, Angel

Track listing:
Disc 1:

  1. Sunrise
  2. Stars
  3. A New Flame
  4. Holding Back The Years
  5. It’s Only Love
  6. The Right Thing
  7. Your Mirror
  8. For Your Babies
  9. The Air That I Breathe
  10. Night Nurse
  11. Ain’t That A Lot Of Love
  12. Fake
  13. Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye

Disc 2:

  1. You’ve Got It
  2. Say You Love Me
  3. So Not Over You
  4. Angel
  5. Never Never Love
  6. Home
  7. You Make Me Feel Brand New
  8. Something Got Me Started
  9. Money’s Too Tight To Mention
  10. Fairground
  11. If You Don’t Know Me By Now
  12. Go Now