Simply Red ‘Time’ album review by Ryan Beardsley
Four years after 2019’s Blue Eyed Soul and Simply Red’s album number 14 has arrived in the shape of Time, the question is, is it worth yours?
I glanced back through the old discography on Wikipedia as I was listening and I’m amazed that Simply Red have never released an album that didn’t hit the UK top 5 (ok 6 in a couple of cases but come on you’re impressed) so they’re doing something right, or they have an incredibly devoted fanbase.
The record begins with Better With You, Hucknall’s voice still sounding suitably authentic and it’s a nice breezy opener with a catchy chorus and a very light, summery feel,
Then it’s Just Like You which is a classic Redesque number, dancy and funky, plus a groovy bassline to which I couldn’t help but click my fingers. There is even a part 2 to this track later in the album, why? Who knows! But I’m pretty sure it’s just the same song, but with the reigns taken off the rest of the band, particularly on sax, why not just make one epic song guys??
Most of the tracks on Time are what you might call by the numbers Simply Red, but I was struck by a couple of things. There is a hint of introspection on show in the shape of Shades 22 and on Slapbang, there’s a joyous throw-everything-at-it enthusiasm that can’t be denied.
But most jarringly is the political references here and there, notably on Too Long At The Fair, which I was hoping would be a companion piece to Fairground, but instead includes biblical and governmental allegories, with lyrics I did not expect to hear; ‘democracy is wonderful, marvellous but do you really care?’ He’s got a point to be fair.
There was one track on the record, Let Your Hair Down which didn’t sit right with me, prompting visions in my head of Hucknall schmoozing around a Manchester wine bar, where what was intended as seduction comes off more predatory; ‘I just wanna get close to you’ indeed.
Album closer Earth In A Lonely Space rounds off the record on a high with a big, Britpoppy chorus harking back to the band’s mid-nineties heyday, who’d have thought they’d still be here 30 years on?
There’s clearly a target audience and there’s a very deliberate winning formula on show in Time. Is it going to win them any new fans? Unlikely. However, I’m looking forward to seeing the live show in a few weeks and I won’t begrudge them dropping a few tracks from Time along with their hits.
You can find out more about the album and bundles here
Simply Red will celebrate their new studio album with a very special one-off launch show at London’s O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire on June 5th – their most intimate London show since playing the same venue back in 2005, and their only UK performance this year.