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Music Review: Simply Red — Stay

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There was, I’ll admit, a bit of trepidation on my part, as I unwrapped my copy of Simply Red’s new album, entitled Stay. Thoughts and random bits of melody ran through my head as I remembered how much I loved Mick Hucknall’s voice during my high school years, all chattering fears that listening to this album would only disappoint — would only make me think my liking Simply Red was nothing more than teenage fascination, and not really something deserving of merit. Something along the lines of the way I actually looked forward to Poison’s sophomore album, after liking their debut so much.

Yeah, those were ugly years.

Once I’d opened the case and dropped the album into my stereo, all such thoughts disappeared. instead, I found myself wondering where the hell Simply Red had been all those years. had they been cryogenically frozen? Had they been whisked away to Venus to serve as an opening act for Elvis?

Did it matter? Did anything matter except that song after song on their new album, drilled its way into my mind and nearly had me stumbling about in a half-ass attempt at dancing? Don’t worry, I stopped myself before I actually came anywhere near a state of “dancing,” as I’d have probably tripped over a cat and crushed something as I collapsed to the floor.

Mom always told me that fat guys shouldn’t dance — it’s a lesson I’ve taken to heart!

All kidding aside, Simply Red never truly went away, I’ve since discovered. while the group may not ever again reach that magical moment when they’d hit the charts with songs like “Holding Back The Years,” “Money’s Too Tight (To Mention),” and “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” they’d never stopped recording and releasing their own brand of soul music.

Hence, Stay.

The opening track, “The World And You Tonight,” is as lovely a song as one will ever be likely enough to hear. It’s not the deepest song ever written, but it is a lovely way to show listeners just good Hucknall’s voice still sounds. “So Not Over You,” though, is something a bit more. Simple, controlled, and wonderfully melodic, it is definitely a song that will have people asking whether or not that is Simply Red playing on your stereo? It’s unmistakable, really.

Here, though, is where I find myself faltering in my duties as a reviewer. Basically, in describing the two opening tracks on Stay, you could alternate those descriptions between the remaining tracks, and it would fit perfectly. Half of the songs are pretty little things that catch your ear and your heart and make you want to dance, and the other half are filled with just a little bit more, that makes you take notice of it all, and wonder why you don’t own more Simply Red albums.

This is not to say that I do not like this album tremendously, though. While there is nothing breath-takingly fresh and new about Stay, there is an abundance of what I was wanting there to be. At no time did I want something new and improved. No, what I wanted was a trip down memory lane… a chance to listen again to something I truly loved nearly 20 years ago, and feel validated about it.

there was a reason that I listened to Simply Red’s first two albums (Picture Book, Men and Women) enough times to literally warp the cassette tape. Stay has a touch of the same building blocks as those albums in it. Sadly, it doesn’t completely recapture the magic of those years, but it does well enough that I find myself keeping many of its songs in rotation on my iPod, weeks removed from when I first listened to it.

Good album, not great. If you are a fan of either soul music or (like me) a fan of the band’s former glories, it is definitely worth a listen. I’d give Simply Red’s Stay, three out of five stars.

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