Simply Red’s latest single ‘Sweet Child’ has been all over mainstream radio for the last few weeks (Record Of The Week, no less on a national station!); easy to hear why….it’s easy on the ear with a soulful undertow and no matter what you think of Mick Hucknall, most would admit that his voice is a remarkable instrument. One commentator described ‘Sweet Child’ as a perfect aural example of “blue eyed soul” and by strange coincidence (or not) ‘Blue Eyed Soul’ is the title of ‘Sweet Child’s’ parent album. We’ve always been told that Hucknall is a soul boy – a trait he inherited from his soul loving father. And indeed Simply Red’s first hit, ‘Money’s Too Tight To Mention’ was a cover of a Valentine Brothers’ soul song. A little later, Simply Red’s signature song, ‘Holding Back The Years’ went on to be covered by numerous soul luminaries. So, yes, spot on, ‘Blue Eyed Soul’ is an apt title for this new 10 tracker… but what else does it offer? In short – plenty!
‘Tonight’ is the LP’s big romantic moment – perfect for the quiet storm programmers and/or late night romantics. At the other end of the sonic spectrum, ‘Don’t Do Down’ is a sparse, rough, funk workout while ‘Thinking Of You’, ‘Riding On A Train’ and ‘Chula’ are big, bold, brash, brassy soul meanders. ‘Ring That Bell’ is a bass-led dancer while ‘Badbootz’ is a rumbling electro disco pastiche.
However, the best soul moments are ‘Take A Good Look’ and ‘Complete Love’. Both seem to take their inspiration from authentic Southern soul (remember, Hucknall is a self-confessed Bobby Bland freak). ‘Complete Love’ is a Muscle Shoals/Memphis style emotion-tugging ballad, while ‘Take A Good Look’ is an easy mid-tempo groove with home spun philosophy at the heart of its message. Indeed it’s the kind of thing that Bobby Bland did so effortlessly.
‘Blue Eyed Soul’ is “blue eyed soul” for sure and if anyone needs to define this particular genre, just grab a listen here.