Simply Red, 2007

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


If I had to pick a band who was likely to make a huge comeback, I wouldn’t pick Simply Red. While they had a few hits back in the day and lead singer Mick Hucknall is one of the best vocalists of blue-eyed soul since early Daryl Hall, I would think by now they’d be playing rodeos and county fairs.

Just goes to show you, my prognostication skills are nowhere near perfect; having had a small reversal of fortune involving sold-out concerts in their native England, Simply Red is back, trying to return to the American success it enjoyed with songs like “Holding Back The Years” and “If You Don’t Know Me By Now.”my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The part of me that always roots for the underdog (you know, the part that watches Chicago Cubs games) wants to like Stay, the latest offering from Simply Red. And to be fair, there’s a good deal on Stay to like. Mick Hucknall’s voice has aged incredibly well; he’s still smooth and talented, his voice alternatively slick and gritty. The musicianship on Stay is excellent, and perfect for the genre represented; Simply Red is a soul band, has always been a soul band, and they do that one thing very well. So you get understated jazz guitar, choral background vocals, fuzzy and fat rhythm guitar, and an occasional sweet, sweet touch of strings.

Where Stay sometimes stumbles is the songs themselves. There are some great songs on this CD: the first single, “So Not Over You,” is easily the best thing there, heartfelt and wistful without being maudlin. “Stay” is a great dance tune with some delightfully retro background vocals that almost hearken back to disco. “Oh! What A Girl” is dripping with rich, lush horns and some truly wicked guitar licks.

But for every song that works, there’s one that doesn’t quite make the mark; “Good Times Have Done Me Wrong” isn’t quite bluesy enough despite Hucknall’s best efforts, “Lady” has lyrics that combine the groovy lounge lizard nature of Jefferson Starship’s “Miracles” with bad freshman English poetry, and “The Death of The Cool”’s funky Hammond organ can’t quite save a fractured social commentary. Stay’s weakest quality is its lyrics, and about half the time the musicianship and Hucknall’s brilliant vocals can’t save the songs.

So is Stay a major comeback? I wish it was, and I wish that Simply Red has the time to record another CD after this one; I think they’re close to something great. However, Stay isn’t it; it is, instead, an equal share of flaw and promise.

Rating: B

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© 2007 Duke Egbert and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of, and is used for informational purposes only.