Album: Simply Red

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The Independent Culture

As Napoleon and Hitler discovered to their cost, you don't take on the Russian winter and win. So when Simply Red delivered the disastrous Love and the Russian Winter, it was no surprise to find them unceremoniously dropped by Eastwest. The prescient updating of blue-eyed soul that made Stars and A New Flame such pillars of their era had degenerated into a complacency that presumed the group's position would prevail without undue effort – and more foolish yet, without tunes, either. Although a more serious attempt at re-establishing the Simply Red brand, Home, the first release on the band's own label, is still far from those earlier heights, relying for its most compelling moments on hooks and grooves borrowed from the Four Tops' "Baby I Need Your Loving" and Hall & Oates's "I Can't Go for That" (on "Fake" and "Sunrise" respectively), and covers of "You Make Me Feel Brand New" and Dennis Brown's "Money in My Pocket" that might as well have been phoned in from poolside, so perfunctory are they. Still, that's a lot better than the album's other cover, of Dylan's "Positively 4th Street", a song that simply doesn't fit into Simply Red's champagne-socialist, dinner-party-soul style: it requires a mixture of regret and contempt that Mick Hucknall, being essentially a bland crooner, just can't evince – and that cheesy horn break sounds excruciatingly like James Last in "hip" mode. With soul-session legends such as Bernie Worrell, James Gadson, Freddie Washington, Joe Sample and Lennie Castro augmenting the band, the music is impeccably rendered, but lacking bite and fire: a bit like a Steely Dan album without the weird chords and wry lyrics. In other words, not enough.