Mick Hucknall and Simply Red are rightly inseparable in the minds of most listeners -- he is the frontman and the star, the one constant in the band's history -- but the singer's short-lived solo career of 2008-2012 proved there was a difference between Hucknall and the group. Big Love, the album the reunited Simply Red recorded to celebrate their 30th anniversary in 2015, isn't as in thrall to the past as the vocalist's two albums of covers, nor is it as comfortable with rock as 2007's Stay. It is, as the title suggests, a record that is romantic to its very core, an album whose bones are as exquisitely smooth as its surfaces (the loungey tongue-in-cheek saloon song "The Old Man and the Beer" is the exception that proves the rule).
Truth be told, it’s nearly impossible to separate Simply Red from the band’s forever leader, Mick Hucknall. It was as much about his ginger-colored, tousle-haired image as it was the raspy vocals that defined that group as one of the more successful ensembles of the mid-‘80s and early ‘90s. Their hits were plentiful indeed, a veritable roll call of chart triumphs that took their cues from American R&B and then filtered those influences with an essential English style.
It’s been three decades since Simply Red’s debut, and Mick Hucknall has admitted their 11th album may be their last. With this in mind, a wizened nostalgia hangs above this blue-eyed soul – the songs are smooth and sentimental, like easy-listening epitaphs. Wistful laments are nothing new for the group, and their unbridled sincerity remains consistent.