Mark Owen

In Your Own Time

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It might not have received the same rapturous response as Take That's unexpected reunion, but three years before the boy band returned to rule the world, it was Mark Owen's second solo album, In Your Own Time, that provided the first collaborative effort between its members since their split in 1996. Despite chasing an indie pop credibility that eluded him on his flop debut album Green Man, it was the band's chief songwriter, Gary Barlow, who at the time was in the career doldrums -- and not his stadium-selling closest ally Robbie Williams -- who the tousle-haired, elfin-like singer turned to for his second career reprieve, buoyed by his victory on the second series of Celebrity Big Brother. Barlow's two contributions, "Turn the Light On," a pedestrian slice of polished pop/rock and "If You Weren't Leaving Me," a lumpy attempt at Shed Seven-esque Brit-pop, don't offer any indication that his previous, glowing, songwriting reputation would later be restored. But, luckily, the tracks co-written with the likes of Echo and the Bunnymen's Ian McCulloch, Danny Wilson's Nigel Clark, and the Yachts's Henry Priestman are more successful at realizing Owen's NME-friendly ambitions. Lead single "Four Minute Warning," a thought-provoking alt-country-influenced tale inspired by the concept of the Cold War alert system, is about as far removed from the slush-fest of his only solo Take That lead, "Babe," as he is likely to get, and is more than entitled to be held in the same breath as Williams' finest. Elsewhere, the brooding "Kill with Your Smile" echoes the punchy driving rock of New Order's recent comeback; closing track "My Life" is a gorgeously introspective, trippy ballad perfectly complemented by a wave of cinematic orchestral strings, while "Head in the Clouds" is a Jeff Buckley-influenced, bluesy number which sensitively addresses the issue of domestic abuse. However, the MOR sheen of "Gravity" sounds like a Darius B-side; "Baby I'm No Good" is a self-pitying, minimal acoustic ballad where he clairvoyantly appears to apologize for his recent much-publicized infidelities, while his reedy, whiney, and nasal vocal delivery can sometimes be a little too overbearing, particularly on the sparsely produced "How Do You Love." But where Green Man sounded like a boy bander trying to gate crash a much cooler alternative scene, In Your Own Time feels like a natural progression which doesn't appear so desperate.

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