Simply Red

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Most people expected Simply Red to have popped up on VH1's Where Are They Now? at any moment, but Home is their eighth proper album. Finding a niche as Jamiroquai for the smooth jazz set, they've failed to deliver on the promise exhibited on Picture Book, instead releasing frustrating album after album and living off the worldwide success of Stars. Home looks like a return to form with Mick Hucknall taking over a good amount of the production and releasing the album on his own label, Simplyred.com. Perhaps an outside producer should give them a kick in their velour pants because there are quite a few drab moments on Home, and quite a few embarrassing ones. The worst of it has to be "Sunrise," where Hall & Oates get sampled and credited, but the vocal hook from Ace's "How Long" gets lifted without acknowledgment. It sounds as shoddy as one of the song-combining "mash-up" bootlegs that swept through the U.K., and could be a cover-up for Hucknall's lack of songwriting ideas. A bland American Idol-worthy version of the Stylistics' "You Make Me Feel Brand New" and a string arrangement of Bob Dylan's "Positively 4th Street" with Hucknall's blank delivery are awkward and unnecessary. On the other hand there's the genuine sweetness of "Home," the lavish funkiness of "Fake," and the profound and moving "Home Loan Blues." When the band masterfully slinks its way through Dennis Brown's "Money in My Pocket," all sorts of Picture Book flashbacks appear. Home gives half an album's worth of reasons to cheer for Simply Red, still stumbling down the road to recovery.

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