Gary Barlow

Twelve Months, Eleven Days

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With two number one singles and a multi-platinum debut album under his belt, Take That's most musically gifted member, Gary Barlow, appeared to be fulfilling the "next George Michael" expectations heaped upon him following their split. However, his 1999 follow-up, Twelve Months, Eleven Days, brought him crashing down to earth in his biggest career misstep since his former boy band's embarrassing jelly-smearing first video. Released in the midst of Robbie Williams' chart domination, Barlow needed to have recorded something with a little more substance than the watered-down pop of Open Road if he was to have any chance of competing with his virtually untouchable former bandmate, something that its lowly number 36 chart position seemed to firmly confirm he failed to do. Next to Williams' inventive and charismatic stadium-sized brand of Brit-pop, its MOR leanings were always going to appear safe and uninspired, but compared to the likes of Ronan Keating's solo output, perhaps Barlow's more appropriate closest contemporary, it's certainly no disgrace either. Comeback single "Stronger" was an infectious slice of Enrique Iglesias-style Latin dance-pop, co-penned with the team behind Cher's "Believe"; the funky "Fast Love"-esque "Wondering" showed he was capable of pulling off the George Michael uptempos as well as the heartfelt ballads; and "Walk" was a surprisingly accomplished stab at slick new jack swing-inspired R&B -- all proving that Barlow hadn't exactly lost his ability to write infectious melodies overnight. But the dull formulaic ballads that dominated its predecessor also rear their lifeless head here as well, with both "Don't Need a Reason" and closer "Yesterday's Girl" sounding like '80s Eurovision Song Contest entries as performed by Cliff Richard, while it's hard to believe that the joyless "For All That You Want" was produced by Max Martin, the man who just a few months earlier was responsible for Britney's iconic "Baby One More Time." Previously a largely forgotten swan song to a glittering career, in the wake of Take That's triumphant revival Twelve Months, Eleven Days has witnessed something of a reassessment. And while there's nothing here that would appear on a Gary Barlow greatest-hits collection, it's certainly not the car crash that its dismal sales suggest.

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