Sunshine pop from Take That this winter
Take That 111 (Polydor)
I awoke to hear a newsreader announce an "Orange alert".
"Flippin' heck," I thought. "Are they still banging on about Jason quitting Take That?"
Of course it was a heads up on a severe weather alert. But as the rain bucketed down, I received another alert.
A heads up on 111, the new 12-track offering from the remaining Take That members. With Robbie Williams gone for a second time, and now Jason Orange, I was intrigued as to how the group would sound as a trio.
Could Gary, Mark and Howard cut it or would the new album sound closer to their patchy individual projects?
With the winter rain hopping off my window I crank up the opening track, These Days.
"I can see the future comin' to you…" Gary croons against bright piano chords. Then, sixteen seconds in, the track kicks off with Chic-style guitar and an irresistible dance floor beat. "Take me back to where it all began…"
For just three guys, Take That create an epic sound. Pure pop, English-style.
Trends and fads may come and go, but Take That seem destined to ride the changes with a relentless feel-good optimism that defies personal catastrophe and natural disaster.
"Open up your window," they chorus on Let In The Sun. These harmonies invoke summers of love, beach parties and sunshine breakfasts.
Take That write and record songs that have salivating advertising executives pleading to have them sell their lifestyle products from flash motors to fizzy drinks.
Twenty-five years at the coalface of pop, shovelling glorious harmonies and hitting those dance routines, have taught Take That plenty. They've refined their style to a point where they know what works best for them.
Not for them the business of reinvention. Their mission is to write a big chorus and then nail it in the studio. And that's what they do, repeatedly, on 111.
They have fun doing it. The golden age of Glam Rock is reprised on the thumping I Like It. And they go all philosophical on Lovelife, chorusing to a clattering Hi-NRG Eurobeat, "If I die before I wake up, ask myself: Did I give enough love?"
It's four years since their Progress became one of the fastest-selling albums of all-time. This time out, the trio have employed a crew of proven hit producers to make 111 a monster. Stuart Price, who worked on Progress is there maintaining a continuity of pop excellence.
When the group's Beautiful World was released I remarked that it surprisingly echoed ethereal seventies supergroup ELO. This time out Take That have also employed the services of ELO kingpin Jeff Lynn, who apart from his work with the Traveling Wilburys, knows how to bring an interstellar quality to music.
Forget your weather warnings and your Orange Alerts. Here's the forecast that matters.
December is set to be a sensational super-sizzler for millions of fans of the remodelled Take That.