Stars (Simply Red album)
|Studio album by Simply Red|
|Released||30 September 1991|
|Studio||Condulmer Studio, Venice, Italy|
|Genre||Pop, blue-eyed soul|
|Simply Red chronology|
|Singles from Stars|
Stars is the fourth album by British-based pop/soul/jazz band Simply Red, released in September 1991. Five singles were released from the album, including the UK top ten hits "Stars" and "For Your Babies". The album was a worldwide success, particularly in the band's home country where it has been certified twelve times platinum and was the best-selling album of the year in the UK for both 1991 and 1992, the first album to be the best-seller in two consecutive years since Simon & Garfunkel's Bridge over Troubled Water in 1970–71. As of July 2016 it is the 14th best-selling album of all time in the UK.
Stars was the first Simply Red album to feature entirely original material and no cover versions, and it was also the last album to feature member Tim Kellett, who started his own band Olive after touring. It is the only Simply Red album to feature Fritz McIntyre singing lead vocals, on the tracks "Something Got Me Started" and "Wonderland".
Composition and recording
Recording for the album originally began in Paris in August 1990, but the initial sessions did not go well: the equipment in the studio did not live up to expectations, and with the Gulf War having just started and dominating television news reports, the band found the atmosphere in the bunker-like studios oppressive and not conducive to making music. The group moved to the more relaxed surroundings of Venice to resume recording in the Condulmer Studios.
Simply Red's leader and singer Mick Hucknall had wanted the album to have a less electronic and more soulful sound than their previous work, and had recruited programmer Gota after hearing his work with Soul II Soul. Hucknall did not realise that Gota was also a drummer until he heard him jamming on the drum kit one evening in Venice, after which Gota also became the band's full-time drummer. The songs had been written over the previous year: "Something Got Me Started" and "Stars" had been written on the road during the group's previous tour. "Thrill Me" was based on a riff that McIntyre had come up with, while Hucknall described "Wonderland" as "probably the most political song I've written", documenting his dissatisfaction with the British Conservative government of the time.
The album cover features a photograph of singer Hucknall in the Californian desert, wearing a Native American painted cloak that he had bought in Spain. Hucknall had insisted that in the shot he would be wearing the cloak and nothing else, displaying his bare legs. However, when photographer Zanna showed the photographs to EastWest Records, they were concerned that Hucknall's bare legs would offend sensibilities in the US, and Zanna had to digitally retouch the picture using a test photograph of her assistant's jeans-covered legs.
The album received mixed reviews in the UK. The alternative music magazines were cool towards the record: in the NME Andrew Collins dismissed Stars as "an exercise in no-style over no-content... this is the sound of some technicians desperately fanning some smouldering ashes for people with central heating", while in Melody Maker Caroline Sullivan simply stated that "within his strictly-defined oeuvre – sleek, airbrushed music best described as soulette – [Hucknall]'s miles ahead of the competition... Nor, on an objective level, can Stars be faulted... This is a pleasant album, the sleeve is pretty, and now, at least, you've got a Christmas present for Gran."
However, reviews from newspaper critics and other magazines were more positive. In The Guardian Adam Sweeting wrote that "the new songs sound relaxed, refreshed and satisfyingly cohesive... Easy to listen to but not easy listening, Stars keeps shining", while The Independent's Andy Gill was similarly impressed, observing that "Hucknall's socialist soul-boy's conviction and his determination to write songs with stings in their tales place Simply Red several notches above the rest of the smooth soul genre... And in simple evocations of love like 'Thrill Me' or 'For Your Babies', the spark of honesty sets them above the superficial, insincere protestations of love that dominate modern soul music". In Q Ian Cranna hailed the album as "a long overdue change in musical direction, with Hucknall for the most part abandoning his undoubtedly sincere but inevitably fruitless attempts to re-create himself as a soul singer. Instead he's eased Simply Red down a couple of gears into a more relaxed and flowing style which owes as much towards current hip hop-inspired club rhythms as it does to old-style soul or funk." He ended his review by describing Stars as "Simply Red's most accessible and danceable work to date".
In his retrospective review for AllMusic, Stephen Thomas Erlewine called Stars "Simply Red's best album since their debut. It's smoother and more polished than their previous work, yet Mick Hucknall is singing better than ever and his songwriting is improving... Having absorbed his pop, soul, and reggae influences, Hucknall is now successfully writing songs in his own style, something that, with the exception of 'Holding Back the Years', he hadn't managed previously."
All songs written and composed by Mick Hucknall, except where noted.
- "Something Got Me Started" (Hucknall/Fritz McIntyre) – 4:01
- "Stars" – 4:08
- "Thrill Me" (Hucknall/McIntyre) – 5:04
- "Your Mirror" – 3:59
- "She's Got It Bad" – 3:33
- "For Your Babies" – 4:17
- "Model" – 3:46
- "How Could I Fall" – 4:45
- "Freedom" – 3:52
- "Wonderland" – 3:49
2008 Collectors Edition bonus tracks
Credits adapted from original album liner notes.
- Simply Red
- Mick Hucknall – lead and background vocals
- Fritz McIntyre – keyboards, additional vocals on "Something Got Me Started" and "Wonderland", background vocals on "Freedom"
- Tim Kellett – keyboards
- Heitor T P – guitars
- Ian Kirkham – saxophone
- Gota – drums, percussion and programming
- Shaun Ward – bass guitar
- Additional personnel
- Jess Bailey – keyboard programming
|Austria (IFPI Austria)||2× Platinum||100,000*|
|Canada (Music Canada)||Gold||50,000^|
|Germany (BVMI)||5× Gold||1,250,000^|
|Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)||2× Platinum||100,000^|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||12× Platinum||3,410,000|
|United States (RIAA)||Gold||500,000^|
*sales figures based on certification alone
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