“Stars” by Simply Red is an important album, by virtue of the
fact that few, if any British “Soul-Pop” bands have been able
to achieve their mainstream success, particularly with this
recording. Released in 1991, “Stars” was the featured album
I recently watched in the Classic Albums DVD series.
Although Simply Red was definitely a “band,” it was clear
from their early days during the mid 1980’s, that lead
singer/frontman Mick Hucknall was their main creative force
and focal point. The marketing campaigns for Simply Red also
placed Hucknall in the spotlight, as he tended to be the sole
band member featured on their album covers.
As is customary with these Classic Albums documentaries,
key members of Simply Red including Hucknall were featured
in interviews on the main 48-minute film, as well as in the
42 minutes of bonus material. Equally important contributions
were made by their longtime producer, Stewart Levine, who
was the main person at the mixing console on this DVD.
While watching the bonus features, I found Hucknall’s
recollections of his early years with the band, “Frantic Elevators”
very interesting. He stated that they described themselves
as a “Punk band trying to sing in the style of The Beatles.”
Hucknall experimented with his voice, emulating American
Soul artists, such as Aretha Franklin (whom he greatly admired),
and discovered that he had a special talent for singing in a
Soul/Rhythm and Blues style. The rest is history. “Stars,” by
Hucknall’s account, would ultimately become one of the five
top-selling British albums ever.
Of course, this disc includes footage of Simply Red playing live,
including a rendition of their most well known song, “Holding
Back the Years,” at the Montreux Jazz Festival. Oddly enough,
this song dates from the mid 1980’s and isn’t even on the
“Stars” album, which proves that this album wasn’t their
only successful record.
Rhythm & Blues icon Lamont Dozier was also interviewed,
and he testified to Hucknall’s talent. However, it’s important
to remember that although Hucknall was the “man in charge,”
he recognized that he would not have been successful
without surrounding himself with topnotch musicians. It’s clear
from watching his various band mates play their respective
instruments that they are a highly skilled lot.
I’m glad that I watched this 2004 DVD release, because it
made me aware of a band that was completely off of my
“musical radar.” It’s not the type of music that I’m normally
“drawn to,” but it definitely is pleasing to the ear, and I certainly
respect Simply Red’s accomplishments.