Picks and Pans Review: Picture Book

updated 08/04/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/04/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Simply Red

This versatile, five-man outfit is fronted by Mick "Red" Hucknall, the sweetest crooner to sail out of the U.K. since Boy George. Hucknall though shows some range: He can compose and sing blues, jazz or hard-hitting rock with equal facility. It's hard in fact to believe that several of the tunes he wrote for this LP come from the same pen. Sad Old Red for instance is a breezy little jazz number in which his bluesy, silky-smooth voice is backed by Tony Bower's prominent walking bass line and a horn section reminiscent of Chicago's brassy sound. Hucknall radically alters the feel with the next track, Look at You Now, a tightly wound, conga-driven tune that defies any dancer this side of a flamenco to keep up with its runaway beat. The LP's No. 1 single, Holding Back the Years, is a straight-from-the-crying-towel ballad about the struggle to keep painful memories at bay. Hucknall has had firsthand experience with hard times. He and his father, who couldn't find work after losing his hairdressing job of 30 years, have spent some time on the welfare rolls. Perhaps that explains why three of the 10 cuts hit on the subject of folks hurting for money. The only thing missing is a rendition of the now appropriate Happy Days Are Here Again. (Elektra)

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