A Take That Christmas

As a huge Thatter, every Christmas I hunt for festive Take That-related material. I thought it’d be great to put all of my discoveries in one place for all Thatters to look through. This is by no means definitive but there’s a good range of festive Take That content here! If you have any videos or images you think I have missed then feel free to let me know so I can add them here 🙂 Enjoy and Merry Christmas!

VIDEOS

Take That – Babe (Live & Kicking 1993)

Take That live on Live and Kicking back in December 1993 singing ‘Babe’.

Take That – Pray (Top of the Pops Christmas)

‘Pray’, performed on Top of the Pops at Christmas time.

Take That – Silent Night (Live Beautiful World Tour)

Whilst usually beginning live performances of ‘Pray’ with the middle eight, on this particular occasion it was replaced with a gorgeous version of ‘Silent Night’ before launching into their first ever UK number one. Awesome!

Take That – Jingle Bells (Live Beautiful World tour)

Another festive clip from the Beautiful World tour in which Take That sing Jingle Bells whilst Howard plays the trumpet.

Take That – Marks & Spencer Christmas Advert

The brilliant M&S Christmas advert from a few years back!

Take That – Greatest Day (Top of the Pops Christmas)

Greatest Day performed on Top of the Pops Christmas special.

Take That – Festive Message 2010.

Take That’s festive message from 2010. Howard looks extremely happy 😉

Take That – These Days (Top of the Pops Christmas)

‘These Days’ performed on the 2014 Top of the Pops Christmas special.

Take That – Turning on the Regent Street Christmas Lights

Take That turning on the Regent Street Christmas lights in 2014.

Gary Barlow: Let’s Pray for Christmas

This song was a runner up entry into the BBC’s Pebble Mill at One Christmas song competition and is one of the oldest clips of Captain Barlow in existence. Boy, has Gary come a long way from this!

Gary Barlow: Happy Xmas (War is Over)

This is Gary Barlow performing a cover of John Lennon’s ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’ on a TV show in the late nineties.

Gary Barlow: CBeebies Bedtime Story 2010

An absolutely adorable clip of Gary appearing on CBeebies during Christmas 2010. He reads an Elmer story.

Gary Barlow & Coldplay: Christmas Lights

Gary Barlow joins Coldplay onstage (admittedly rather briefly!) to sing the beautiful ‘Christmas Lights.’

Gary Barlow & Michael Buble: Home & Rule The World

Gary singing ‘Home’ and ‘Rule The World’ with Michael Buble on Michael Buble’s 2011 Christmas special on ITV.

Gary Barlow, Tulisa, Nicole Scherzinger & Dawn French: Fairytale of New York

A pretty comical clip of Gary being joined by the legendary Dawn French, the awesome Nicole Scherzinger and the… well, Tulisa. Great version of ‘Fairytale of New York’.

Gary Barlow – We Like To Love (Live on Text Santa)

I’ve always found this song rather wintry anyway and this was reinforced when Gary performed this on Text Santa.

Gary Barlow & Loose Women – Text Santa

Comical sketch involving the Captain and some of the Loose Women!

Peter Kay’s Geraldine McQueen – Once Upon a Christmas Song

Gary Barlow co-wrote this with Peter Kay himself. It was released in 2008 and reached Number Five on the UK Singles chart. All proceeds went to NSPCC.

Donny Osmond – Christmas Time

Co-written by Gary along with long term collaborator Eliot Kennedy.

Mark Owen – Child (Live Top of the Pops Christmas)

Mark Owen performs his hit single ‘Child’ on Top of the Pops Christmas back in the late nineties.

Mark Owen – Lantern

Mark Owen performed this still unreleased original track at a Charity event a few Christmas’ ago. 

Mark Owen wishing a fan a Merry Christmas

Pretty self explanatory!

Robbie Williams – Walk This Sleigh

Robbie Williams’ tongue in cheek version of a Christmas song. 

Robbie Williams & Nicole Kidman – Somethin’ Stupid

An amazing version of a Frank and Nancy Sinatra classic, Robbie reached Christmas Number 1 in 2001 with a little help from Nicole Kidman with their version of ‘Somethin’ Stupid’.

Robbie Williams – Happy Xmas (War is Over)

Robbie Williams singing John Lennon’s ‘Happy Xmas (War is over)’ – The Take That lads sure love this one!

Robbie Williams – Merry Xmas Everybody/Merry Christmas Everyone

Taken from last year’s performance for Radio 2, here’s Robbie singing the Slade classic ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’ and ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’ by Shakin’ Stevens.

Robbie Williams – Candy (Live Top Of The Pops Christmas)

Not really Christmas but Robbie performed ‘Candy’ on the TOTP Christmas special last year.

Robbie Williams – Different (NYE Top of the Pops)

Robbie performs the brilliant ‘Different’ on a New Years Eve Top of the Pops special.

Robbie Williams – Soul Transmission

This isn’t strictly a Christmas track although christmas is mentioned so I think I can be forgiven!

Robbie Williams – The Promise

Robbie refers to this as his Christmas song so I thought it worthy to be included in this post.

Robbie Williams – Dream a Little Dream

This is Robbie’s interpretation of a classic, released at Christmas time with a festive video.

GALLERY

 

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Take That – III (2015 Edition) Album Review

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Upon its original release in December last year, ‘III’ was a pivotal moment in Take That’s career. Now a three-piece following the shock departure of Jason Orange and Robbie Williams returning to his solo career, the band and general public were somewhat apprehensive of the band’s future. They needn’t have worried. ‘III’ flew straight into Number One, breaking the record for the most pre-ordered album in Amazon’s history and was later certified platinum. A sold out UK arena tour followed and Take That validated their persistent presence as one of the UK’s most successful bands.

Almost one year later, ‘III’ is still as bold and buoyant as it was upon release. ‘These Days’ remains a piece of pop perfection with its Nile Rodgers Chic-like guitar riffs, disco stomping percussion and tight harmonies. 2015 addition ‘Hey Boy’ follows the same formula, mirroring camp 80’s disco. Lyrically, it’s rather lazy in comparison to the rest of the album and Owen’s rap-like vocals are questionable but the track is incessantly funky,  glimmering with Greg Kurstin’s polished production. Kurstin also steers the ship on other golden pop moments on the album. ‘If You Want It’ is a sleek pop track featuring gorgeous shimmering synths, euphonious layers of harmony and a kick-ass beat whilst the poignant ‘Freeze’ mourns the departure of Jason Orange through a dramatic ’80’s synth-pop track.

‘Progress’ producer Stuart Price returns on the more electro moments. ‘Let in the Sun’, one of the album’s highlights, is reminiscent of material by the likes of Calvin Harris; an EDM influenced track featuring gorgeous moments of falsetto by Barlow, rousing lyrics and an energised chorus. Lead vocal duties are generously handed to Owen on ‘Lovelife’, an effervescent electro track with a Parisian-sounding melody, acoustic guitar strums and stomping percussion. ‘Into The Wild’ is a dramatic and powerful track on which Take That channel The Killers, featuring eerie electro sounds, tribal drums and Owen’s distinctive bass vocals. A bizarre union of ‘Shine’ and ‘Underground Machine’ is found on ‘I Like It’, a bouncy and mechanical track which features synthesised bass, funky guitar riffs, Bee-Gee-like falsetto harmonies and as many production effects as Price can possibly toss into the mix.

Price knows how to induce softer moments in the album too. ‘Portrait’ begins tentatively with Barlow’s falseto fluttering over gentle guitar strums and timorous synthesisers before before Donald and Owen join the fold in a catchy Barber-shop-styled ‘ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba’ chorus. The lush layers of harmony and giggling synthesisers are a lovely touch in Price’s production and it’s a gorgeous, uplifting track. Howard Donald lends his lead vocal to ‘Give You My Love’, a mellow pop track which is reminiscent of Barlow’s keyboard frolicking on 1993’s ‘Everything Changes’.

John Shanks, producer of the band’s ‘Beautiful World’ and ‘The Circus’ albums brings a more organic sound to the album. ‘Flaws’ is a raw, classic Barlow-ballad which sounds as if it could have been an outtake from Barlow’s ‘Since I Saw You Last’ solo album. It’s a welcome break from the intensity of the album and a lovely track. Original album finale ‘Get Ready For It’ is a euphoric pop-rock stadium anthem abundant with ‘woah’ hooks, crashing percussion and fierce guitar strums. Shanks is also responsible for producing the bonus tracks: invigorating anthem ‘Believe’, Beatles-esque ‘Amazing’ and the spectacular power ballad ‘Do It all For Love’.

Elsewhere, Take That allow lesser-known producers to experiment with their sound. In-demand but still largely unknown producers Mattman and Robin sprinkle their magic on conventional Take That ballad ‘Higher than Higher’, another of ‘III’s’ highlights. Precarious percussion, a mesh of broken vocals and jittery synthesisers open the track before it stabilizes into a steady marching beat. Barlow delivers perfect, tender vocals whilst Donald and Owen provide gorgeous harmonies which reverberate endlessly into the spaced-out, meticulously programmed R&B track. Their ‘higher, higher than higher’ harmonies in the track’s finale somewhat bizarrely emulate an African choir but is one of many lovely touches in its arrangement and production.

Profound power-ballad ‘Will You Be There for Me?’ is comprised of descending percussion, soft plucked acoustic guitars and lavish layers of harmony. Produced by unknown producers AFSHeeN and Josh Cumbee alongside German hitmaker Toby Gad, it’s a moody R&B styled ballad with a brilliant vocal performance by Barlow. It’s yet another change in sound for Take That but one which works perfectly and is without a doubt the best of the new tracks from the 2015 edition.

WTNSS, a duo consisting of Charlie Russell and Bradley Spence, lend their production expertise to final two tracks ‘Carry Me Home’ and ‘Bird in Your Hand’. Evidently Owen’s choice of producers (the duo worked on his 2013 ‘The Art of Doing Nothing’ solo album), they bring another dimension to the album. ‘Carry Me Home’ is a folk-styled pop track featuring tribal drums in the same vein as ‘Into The Wild’, metallic guitars and an epic chorus. Once again, harmonies are diligently layered to great effect and Owen’s distinctive falsetto vocals are particularly lovely. Final track ‘Bird in Your Hand’ is a delicate piano-synth ballad on which the band’s vocals reverberate infinitely. It’s a gorgeous song which mirrors hidden Progress track ‘Flowerbed’. The track is noteworthy for featuring the song-writing credit of the late Michael C. Corson, husband of a Thatter. His lyrics found their way to team Take That and elements were used in the final product.

‘III’ has maintained its ability to impress. Whilst the new tracks don’t necessarily contain the sturdiness required to be single-release material, they are a hugely enjoyable addition to the album.

A triumphant album featuring an eclectic amalgamation of material.

  • Rating: 5/5 [Both original album and 2015 updated version.]
  • Highlights: These Days, Let in the Sun, Portrait, Higher than Higher, Freeze, Flaws, Do it all for Love, Will You Be There For Me, Bird in Your Hand.

‘III (2015 Edition)’ is available now on Polydor Records.

[You can read my original review of ‘III’ here.]

 

 

 

 

Take That Live 2015 – Review

Picture courtesy of Capital FM.
Picture courtesy of Capital FM.

For many, a Take That tour is the pinnacle event of the year; an exuberant spectacle of nostalgia, triumph and escapism. Past proceedings have involved cars onstage, rain machines, holograms, a transportable elephant, and a gigantic twenty metre robot amongst countless other stunts, polished dance routines, props and backdrops. But in 2015, at the ages of 43 (Owen), 44 (Barlow) and 47 (Donald), you would have perhaps thought Take That tours may begin to demonstrate signs of deceleration. Latest tour ‘Take That Live 2015’ showed nothing of the sort, however.

Take That’s live shows of 2015 was the latest risk in a series of many; the foundation of Take That’s career has been built upon gamble. Their career in the nineties was steered precariously by manager Nigel Martin-Smith who had exceedingly limited managerial experience prior to their existence. Then there was their launch amidst camp, flamboyant performances in gay clubs dressed primarily in bondage gear. Fast-forward to 2005 and a tentative return occurred, minus Robbie Williams, then five years later, just as fans had become used to Take That as a four-piece, Williams entered the fold once more. Just when it appeared that things had all settled in the Take That camp, 2014 brought an amalgamation of simultaneous risks. Since 2011’s hugely successful Progress Live tour, Williams had once again taken flight, returning to solo projects; his attention on the arrival of his second child with wife Ayda Field. Meanwhile, the Thatter fanbase was rocked pugnaciously by the surprise departure of much loved member Jason Orange. Incorporate a highly publicised tax scandal and theoretically, the continuation of Take That shouldn’t have been possible.  But once again, Take That took a risk which paid off, attaining a number one single, a number one album and a sell-out arena tour featuring ten shows at the O2 arena in London.

Picture courtesy of Unreality TV.
Picture courtesy of Unreality TV.

Take That’s live shows of 2015 were some of their best yet, a lavish affair with no expense spared. Confetti explosions, fire canons, schizophrenic lighting, an immense back catalogue of pure pop hits and the odd dance routine, Take That were out to please. And that they did. “We are what’s left of Take That”, the man-band chant in unison. It’s one of a handful of comical lines delivered by the band but one that carries a poignant undertone. Whilst Williams’ absence is less problematic (the public had five years to become accustomed to Take That as a four-piece after all), Orange’s is more conspicuous. There was a visible cavity onstage and Orange’s presence was still greatly missed both on a visual and entertainment level.  There were a handful of particular poignant moments (his verse in ‘The Garden’, backing vocals on ‘Up All Night’ and most dance routines) where the beginnings of sentimentality crept in.  These were never allowed to develop excessively, however and were vastly prevented by the industrious production onstage.  Indeed, sometimes, it was almost as if the franticness of onstage proceedings was to compensate for the loss of Williams and Orange; in a sense, it worked. There was seldom a dull moment, rarely an opportunity to dwell on Orange’s absence for more than a few seconds.

Electro-pop breathy synthesiser interludes no doubt Donald’s influence, bursts of colour, a mob of cast members descending onstage parading in colourful attire and anoraks, an eccentric male protagonist involved in bizarre experiments, eruptions of Willy Wonka-esque encouragement carry the show for fifteen long minutes before Take That’s explosive arrival onstage prompting rapturous cheers and ear-piercing squealing from the audience. ‘I Like it’ is the perfect opener to the tour, a flamboyant electro track comprised of squeaky synthesisers, meticulously synced hand claps for maximum audience participation and a rousing chorus. “I don’t know what the people see but I like it”; it’s evident the song was written specifically for the live occasion. The trio power through more crowd rousing tracks, Progressed’s ‘Love Love’, ‘Get Ready For It’ complete with eruptions of flame followed by ‘Greatest Day’ staged with minimalistic production, a wise decision as the song holds the crowd enough alone. It’s still as euphoric as ever, prompting raised arms from most audience members and explosions of multi-coloured ticker tape to envelop all super-fans in the inner pits.

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Picture courtesy of Capital FM.

The foremost surprise in the evening is the stunning and theatrical performance of ‘The Garden’, the opening track to 2008’s ‘The Circus’ album. Accompanied visually by a spectacular silhouetted puppet show, projected onto two huge white curtains which encompass those in the inner pits, it’s a beautiful moment for all those in the arena and the perfect complement to a song that frankly deserves greater credit. Another pinnacle of the show, ‘Portrait’, is performed as Barlow, Donald and Owen soar above the heads of thousands of adoring fans on a bike-come-tandem-come-side car hybrid. It’s a spectacular moment and somehow, the barber-shop-styled chorus is maintained pitch perfectly. The inclusion of ‘Affirmation’, a previously neglected ‘Progress’ album track written primarily by Donald is another surprise. It could have potentially served as a toilet break opportunity but intelligent staging in which the Take That lads become evil techno-gods thumping out the song on synthesisers and drum machines make it work and bizarrely won the audience over. The thunder-god theme continues onto ‘The Flood’ complete with stormy backdrops on large LED Screens and assistance from a rain machine. 90’s hits ‘Relight My Fire’ (presented with an oriental theme on this tour) and ‘Could It Be Magic’ contain as much camp abundance as back in their hey-day, accompanied by dynamic dance routines whilst an aerial performer romps around acrobatically in an elevated, illumine sphere for summer belter ‘Let in the Sun’. As Owen himself acknowledges, the show borders on serving as a voyage through British weather.

Elsewhere, just as the show becomes in danger of becoming profligately exhausting, the thirty plus assemble is removed from the stage for more gentle moments, mostly for classic Barlow-ballads. ‘Flaws’, sung beautifully by Gary Barlow is accompanied by a beautiful contemporary dance routine smothered in homoeroticism by Owen and Donald. A shirt lift mid-way through by both members induced wild screams from the audience, reinforcing the unfaltering sex appeal fastened to the band. It’s a move that prompts a mixed response from critics but sends fans into overdrive. Likewise, other songs require less of a spectacle to be made. Major hits are performed with minimal fuss: timeless pop perfection ‘Patience’, the gorgeous ‘Said It All’, ‘Pray’ and even ‘Back For Good’ is left well alone on this tour, performed sitting on stools, a move Barlow has previously been the first to criticise. Perhaps the intensity of live shows is finally getting to them after all. Regardless, many of Take That’s hits are strong enough to be performed without major production, leaving all expense to be lent to other parts of the show.

Picture courtesy of Birmingham Mail.
Picture courtesy of Birmingham Mail.

The set list itself mainly draws upon TT4 material – songs recorded between 2006 and 2009, a decision which confused many critics. Criticisms are unjustifiable however. At least one song from all seven Take That albums is performed; fans are well catered for. Occasionally, Barlow’s voice becomes a little uncertain, the first time in the band’s career in which there is an auditory strain to hit certain notes although equitably, this is on the band’s more demanding material. This is compensated through the swing-styled vocals he adds to the ending of ‘I Like It’ and the cleaner falsetto vocals he manages to produce on ‘Portrait’ which somehow manage to exceed the record version.

The show temporarily closes with ‘Rule the World’, which remains Take That’s superlative song, before an encore of ‘Shine’ and ‘Never Forget’ follows. The latter closes the show triumphantly as always; the sight of twenty thousand pairs of arms in the air for the latter is breath-taking and the perfect finale to a magnificent show.

They may have been two men down in a downsized venue (gone are the football stadiums, although they have been replaced with still impressive sized arenas) but Take That somehow managed to surpass previous tour Progress Live with a vibrant, theatrical and greatly entertaining show, the music event of the year.

Rating: 5/5.

Take That Live 2015 – My Experience

On 8th June 2015, after minimal sleep, I hopped on board a rather early train from Brighton to London to see my favourite band live at the O2 arena. It had been four long years since I last saw Take That, then a five-piece and performing to a sold-out Wembley Stadium, on their Progress tour. Evidently much has changed since then. Despite minor apprehension due to the inescapable fact that my second favourite member Jason Orange would not be onstage and sleep deprivation, I was exceptionally excited.

Much had changed for me too since 2011’s Progress Tour. Last time I had seen the boys, I was sixteen years old, had just finished sitting my GCSE’s, attended the tour with a friend I’m no longer in touch with and was positioned towards the back of Wembley Stadium. Four years on, I am now an adult (eek!) and a university student. I had a great time at Progress Live but being so far away, I spent most of it in envy of those standing close to the stage, particularly when the guys went and said goodbye to audience members during ‘Eight Letters’. I also spent far too much of the show absorbed in taking photos and videos and not being in the moment. Unfortunately, we were also surrounded by utter fools. Nobody stood until Rob came on, the family in front kept looking at each other in horror every time Rob swore (I know, they evidently weren’t familiar with Rob’s stage persona…), I got a dirty look for practically hyperventilating when the boys came onstage, the couple next to us spent 90% of the concert snogging and those behind appeared to just be there for a day out. So when it came to seeing Take That on their next tour, I vowed to do things completely differently. And that, I did.

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I purchased the hat in self-parody of myself and to stand out… Bizarrely, I think I managed to pull it off!

For this tour, I decided to go with full-on, die-hard Thatters like myself. I am lucky enough to have many friends who also love Take That but not quite to the same level as me. So this time I went with Kim & Andy – two of my favourite people on Twitter, two amazing friends and two people with a mutual appreciation of the boys. It was my first time going with Thatters and I plan to continue to do so in future! Eight hours of queueing passed amazingly quickly with them both aided by multiple trips to the toilet, to see other friends, purchasing tea and buying merchandise. The second difference this time was that for the first time I was not going to be high up in the venue. I was not going to be at the back. I was not going to be surrounded by people merely at the show for a night out. I was going to be standing. And not only standing but in the front pit! FINALLY! I’d always been apprehensive about doing so before, mainly because of being an Olympic worrier fearing needing the loo or not having enough water or feeling rammed in by everybody. But after my experience at Progress I craved to be around other Thatters – people who are actually familiar with all songs, lyrics and share my levels of excitement. Plus as we all had quite a shock with Jason’s departure, I learnt to take nothing for granted when it comes to Take That and vowed to experience the tour from as close as possible to the stage. I’ve never met any of the boys so to be in the pits and be so close to them was a dream come true.

Come 6:15pm and we were lined up like cattle by the turnstiles. There’d been around fifty people queueing in front of us so we had no idea how close we’d be able to get to the stage but remained optimistic, overall. Thankfully, the system was fair and nobody felt the need to sprint into the arena. We were let in in order and we managed to get three rows from the front! I was utterly mesmerised. To go from being towards the back of Wembley Stadium to three rows away from the stage in the O2 Arena was a dream come true.

Ella Henderson was an incredible support act. Take That’s choice of support act is always spot on and I’ve seen some amazing artists over the years – Beverley Knight, Gary Go and Lady Gaga, just to name a few. Despite liking the The Pet Shop Boys’ material, I was utterly bored throughout their set opening the Progress tour. Ella, on the other hand, bought class, sophistication and fun to the O2 Arena. Despite being familiar with many songs from her album, I wasn’t exactly able to sing along much but still had an awesome time and her thirty-five minute set whizzed by. I wore my tacky fluorescent yellow hat for her set which appeared to get her attention! I shared a couple of little moments with her where she smiled at me, particularly during my favourite of hers, ‘Rockets’ which no-one else knew but I was able to sing along to. Her voice is absolutely incredible and I wish her all the success in the world, I really do. I’m so glad she’s already had a number one single and album. She truly deserves it.

20150606_213537editedAnother difference for this tour is I had managed to avoid most spoilers (aside from the practically unavoidable pictures of the bike!) I muted lots of people on Twitter and any time I saw anything related to the tour, I would quickly scroll past. It was so, so tricky staying away from the setlist but I am SO glad I did. Even just one look at the set-list to a show will remain engrained in my memory. The problem with this is that I will then spend the concert thinking about what’s happening next so it was utterly refreshing to go to the show and know barely a thing about it! It turned out I knew most of the setlist through people spoiling online and my own guess work but wasn’t sure of the order and forgot lots of songs so it all worked out nicely as one big surprise!

I’ll save a lot of my comment on the show itself for a review I am planning (this post is just to discuss my personal experience more than anything) but will mention a few things from a fan-boy perspective (not a professional, like I aim for the tone of my review to be!). The fifteen minute introduction absolutely blew me away. Take That have a knack for absolutely incredible tour openers, both visually and musically. I loved the music that opened the show and the way the boys came onto the stage. The set-list was fantastic, particularly the emphasis on songs from the TT4 era. It was perfect to have so many songs from The Circus album. The balance between front-stage and b-stage was also wonderful as pretty much the whole arena was catered for nicely.

20150606_205437editedThe whole show was absolutely incredible but some parts were made even more so by being in the pits. Being in the left pit, just three rows from the stage, we got SO much Markie action! I love how he performs on a more intimate level, interacting with the nearby crowd. He sung to and smiled at so many people around me and I’m pretty sure he smiled and winked at me. It also meant we got to witness the ‘Flaws’ shirt lift rather close which was greatly appreciated by many 😉

The flames during ‘Get Ready For It’ were scorching but you certainly felt the full atmosphere being so close! I was also finally able to bounce properly to ‘Hold Up A Light’ (it doesn’t have the same effect when you’re in seats!). Being in the pits for the confetti explosion during ‘Greatest Day’ is also incredible, although trying not to ingest it was very tricky! I’m still leaving a trail of confetti around the house from my pockets, wallet, phone case etc (much to my mother’s annoyance…) Also, can we just discuss ‘The Garden’ for a moment?! It must have looked spectacular to anyone outside of the pit but for us inside, it was mesmerising. Having those huge curtains drawn around us made us feel completely cut off from the rest of the arena, like it was just Take That and us. It also provided some much needed cool air after the intensity of heat from the flames in ‘Get Ready For It’! It was incredible to watch the puppet show from inside the sheet-dome. Furthermore, being underneath Mark’s cape/costume during ‘Shine’ took me right back to Primary School parachute games! Looking around during ‘Rule The World’ and seeing all of the lights also blew me away, as did looking at all the arms in the air during ‘Never Forget’.

20150606_213904editedI don’t think it’s been a secret that I’ve found 2015 a challenge so far and happy days have been very few so far this year. Take That have been such a strong source of light for me (I know it’s cheesy but it’s true) and the ‘III’ era has been without a doubt the most important Take That era to me. I am feeling a lot better now but that day and evening was the most beautiful, amazing and happy day I have had this year. So much so, I decided right away that I had to book more tickets and go again! I know twice isn’t anywhere near as many times as most Thatters but it ended up being enough for me. I could just about afford it and wanted to experience it again and am so glad I did. I’ve thankfully managed to avoid the post-tour blues since seeing them for a second time and I think it’s out of my system now! Don’t get me wrong, if money was no object, I’d go and see the boys numerous times but at the same time I think going excessively would probably make it lose some of its magic. I had two AMAZING days/nights and feel satisfied now! My second date was just as spell-bounding as my first except we were able to get right next to the walk-way between main stage and b-stage. We were a little concerned about a mob of drunken people behind us but thankfully they were tamed by Take That’s arrival onstage and were relatively well-behaved for the rest of the show. I wasn’t feeling very optimistic about touching the boys because of the swarm of drunks that had closed in but Alice and I managed to barge our way through and we were able to touch them!! I cupped Gary Barlow’s upper arm (I can confirm it is rock solid -pure muscle), touched Howard Donald’s sweaty arm and Mark’s jacket! A dream come true for someone who has never ever been that close to them before.

Seeing Take That has without a doubt been my favourite part of 2015 so far and I cannot put into words how much I value their existence. I had so much fun both times and am so grateful I got to go twice. I’d also go as far to say the boys managed to surpass ‘Progress’ with this tour. It was absolutely incredible and I am so glad they have stayed together and proved all of the critics wrong.

Why Jason Orange is greatly missed.

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I meant to write this blog long ago but as usual, life got in the way and it never happened. Better late than never, here’s my blog on Jason Orange leaving Take That.

24 September 2014:

It was to become another day of immense sadness for Thatters worldwide, an addition to the previous dark days on which Robbie Williams announced his departure in 1995 and Take That announced their disbandment in 1996. Jason Orange dropped the unforeseen bombshell that he was leaving Take That.

01xt8-vi2The response was quite astonishing considering we are now twenty-five years into Take That’s career and there are arguably fresher-faced more ‘current’ bands around. Take That’s relevance was reinforced once again. It became front page news, splashed all over tabloid newspapers and was a hot topic on the internet for days. Deluded Twitter trolls, convinced they are comedians were quick to provide much ‘banter’ and opinion over the situation, “Take That will never sound the same again” is just one noteworthy example. Other posts were critical of Orange’s role in the band whilst some suggested the band give up altogether. Of course, as the last few months have proved, the continuation of Take That as a three-piece has been wonderfully successful with many records broken and a killer album released. Yet, even throughout their many wonderful performances, Orange’s absence has been more noticeable than anyone could ever think possible.

Upon Take That’s formation, Jason Orange was selected by manager Nigel Martin Smith for his dance ability and he was bloody brilliant at it. Even the harshest critic would not be able to undermine Jason Orange’s dance ability. He was able to choreograph fantastic routines, glide across the floor effortlessly and he continued this well into Take That’s second life as a band. Even as a 41 year old, he youthfully breakdanced on 2011’s ‘Progress Live’ tour, which was to become his final tour with the band.

093-viPart of Take That’s appeal back in the ’90’s was the range of talent and personalities in the band. Jason and Howard were incredible dancers, Mark was the boy next door, Robbie was the cheeky lad and Gary had the genuine vocal talent. Of course, all talents crossed over – Take That’s success was built upon every member’s ability to be an individual, to sing and to dance. It was five guys from Manchester, all of which had wonderful individual talents which, when put together, made Britain’s best loved boyband. When Take That re-formed as a four piece in 2005, the focus became more on the music and the public was shown that Take That were able to function well as not just a generic boyband but as a band. Harmonies became cleaner, instruments were bought out on stage more and Jason was finally given lead vocal duties, breaking him in gently with the stunning folk ballad ‘Wooden Boat’, the final track to 2006’s ‘Beautiful World’ album.

Jay wooden boat 2Jason Orange proved he could sing. ‘Wooden Boat’ was a sweet, gorgeous folk-ballad which closed the ‘Beautiful World’ perfectly. ‘How Did it Come to This’, his next lead vocal from 2008’s ‘The Circus’ was a rock foot-stamper, highlighting his ability to sing across multiple genres. His final lead vocal was to be the gorgeous ambient ‘Flowerbed’, an underrated hidden track on 2010’s ‘Progress’. In fact, it is Jason who sang lead vocals on some of Take That’s best-loved material. He was also bloody brave! On 2007’s ‘Beautiful World’ tour, his bandmates left him alone on-stage with an acoustic guitar to sing ‘Wooden Boat’, accompanied only fellow guitarist Milton McDonald and a small string section which was warmly received by fans and critics alike.

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It was Jay’s fantastic stage presence which became an integral part of Take That’s strong, visionary performances. This was often centred around his sense of humour – he would often move in comedic fashion, particularly when sprinting to the B-Stage in Take That shows. He also has a wonderful element of charm about him which came through not only in interviews but also during performances. He famously drew attention to himself during the 2012 Olympics Closing Ceremony which some suggested may have been to take attention away from Gary Barlow whose baby daughter had been delivered stillborn just days earlier. It’s this charm and cheek that’s now missed dearly in Take That. Performances are still fun but there is certainly something missing. And that something is definitely anything associated with Mr Jason Orange.

And it’s not just the singing and dancing. It’s also the personality. The humour, the charm, the wisdom. Jay clearly spent a lot of his ten years off thinking about everything and this really showed in any interviews he was a part of, particularly ‘For The Record’ and ‘Look Back Don’t Stare’ in which he thoughtfully discussed his time in Take That.

3125c03a769136e00ea9ea4a1425c667Whilst obviously very grateful for the privileges he had earned, Jason always appeared to be uncomfortable with fame and his celebrity image. Any downtime away from the band was spent in anonymity, only being photographed very occasionally in everyday places doing mundane activities (he was once photographed sitting casually on a bench) and most often unshaven with
scraggly hair. His avoidance of Twitter or any social networking sites only facilitated in making him a more endearing character. His perception of fame and modest attitude could only be admired. Upon being asked by Piers Morgan, ‘If you could go back to the anonymity you enjoyed before Take That ever began, would you take it?’ He responded unhesitatingly with ‘I would. Fame corrupts people’s lives.’  It was this lack of egocentrism and profound outlook that made Jason Orange so well loved as a band member. Despite being remarkably grounded for a man in his position, he had a jokey alter-ego as a full-of-himself cheeky-chappy, once announcing in an interview “Mate, I was famous before I was famous”. He could also be rather filthy. Who can forget his steamy shower scenes with a mystery female in the music video for ‘Relight My Fire’?! In another interview laden with innuendo, he advised “If you sit down on your left arm for long enough, it feels like someone else!” His fantastic sense of humour really bought Take That interviews alive.

Take That have done a sterling job at adapting to their many line-up changes and continuing their success as a band. Their determination and continued success is certainly to be admired and I am so very grateful they still exist as both a brand and a band. Performances are still spectacular and lively but it’s clear that a presence is missing. That presence is Jason Orange. It’s just a shame that seemingly, his only way of proving his worth to critics was through leaving.

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It’s the little things I miss. Him losing himself in every performance – the Donage bromance with Howard Donald, his comical running to the b-stage, the on-stage flirting with dancers, his wit and profound outlook in interviews, his sweet vocals and the breakdancing. Maybe one day he will return, even for the smallest of moments but until then, I hope he’s happy and comfortable with the life he’s living.

We all miss you very much, Jay!

Higher than Higher.

It’s been a while since I last blogged. I’ve found it difficult to find the energy or time to do so recently but believe me, I’ve missed it. I have a bit of spare time at my hands for the next week or so, so I’m hoping to publish some thoughts I’ve had for a while. I really hope you enjoy reading them and I hope to update this more in the future. This blog is about a song that means a lot to me.

Take-That-III-Three-3-album-coverListening to your favourite band’s brand new album in four years was always going to be a special experience. Beingwhisked off on a journey through a brand new set of songs, learning new lyrics and falling deeper in love with them is an indescribable feeling. When Take That released ‘III’, I was impossibly excited alongside many other Thatters. I was familiar with some of the songs already due to hearing them on the radio but others were completely brand new. Even the ones I’d previously heard sounded different, better when hearing them in the context of the album. There’s nothing quite like listening to an album from start to finish, especially for the first time.

‘III’ is one of those albums where every song is euphoric and fantastically written. I was really, really loving my first listen. The first five songs had really taken me up to the clouds and the last one, ‘Portrait’ was already cemented in my collection of favourites. Then on came Track 6, ‘Higher than Higher’ and that changed everything.

1de3f04c0f0ab2dfaa5ecdb04f757258 (1)A lot of what makes the track so perfectly created, for me, is the insane production by little-known American duo Mattman and Robin. It begins all sophisticated and cool; the jittery production in the opening to the song sounds like nothing Take That has ever released before. Gary Barlow’s low vocals then emerge and melt effortlessly into a marching beat and minimal instrumentation. Barlow’s famous tenor range glides through the bridge which launches into a lovely sing-song chorus. A repeated ‘You’re lifting me up’ is scattered throughout the song which echoes endlessly into the commodious production of the track and only serves to make it even more endearing. The acoustic guitar strums are meticulously placed over kicking, programmed drums and the classic Take That harmonies are thrown into the mix to produce a gorgeous and catchy chorus, a quest for happiness. The middle eight allows the song to simmer gently for a few seconds as Barlow’s chocolate vocals re-emerge whilst Mark Owen’s beautiful, resounding ‘Higher than Higher’ refrain slowly crescendos into the climax of the song. The final minute is layered perfectly; Gary Barlow’s lead vocal drizzled over the methodically programmed backing track, Howard Donald’s glimmering backing vocals and Owen’s emulation of an African choir chant of ‘Higher than Higher’. It’s just an absolutely stunning song; one which makes it a welcome addition to Take That’s ballad collection but is given a refreshing twist by Mattman and Robin’s fidgety programming to venture into a brand new sound for the band.

Recently I haven’t been feeling my best and ‘Higher than Higher’ has empowered me to be strong and has been my support mechanism. I listen to it every single day and I’m still not tiring of it. I interpret the term ‘Higher than Higher’ to be about being infinite and limitless in your capabilities whilst the song itself is for anyone or anything that gives you the strength, courage and love to carry on even when things have been dark and difficult. For me, I know who I think of every time I fill my head and heart with this song and I thank those people from the bottom of my heart.

Thank you Take That for writing such an important, beautiful and empowering song.

Take That ‘III’ – Album Review

It’s safe to say 2014 has been an incredible roller-coaster for Take That. Allegations of tax avoidance scams, the loss of a band member, the release of one of the fastest selling albums of all time and Amazon’s most pre-ordered album in history; it’s safe to say it’s been up and down for Britain’s most loved man-band.

This week, it emerged latest single ‘These Days’ had become their twelfth UK Number One single and on Monday, their brand new album – their first as a three piece – ‘III’ was released. An insight into each track is provided below.

1) These Days

A piece of pop perfection, it’s easy to see why this Nile Rodgers/Chic-style track with funky guitar riffs, punchy percussion and tight harmonies has well and truly established itself as one of Take That’s finest records. It’s a song of optimism and it’s irresistibly catchy. Barlow, Donald and Owen’s voices are all audible and fused to provide rich layers of harmonies. A killer opener.

2) Let In the Sun

Take That do Calvin Harris. Except better. It begins gently with Barlow’s rich vocals drizzled with Donald’s falsetto, both melting effortlessly into a symphony of synthesiser before developing into an up-tempo dance track with elements of Take That’s signature sound. If all the synthesisers were removed and the thumping percussion, it could have slotted in perfectly on ‘The Circus’ album with its optimistic lyrics. It never quite takes the plunge into full dance-pop territory, however, there’s definitely some Mumford & Sons in there but it’s still a powerful, feel-good track, a stand-out from ‘III’.

3) If You Want It

A return to Greg Kurstin-infused-pop here and it works beautifully. It’s unmistakeably Take That – catchy, verging on entering cheesy territory and utterly irresistible. In-keeping with all tracks so far, it’s bold, buoyant and a great, great pop track. Tight harmonies too – Howard and Mark’s vocals are both crystal clear and give the track an extra dimension.

4) Lovelife

Barlow generously hands over lead-vocal duties to Mark Owen on this catchy number. Painting the image of a group of Frenchmen performing the track on street corner in Paris with an accordion, it’s a little unconventional and seemingly draws upon European dance-pop music as its foundation. It’s well written and catchy but not quite as congenial as the previous tracks and therefore the album becomes slightly off-kilter with the addition of ‘Lovelife’.

5) Portrait

Stuart Price is back, frolicking with synthesisers and computer-generated sounds again, not dissimilar to much of the material on ‘Progress’. It’s not as intense, however, the first minute or so is gentle and tentative, allowing the listener some much needed rest from the intensity of the first four tracks. Barow’s falsetto flutters over soft guitar strums and timorous synthesisers before Donald and Owen join the fold in the rousing Barber-shop-styled chorus. It is 100% in the same vein as The Circus’ ‘Hold Up A Light’ but with increased vigour. The barber shop refrain is utterly irresistible and the driving drum beat maintains the song’s momentum. Price’s production really glistens on this beautifully created and performed track. Another stand-out moment.

6) Higher Than Higher

The closest to a classic Take That ballad you’re going to get in the first half of ‘III’. Precarious percussion and jittery synthesisers open the track before it stabilizes into a steady marching beat. The song is largely carried by the effortlessly cool and rather insane R&B-styled production provided by little-known American duo Mattman & Robin. Barlow delivers perfect, tender vocals whilst Donald and Owen provide gorgeous harmonies, reverberating into the spaced-out, meticulously programmed percussion. Their repeated ‘higher, higher than higher’ harmonies in the final part of the song somewhat bizarrely but beautifully emulate an African choir. It’s one of many lovely touches which contributes to its success. It’s a song full of meaning, passion and it’s utterly beautiful. Quite possibly one of Take That’s best songs of their career.

7) I Like It

Take That go all Muse once more. It’s a return to the ‘Progress’ era and it’s absolutely bonkers. Imagine an amalgamation of ‘Shine’ and ‘Underground Machine’ and ‘I Like It’ is born. The synthesised bass, minimal instrumentation and buoyant percussion all contribute to the catchiness of the song and just when you think producer Stuart Price has exhausted all technical improvement tools, a mechanical middle-eight kicks in, in which Barlow’s vocals are lowered in pitch to create a robotic voice. A fun piece of pop.

8) Give You My Love

A song that could have easily slotted in on the ‘Everything Changes’ album, Barlow’s clearly been having a whale of a time frolicking around with his keyboards. This is the one time Thatters are able to enjoy Donald on lead vocals, a bizarre move when the loss of two band members surely presents the opportunity for more equal distribution of lead vocal duties. Still, Donald succeeds on this pure and simple fun track.

9) Freeze

Ice-like imagery, proficient production, slamming percussion and Barlow’s falsetto steer this song, resulting in a powerful 80’s-esque song. Likely to be one of a handful ballads written after Orange announced his intention to depart from the band, there is a sincerity in it’s lyrics. Personal, heartfelt and emotive.

10) Into The Wild

A dramatic and explosive moment, with tribal drums, Owen’s distinctive and intense vocals and a sing-song chorus, this is a powerful addition to ‘III’. Barlow, Donald and Owen have clearly taken great pleasure in imitating other bands on this album and ‘Into The Wild’ presents the opportunity for them to be The Killers. It’s an undoubtedly powerful song glimmering with brilliance.

11) Flaws

Ah, finally. A Barlow ballad! The chance of one of these appearing looked slimmer and slimmer by the song but here we are. ‘Flaws’ is a pretty, piano-based ballad which sounds like an out-take from Barlow’s ‘Since I Saw You Last’ album. In an attempt to capture the raw effect, it appears Barlow has positioned himself rather too closely to the microphone, resulting in distortion more than anything else. It’s well-written, although previous Take That ballads are far superior.

12) Get Ready For it

Another dramatic song in the same vein as ‘Freeze’ and ‘Into The Wild’. ‘Get Ready For It’ (rumoured to be the second single) is a pop-rock stomper that closes the standard version of the album perfectly. It’s powerful, euphoric and a complete stadium anthem.

13) Believe

‘Believe’ is an enjoyable piece of pop-rock, reminiscent of the material on Owen’s solo album ‘The Art of Doing Nothing’. It’s an enjoyable song with a big chorus but the boys made the right decision to leave this off the standard edition and put it on the deluxe instead.

14) Amazing

Take That do The Beatles! This couldn’t be any more different stylistically to the rest of the album and therefore it is understandable this has been demoted to a bonus track. It’s a gorgeous song nonetheless and it’s a shame this won’t take pride as a standard edition album track on a pop-rock Take That album. The harmonies are gorgeous, the instrumentation simplistic and the lyrics slushy. It’s unmistakeably Take That and very beautiful it is too.

15) Do it all for Love

A haunting closer to the deluxe version of the album. Mark Owen wails over guitar arpeggios and unmistakable Take That piano chords before the song climaxes into a dramatic power ballad. It’s a powerful, incredibly emotive track with a killer bridge. It’s reminiscent of ‘Nobody Else’ album closer ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ which Owen also performed lead vocals on.

Barlow perhaps put it best when he described ‘III’ as an amalgamation of Take That’s material from the second time around. As an album, it jumps around stylistically, therefore it lacks the cohesion of ‘Progress’. The choice of material on ‘III’ is far superior, however. The fusion of the ‘Beautiful World’, ‘The Circus’ and ‘Progress’ albums works wonderfully, amalgamating the sincere lyrical content with electro-pop and experimental instrumentation to create an incredible, roof-raising album.

Rating: 5/5.

‘III’ is available now on Polydor.

Congratulations, Gary Barlow.

This is a post I’ve meant to write for the last week or so but you know how hectic life can get!

Two weeks ago, Gary Barlow released his first solo studio album in 14 long years. A lot has happened in that time for him, for each individual member of Take That and Take That itself. Promising solo careers faded far into the horizon, the underdog proved victorious and bitter rivalry resulted in long-term rifts and years of anonymity.

600px-Since_I_Saw_You_Last_Album_CoverWe all know the story, Gary’s debut solo effort ‘Open Road’, whilst not perhaps the album he initially intended it to be due to record label input, flew straight into Number One in the UK album charts. Three top 10 singles later (including two Number Ones) and it was decided Gary was well and truly on the right track. Fast forward two years and the dance track ‘Stronger’ was released which reached Number 16. Whilst a respectable chart position, it was the beginning of rocky time. ‘For All that You Want’ charted at a disappointing #24 and Gary’s follow up album ‘Twelve Months Eleven Days’ limped in at an unfair #35. A range of factors have been attributed to the lack of commercial success of Gary’s sophomore solo album; the press, promotional decisions, Robbie Williams. Whatever it was, there’s no denying that such a great album should have fared far better in the charts.

‘Twelve Months…’ was far from a bad album. It showed a high level of musicality and diversity. ‘Stronger’ was more dance-pop orientated, ‘Wondering’ disco-pop along side all of Gary’s classic Barlow ballads. ‘Lie To Me’, which would have been the third single from the album, was considered by critics as one of Barlow’s best compositions at the time and I can’t help but agree. A dramatic, beautiful song, it showed that Gary’s creativity was far from gone.

But the press turned against him. Robbie had turned against him. The public followed. Gary was dropped from his record label and faded into anonymity, facing his humiliation in private. He turned his back on music and gained a significant amount of weight, turning to food for comfort. After a period of depression, Gary turned his life around. He formed a successful career as a songwriter with his friend Elliot Kennedy and the pair spent a successful few years writing for many pop artists.

Then in 2005, Take That returned. I don’t think any of Take That could have anticipated the high demand and high public appreciation for them when they returned. It was supposed to be ‘one last tour’ and a documentary. This transformed into a brand new studio album, the perfect ‘Beautiful World’ which performed fantastically in the charts and much praise was aimed in Barlow’s direction for his songwriting. That isn’t to undermine the other members of Take That’s songwriting ability, however. They all have a key and fundamental role. It’s simply that Barlow is the ringleader, perhaps the member that gets the ball rolling musically. Take That’s success was rebuilt and two more studio albums followed including the reconciliation with Robbie Williams.

During Take That’s hiatus, solo careers began again. Robbie released his best studio album in years with the defiant ‘Take The Crown’. Mark released the criminally underrated ‘The Art of Doing Nothing’. After a successful string of UK tour dates, Gary decided to follow suit and ‘Since I Saw You Last’ was born.

I have to be honest, on my first listens to previews, I wasn’t convinced. My first listen to ‘Let Me Go’ disappointed me hugely. Why? Because it sounds extremely like Mumford and Sons who are one of very few bands that really aren’t my cup of tea! But some songs really caught me even in the previews and I pre-ordered the box-set which arrived around a month later. Not liking the previews didn’t concern me. The ‘Beautiful World’ previews left me underwhelmed. Now it’s my favourite album ever released by any artist.

I loved the album on my first complete listen and I have only grown to love it more with every listen. It’s a beautifully created album. It doesn’t attempt anything drastically different. There’s no experimentation with different genres but that doesn’t matter at all. Instead, we hear lots of guitar driven songs with a hint of folk music. ‘Requiem’ is an awesome opener reminiscent of The Beatles and following the formula of ‘Shine’ a little.

Songs such as ‘Let Me Go’, ‘Small Town Girls’ and ‘This House’ are very ‘Mumford and Sons’ orientated and are perhaps my least favourite songs on the album. I still think they’re great tracks, don’t get me wrong, they’re just not my cup of tea.

Then we reach my favourites. ‘Jump’ is an inspiring and beautiful composition written with Keane’s Tim Rice-Oxley. It’s interesting on this album how many songs borrow elements from Take That’s previous work. The middle eight uses a chord structure extremely similar to Take That’s ‘You’ from The Circus album. Similarly the incredible title track sounds a little like ‘How did it come to this’, also from The Circus. ‘Since I Saw You Last’ is a powerful, energetic song that’s bound to be an epic moment when performed live. You can tell it contains what Gary’s been longing to write for the last fourteen years – “For those who stood and watched, go f**k yourself”, he declares. It’s definitely a highlight of the album and arguably one of Gary Barlow’s best compositions.The repetition of “I know you heard” at the end of the song always hits me emotionally. ‘6th Avenue’ is a sweet song which is rhythmically simple to the sweeping, stunning ‘Like I Never Loved You at all’ from Take That’s Beautiful World album. That’s not to say that these songs rip off existing Take That songs – far from it. They just use a formula that Gary obviously knows works.

‘God’ is another highlight for me. With a haunting introduction and stunning piano runs, it’s an utterly enchanting song. Inquisitive, meaningful lyrics really make this track and it’s a beautiful moment on the album. ‘Face to Face’ is the catchiest song to hit the UK for months. With a little help from Elton John, this is an incredible song sure to stay in your mind for days to come. It’s great to see Gary writing with John Shanks again (responsible for co-writing and producing much of the Beautiful World and The Circus albums) and I really hope they team up again with the other members of Take That when they create Take That’s next album.

Then we reach more tender songs. ‘We Like to Love’ sounds like a hybrid of jazz/easy listening music and something Coldplay would release. It’s an absolutely beautiful song and it’s gorgeous to be able to hear Gary sing in his lower range again which I don’t feel we’ve heard properly since the title track from ‘The Circus’. Then we reach the heartbreaking ‘Dying Inside’. A raw, simplistic song which features just a piano, cello and Gary’s voice, it’s a haunting, gorgeous song. It’s obvious what this song is about, so much so it doesn’t need to be discussed. It’s hard to listen to but at the same time, it’s Gary at his best.

Two songs I also love are only featured on the deluxe version of the album. ‘Mr Everything’ features beautiful piano instrumentation and is just a great track. I particularly love the lyrical content on this one, especially “Ain’t life so cruel when you’re just not good enough?”. And finally, ‘Actress’. I believe Actress is one of Gary’s best songs ever. It’s remarkably catchy and the lyrical content is quirky but extremely clever. It’s just an incredible song.

I think it’s heartbreaking to read so many dismal press reviews of this album. Many called it ‘durgy’ and ‘boring’ but it’s far from that. It’s an honest, fantastically written album. Gary sticks to what he loves and does best – pop-rock songs and beautiful ballads. So what if it doesn’t push boundaries? So what if it doesn’t cause controversy? It’s been created lovingly and that’s perhaps the most important thing in music. Gary didn’t need to create this album. He created it because he felt he had something to give as a solo artist and because he WANTED to.

‘Since I Saw You Last’ reached an amazing Number Two position in the UK album charts on its release. Why am I so proud? For many reasons. It was a tough week in the album charts as Gary faced fierce competition from those such as One Direction (who were always undoubtedly going to reach the Number One spot). Also it takes a lot of guts to face the world as a solo artist again when things ended so sourly before. Jason Orange once said in an interview “Gary didn’t fail” (regarding his solo career). I couldn’t put it better myself. Gary didn’t fail the first time around, it was due to circumstances beyond his control. No matter how good his second album was, it was never going to be successful due to the press and public perceptions at that time.

I’m proud of Gary Barlow for having the guts to release another solo album. For getting back up from that dark place he was fourteen years ago. For creating such a beautiful piece of art. And for getting to Number Two in the album charts when it’s extremely difficult to do so in this day and age.

Proud member of the GB Army right here.