SCANNING the titles of Since I Saw You Last, Gary Barlow’s first solo album in 14 years, you could be forgiven for thinking the Frodsham-born Take That kingpin had gone all serious and navel-gazing on us.
The opener was entitled Requiem while other songs included Dying Inside, God and More Than Life. Had the writer of umpteen Take That smashes taken solace in his songwriting following the stillborn delivery of his fourth child last July?
Maybe. It’s hard to pinpoint what is the inspiration behind the modern hymn Godor More Than Life which could be a love song to his wife as much as it could be for his unborn daughter.
And while the beautiful Dying Inside almost certainly needs no explanation, Requiem is as joyous a song as Barlow has ever put his name to – perhaps that’s partially down to the input of co-writer Robbie Williams – and is the first I have heard that seems created deliberately for playing at one’s own funeral (“Why did you bring me flowers when you know that I can’t smell a thing?”).
Whatever the lyrical subject matter, though, what is undeniable is that Since I Saw You Last is a rock solid collection of pop which will ensure that Barlow retains his status as one of the nation’s favourite singers.
That’s one of the nation’s favourites as opposed to most fashionable – as the title track acknowledges, he is never going to be a darling of the chattering classes but, quite frankly, he is all the better for it.
It won’t earn you any cool points but writing songs about homes (This House) and somehow cheese-free McCartney-esque ruminations on British life (Small Town Girls), while making each and every one stick in one’s brain with the resilience of Sir Ranulph Fiennes on an Arctic expedition, is a talent worth cherishing.
Like this? Try these: Paul McCartney and Wings, Band on the Run; Robbie Williams, I’ve Been Expecting You; Elton John, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road