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Record Rating: *****

TAKE THAT - BEAUTIFUL WORLD The definitive boy band of the early 90s, Take That was undefeatable on the pop charts. During their six years together, the group sold millions of records, racked up seven #1 singles, and set the blueprint for hundreds of copycat groups like Boyzone, Westlife and Blue. Band member Robbie Williams walked out in 1995 at the height of their success, and a few months later the remaining four would call it a day as well.

After the groupís break-up, lead vocalist Gary Barlow released a #1 album and two #1 singles, but by the end of the 90s, it was Williams who went on to become one of the UKís biggest pop stars. The group reunited for a one-off documentary on the band in 2005, and that eventually led to the official reformation tour. Williams didnít take part, for he had the slight matter of his own record-breaking, global stadium jaunts; and he doesnít show on the bandís first new studio album in 11 years either. Barlow and the other boys are wise enough to try something new on Beautiful World; theyíve traded in their bubblegum pop sound for more adult contemporary music that sounds like a 90s Bryan Adams record.

To their credit, Take That acquit themselves reasonably well here; this is a well-made effort, with a bagful of standout tracks among the eleven cuts. First single Patience, which entered the UK charts at #1, appealingly sounds like a latter-day Beatles ballad; while on new single Shine, the quartet are relentlessly upbeat, striving to savour lifeís fleeting pleasures as they whiz by in the ether. Producer and songwriter John Shanks takes the bandís music in a new direction. Unlike the clattering, noisy style he favoured when working with Alanis Morrisette, Shanks allows a lot of space into the songs, resulting in pieces like the prayerful seven-minute-long Wooden Boat. Elsewhere, the mood is predominantly mellow on love songs Like I Never Loved At All, but never flaccid or complacent; there is a radiance that glows throughout.

With songs as catchy as Reach Out and Ainít No Sense of Love, this is the groupís best album since Everything Changes. Itís smoother and more polished than their previous work, and now in their thirties, Barlow, Owen, Orange and Howard are singing better than ever and their songwriting is improving. Thatís a good thing too, since Beautiful World is the first Take That album not to contain any cover songs. A really fine, surprising comeback effort, this is accessible pop music that any generation could relate to. Well recommended.

Read our other reviews:

Muse - Black Holes And Revelations       Akon - Konvicted       The Killers - Sam's Town       Imogen Heap - Speak For Yourself      


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