It’s hard to imagine there was a time when Gary Barlow wasn’t loved by the nation isn’t it? In 1996 following the demise of Take That, Barlow launched a solo career with two number one singles – Forever Love and Love Won’t Wait – and scored a platinum number one album with Open Road. The signs were looking good but in 1999 his second album Twelve Months, Eleven Days bombed and he fell into the shadow of former bandmate Robbie Williams. Since Take That made a huge comeback in 2006 with Beautiful World, it seems Barlow can do no wrong. Now in his third and final year as a judge on The X Factor, Barlow has released his first solo album in 14 years entitled Since I Saw You Last.
The first single from Since I Saw You Last was Let Me Go which has so far peaked at number 2 in the UK singles chart. The song is a departure from the sound of Barlow’s previous albums and more in line with the mature sound sported by Take That since their reunion. Let Me Go is in the vein of Mumford and Sons and is much folkier than we’ve heard from Barlow previously. The entire album is written or co-written by Barlow with a little help on three tracks from John Shanks, Keane’s Tim Rice-Oxley on one track and Take That bandmate Robbie Williams on opening track Requiem, which also features backing vocals from Williams.
There’s never been any doubt that Barlow is a gifted vocalist and songwriter. He understands how to craft a pop song and he’s been doing it for years as the main force behind Take That. For this album he’s clearly drawn inspiration from the recent folk revival as well as looking back to the greats such as Elton John, who features on Face to Face, and The Beatles. Quite a lot of these songs could have easily come out of the 60s and 70s and Barlow has definitely captured that vibe.
Unfortunately that means that the album can be a little dull at times. The songs blend into one another as there’s little variation in terms of tempo. That isn’t to say there aren’t some gems though. The folksy This House is one of the strongest tracks on the album whilst piano ballad finds Barlow in his comfort zone. Dying Inside pushes Barlow vocally pairing piano with his rarely heard falsetto.
Where the album falls down is songs like Jump which sound like they would have been better suited to Westlife or the rather dirgey God which had us reaching for the skip button the minute it came on. It’s all a little too safe for us but Barlow’s core fanbase will absolutely love the album.
Since I Saw You Last is a solid effort from Barlow but it lacks the quirk and variety of fellow Take That member Robbie Williams. The album is very listenable but it can be a little bland and dull in places. We must give credit to Barlow though for showing a different side to his musical abilities and allowing his music to mature with him. Since I Saw You Last has already proven to be a hit with fans but we would have liked something a little more than middle of the road.