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The Backstreet Boys were one of the biggest male groups of the late 1990's with their blend of dance pop and ballads. At the turn of the new millenium they released Black and Blue which featured hits such as "Shape of my heart", "More than that" and "The Call". The band then went on an unofficial hiatus with a mix of record company problems and the release of Nick Carter solo album "Now or Never" to fill in the gaps.
They began recording for Never Gone in 2004 and finished the album in January 2005, Never Gone was released on 14th June 2005 on the Jive Record Label with which they had threatened to sue over alleged breach of contract before the near four year hiatus. The first single released from Never Gone was "Incomplete" and was followed up with "I just want you to know" although the two singles did well they were not as successful as some of Backstreet Boys biggest hits in the late 1990's. It was the last album featuring Kevin Richardson who left to pursue other interests.
2. Just Want You to Know
3. Crawling Back to You
4. Weird World
5. I Still...
6. Poster Girl
7. Lose It All
8. Climbing the Walls
9. My Beautiful Woman
10. Safest Place to Hide
12. Never Gone
13. Song for the unloved
14. Rush over me
15 Movin On
I had heard the singles from the album but had never heard the other tracks on the album just because I am such a fan of music that I was listening to many other kinds of music all the time. I gave the album a try on Spotify and I was really pleasantly surprised by what I heard. I was quite a big fan of them in my teen years and own all their albums up to Black and Blue. "Never Gone" sees them change their overall sound with a more "mature" overall sound which still has elements of their previous music but with a different feel.
The album opens with the first single "Incomplete" which is a really impressive opening which I would describe as the piano based "Show me the meaning of being lonely" which of course was acoustic guitar led. The track is about how you feel when a relationship breaks up. Nick and AJ Share lead vocals on this track and both do a good job. I like the way the song slows down at the end with the nice piano part.
Next up we have "Just want you to know" which is the second single from the album and although not as instant as the opening track it's still an impressively catchy slice of pop. Nick Carter opens the track with a deeper vocal than usual and the catchy beat and vocal harmony of the group bind the song together very well. Good stuff.
Now we have the third single from the album "Crawling back to you" this features Brian Litrell on lead vocals and his laid back vocal gets the song off to a good start with Nick and AJ also providing vocals for other verses. The best thing about the song is the chorus which is emotive and explains the sentiment of the song well.
Next up is the first moment where you notice the difference between this album and their previous albums. "Weird World" is the name of the song and This is not your typical Backstreet Boys track and is more akin to a catchy track from Take That's return. This is a very impressive track which has a really catchy feel and a very good flow. Good song all round.
Next up is "I Still" which is the fourth and final single from the album, It opens with a Linkin Park keyboard like intro and then the catchy drum beat comes in. This is another impressive slice of adult pop with Brian, Nick and AJ all having good vocal parts and Howie and Kevin back up the vocal parts well when they all perform vocal harmonies.
"Poster Girl" opens with a soft guitar intro and then the beat comes in which reminds me a little of the feel of Black and Blue and then the vocal harmonies come in with a brilliantly catchy feel, this is one of the best tracks on the album and is a great indication of the talent they have for vocal harmonies. Not smooth like you would expect but the way the vocals integrate together to create a very interesting and catchy feel.
"Lose It All" is up next and is a lovely piano led ballad which opens with expressive vocals from Nick who's vocals are then replaced by AJ. Kevin Richardson gets his first lone vocal on the album on a verse that then leads into a group vocal. This has a pop rock feel which flows well and is another pretty good track.
"Climbing the walls" is another pop rock ballad that has a nice flow, Brian opens the vocals then the group come together with a good group vocal. This is one of the slightly lesser tracks on the album as it does not feel as emotive as much of the rest of the album but has a decent enough flow to keep it clearly above average.
"My Beautiful Woman" is a very bass heavy track which has a very different feel than anything they have done before. Nick Carter's vocals are really strong on the track as are AJ's. This is a contender for best track on the album and I can imagine it being a great live track as it features great vocals and a very musical backing which is a feature of the track. Brilliant stuff.
"Safest place to hide" is a gentle piano and guitar led track which is more like what Backstreet Boys are known for. This is a Brian Litrell opened track which develops well, After Howie's vocal part the song gets into a good flow and as the beat comes in Nick take's over on vocals with a tender vocal which flows along with the music well until AJ takes over with his distinctive vocal. This is another good track which is topped off with Kevin's country tinged vocal towards the end.
"Siberia" is up next and from the opening this is another track you might not expect from the boys but it blends into a more backstreet boys like track. It has a heavy beat and some nice hooks, Brian opens on vocals. This track is about when you love someone but they no longer love you and how your heart feels cold as if there's something missing. This is a very good ballad which continues the quality of the album.
"Never Gone" is up next and this is surprisingly the only track written by any of the members which if you look at their other albums credits you will see they usually are pretty much writers on every song. Kevin wrote this song with Gary Baker and Steve Diamond about the death of his father. This track is summed up by the lyrics "Never Gone, Never Far, In my heart is where you are, always close, every day". Great track.
*Europe Bonus Tracks*
"Song for the unloved" is another catchy track which has a good use of the bands vocal harmonies and is one of the best flowing tracks on the album. This is a track about when you feel alone you should try and strive to feel strong and get through your pain. This features a nice guitar solo with breaks the music well when it slows down and changes. Good stuff and a worthy bonus.
"Rush Over Me" is a musically fantastic track which has a dramatic feel that is again different from previous Backstreet Boys material and the taut beat really works well with the other instruments to create the ideal sound stage for the vocals. Nick and AJ are particularly good on this track. A very good penultimate track on the album. Good stuff.
"Movin On" is the final track on the bonus edition and is a Howie Dorough penned track with Wade Robson and Nate Butler. This is an interesting track which features brilliant acapella like vocals and a catchy beat which moves along well. This might just be the best I have ever heard their vocals. They sound superb both individually especially AJ and Nick and as a Group. Brilliant stuff.
I came into listening to this track thinking that they may have had their day creatively but after listening to Never Gone I am pleased to report that This is actually a very good album indeed which sees the group continue to grow as a vocal harmony group as well as in their song craft as well. I will have to buy this album after all and I can't wait for their new album which is out next month to see if they still have it four years after this was released. Never Gone is very good indeed.
- Introduction/Background Information -
Never Gone is the Backstreet Boys fifth original studio album, which came out in June 2005, after a turbulent time for all BSB fans'. Its the follow up to 2000s Black and Blue album (which I just reviewed a couple of days ago) and I know quite a few fans weren't sure if they would ever hear another album from the group after what happened in early 2002, with band member Nick deciding to take time out from the group and work on his own solo project and the group suing their record label, Jive, for a sizeable figure. The true outcome of that lawsuit was never really disclosed, its something I still wonder about to this day but never the less, a follow up to Black and Blue did indeed happen and was released some four and a half years after its predecessor.
By the time Never Gone came out, many journalists presumed that the group had officially split up in the years between when they finished touring with the Black and Blue album and when this album came out, with articles about the members often stating them as 'former Backstreet Boy *whoever*', so they decided to name the album Never Gone, as a way of dismissing such claims. They never did officially split up but very little had been heard in the media regarding them as a group from 2003-2005 (apart from a very emotional Oprah show where band member AJ discussed his drink and drugs battle and where the other band members surprised him with a surprise visit and they all ended the show with the news that they would indeed be going back into the studio to work on their new album, which turns out to be this, of course) so now they had a new album out, they were wanting to prove that, as their second album so proudly puts it, 'Backstreets Back'.
The main difference with Never Gone, compared to their previous albums, is that this album featured a slightly different sound, a more rock oriented sound (though its still very pop based, more pop/rock and less vocal harmony/R&B based), which many fans still discuss to this day, whether its a better sound for them or not. Some people hate the pop/rock and only ever want to hear them sing R&B/vocal harmony, others think the other way around, I guess it just depends on your tastes, though there will always be a place in my heart for their R&B/vocal harmony type tracks.
For more information on the tracks that make up 'Never Gone', read on:-
- Track Listing -
1 - Incomplete - This is the first single taken from this album, which has quite a power ballad feel to it. The chorus is quite heavy and it is pretty catchy too. The music video I wasn't overly impressed with, it is fairly typical boy band type stuff, though I guess it is atmospheric in parts where it builds up to the ending, which is pretty good. I didn't really feel like it showed that the group had moved on, musically and vocally speaking, all that much at first, although I have grown to like it more. AJs vocals are showcased quite well in this song too, the song is better than the video I think.
2 - Just Want You To Know - This song was also released as a single and the music video to go with this song is, if I may say so, really funny! in it, the guys are shown as fans of an 1980s rock group, who travel to a venue to watch them in concert, only you discover that the rock group are also the guys, wearing lycra tops and big perm wigs and all the rest. The song itself is very upbeat and its probably the most obvious pop/rock track on the whole album, in my opinion. Its also quite catchy with a fun electronic type beat in the background. Its kind of funky and is a song that you might like to sing along to with friends.
3 - Crawling Back To You - This is quite a powerful track, though it is slightly slower and more under stated than Incomplete. In it, the guys talk about how wrong they were to let go of the person they love and that their begging to be given another chance to be with them again, so lyrically its nothing new but it does have quite a nice sound to it. It starts off quite quiet and then builds up into more of a powerful ballad and it has a steady drum beat in the background.
4 - Weird World - This track starts with a piano playing a jolly tune in the background and Nick talking about how 'the sun is over the city but its an orange day, there is reason for looking up but im feeling down' (an orange day referring to the American national security level, where its heightened when there's a risk of terrorist attack etc.). Its basically all about the way the world is nowadays and how we shouldn't let whats going on around us, get us too down. Its a nice, feel good song, that is quite snappy and fun, although it is also kind of cheesy, lyrically speaking, with lyrics about a GI in the desert and thanking him for bringing them another dawn etc., which some people may not necessarily agree with, politically speaking, and such like... generally its quite a fun, light song that is easy to hum and tap your toes to though, the piano (which was played by Kevin when they toured with this material in 2005) adds a nice upbeat feel to it and it flows quite well.
5 - I Still... - This was an unofficial single, which did have an official music video but it wasn't officially released on CD in the UK or most other European countries, so it had to be ordered through import from somewhere else in Europe at the time, if I remember right(?) my single is in a cardboard sleeve, so it wasn't properly released,only semi, or whatever. Anyway it is this albums closest equivalent of Everybody from the Black and Blue album or Larger Than Life from the Millennium album, in that its lyrics could be taken as a message from the group to their fans, that they are still here and that they still appreciate us. The song starts with what I presume is some synethetic sort of electronic noise in the background and then drums kick in with a steady beat and Brian starts the vocals, questioning 'who are you now, are you still the same or did you change somehow? what do you do, at this very moment when I think of you. And when im looking back, how we were young and stupid, do you remember that?' before Nicks vocals begin 'no matter how I fight it, can't deny it, just can't let you go' and the chorus starts with the whole group singing 'I still need you, I still care about you, though everythings been said and done. I still feel you, like your right beside me, but still no, word from you'. It is more of a love song but there is something in it that makes it feel like perhaps they are addressing their fans more generally in this track too.
Either way, its a nice midtempo track, thats quite feel good and it features most of the group on leads, apart from Howie I think.
6 - Poster Girl - This is another up beat, fun track. It also has a nice beat to it and features all the guys. The song is about a girl called Jody who leads a rather promiscuous lifestyle, put it that way and the chorus says 'That the consequences of your actions really are just a game, That your life is just a chain reaction taking you day by day, She says nothing's forever in this crazy world, Still I'm falling in love with the right now poster girl'. Its not one of the best tracks on the album, its more of a filler track but its good enough for you to catch yourself humming along to it a bit.
7 - Lose It All - This song is similar to Crawling Back To You, in that it starts quite slow but then builds up to a faster tempo, though it isn't strictly a fast tempo song as such. It again has a nice background beat to it and its nice to hear Kevin gets a go at leads on this track for at least one verse anyway (he and Howie often tended not to feature on leads so often). The lyrics are all that great, for example the chorus goes "And if I lose it all, There'll be nothing left to lose and I would take the fall, 'Cause knowing you are out there breathing, It's so wonderful, it's a chance I take even if I break it, I lose it all, if I lose it all, Wouldn't matter anyway". I know some fans complain that the first two lines are really a bit silly, if you were to lose it all then obviously there would be nothing left to lose but that is being a bit nit-picky, as I'd say, I guess. It still sounds quite pleasant with a nice beat and drums in the background, its a fairly pleasant track.
8 - Climbing The Walls - This is one of my more favourite tracks on the album. It is pretty atmospheric and starts again with a kind of electronic beat noise in the background before it cuts to drums and it starts quite upbeat, with Brian doing the vocals until the group cut in to sing the chorus. Its pretty catchy and fun and talks about how their 'climbing the walls' waiting to hear from somebody if they have another shot at a relationship. It does build up a bit into more of a power ballad-esque sound and it sounds semi orchestral towards the end of the song, making it quite atmospheric. It showcases most of the guys vocal ranges at one point or another too, which is quite good.
9 - My Beautiful Woman - This song starts with quite a sort of oriental sound in the background (its hard to describe!). In it they sing about how infatuated they are by this beautiful woman, that 'im finding it harder and harder to breathe, every time I hear my beautiful woman'. In one part of the song, they explain what each letter of the word beautiful stands for in relation to this woman. The song does feature some guitar particularly towards the end of the track, where it does become more rock sounding.
10 - Safest Place To Hide - This song starts out with a piano playing a quiet tune in the background and again Brian starts the song by singing the first verse. It starts off quite slow and it builds up a little during it, not so much as in other tracks but a little bit during the chorus and it is one of the slowest tracks on the album. It is quite touching though, with lyrics including 'I know I promised you forever, Is there no stronger word I can use, To reassure you when the storm is raging outside, You're my safest place to hide' and the chorus, which goes 'Can you see me, here I am, Standing here where I've always been, And when words are not enough, I climb inside your heart and still find, You're my safest place to hide'. Its nice to hear that again Kevin got to sing leads for at least one verse on this track as well. Again to me, personally, this is quite a touching track. Many people requested it at their soundcheck parties during the Never Gone tour because they didn't include it on the set list for their concerts (boo!).
11 - Siberia - This is my favourite track from this album, it also is a special song for alot of BSB fans and I hear that Nick has said that its one of his favourite songs to sing live too. Siberia is also a very atmospheric song, if you've seen it performed live then you should know what I mean. Originally it was mentioned in a magazine article published somewhere foreign and when a fan tried to translate it, it came out as being called 'Cold Russian', which confused many of us but no, Siberia it is lol. Again it starts with a nice midtempo beat in the background and Brian sings the first verse leading into the chorus, which in this case, he continues to sing instead of all the guys. The song also features what sounds like bagpipes towards the end, which adds to the atmosphere. It is quite sad, particularly towards the end of the song, its quite touching. The song talks about how the guy's 'heart did time in Siberia, waiting for the lie to come true, because its all so dark and mysterious, when the one you want doesn't want you too'. There is a part where Brian sings very quietly 'When I came back she wasn't there, Just a note left on the stairs, "If you wanna talk, give me a call"' (before cutting back to the chorus). That part I always find particularly touching, for some reason. It is a great song to hear live, the guys sound good singing it and on the Never Gone tour they had snowflakes blown out into the audience. It can be hard to explain why exactly certain tracks are more touching or mean more than others but I have just always particularly liked this track and find it to be very atmospheric, like I say it was done very well live. I was lucky enough to have seen it from third row in Wembley and every time I hear the track, I remember that.
12 - Never Gone - This is a sad track for most, who have lost someone special, be that a family member or a friend or whoever, in life, some struggle to listen to it without getting too emotional even. It was co-written by Kevin, who lost his father in the early 1990s. The song talks about how reminiscing on old memories and how they realise the importance of that person and that 'Never gone, never far, In my heart is where you are, Always close, everyday, Every step along the way, Even though for now we've gotta say goodbye, I know you will be forever in my life (yeah)', so its all about continuing the memory of somebody who has passed away. Its mid tempo and AJ, Brian, Nick and Howie all get a chance to sing their own lines. I don't think they've ever performed this track live, indeed when they toured with the Never Gone tour, when the actual song 'Never Gone' played, they went off stage and instead a video presentation was shown. I guess its too emotional a song for them to sing, particularly for Kevin... I wonder how many tissues they went through when recording it originally in the studio(?).
13 - Song For The Unloved (Bonus Track) - This is another good track, which I think does show more maturity. They sing 'This one's for the bridesmaid, Never the bride, This one's for the dreamers, Who locked their faith inside, This is for the widows, Who think there's only one, The dying fathers that never told their sons, No one is glamourously lonely, Follow your heart...'. It is quite a powerful track, AJs vocal range is showcased quite well and it is also pretty atmospheric, with a nice beat to it. There's also a bell type noise used to hit home at certain intervals and the ending has a slightly spooky sound added to it.
14 - Rush Over Me (Bonus Track) - This track was co-written by all five members. It again has a spooky sound or feel to it, with a sort of whistling noise at the start and some other sound effects used during the start. Yet again, Brian starts on vocals before the rest of the guys cut in at the chorus.
Its a mid tempo and it has a good strong beat to it in the background to keep it moving along, so to speak. It is quite catchy in a sense and is also a track that is hard not to sway or tap your toes along to a little. Sample lyrics include 'And now I feel so alive, I know that there must be, Something here, (so alive), Cause you're all the air in my atmosphere, Finally I feel complete cause, You are rushed over me.' (the chorus is slightly saucy so I decided not to add that but you can search for it on google if you like lol!). Also its mainly Nick, Brian and AJ that feature in leads on this track.
- DVD -
This CD comes with a DVD as well. The DVD I haven't watched much but I believe it includes some behind the scenes footage at the filming of the Incomplete video and some general behind the scenes footage, as well as the full music video for Incomplete and a photo gallery that shows photos taken from the official album photoshoot, which is set to music. The DVD also features an extra track, called Last Night You Saved My Life (a bouncy teen pop song that is a little annoyingly catchy! lol), which plays on the menu screens I believe and that is in 5.1 digital audio.
- CD Cover Artwork/CD Booklet -
The CD cover features a picture of the groups official photographer, Andre Csillag, taking a photo of the group, with a rather old, victorian style camera with a large flash lens. The guys are wearing suit and ties, well Howie is wearing his tie anyway and Kevins is very loose looking, with the three others not wearing any. Inside the CD booklet you'll find more photos from the official album photo shoot, of the guys in suits playing cards with drinks and hanging out at an old closed diner. It has an old 'feel' to it and it seems like they are carrying on the theme of being seen as serious, mature musicians through their album photo shoots, similar to the shots used for the Black and Blue album.
I don't like the booklet for having the song information so squashed and not properly laid out. It unfolds into another picture of a reflection of the group on some water and the guys thank yous can also be found there. Also on the back page of the booklet is a big circle featuring lots of photos. The photos are of fans who sent in their photos to the official site, only so many could be used and mine wasn't picked but oh well, maybe another time lol it says underneath 'A special thanks to all our fans around the world'.
- Conclusions/Any Other Thoughts? -
Never Gone was a welcome addition to my music collection back in 2005, as I had been unsure whether I would ever hear a brand new album from the group, given what had happened with the Jive lawsuit and Nick going solo. Its usually referred to as the guys' pop/rock album, however the more I think about that recently, the more I question it - ok so Just Want You To Know is clearly pop/rock and a couple of tracks like Incomplete and possibly Crawling Back To You, can be classified as power ballads but otherwise? its more general pop than anything else. I don't really think its that predominantly rock oriented and, to me, its gems lie in the more R&B sounding tracks like Siberia, Crawling Back To You (I guess thats more of an R&B power ballad? I dont know lol) and Climbing The Walls. Siberia is now one of my favourite BSB tracks in general, especially having seen it performed live. You could easily shrug them off as a manufactured boy band trying to hang on to success but trust me, they are talented vocalists. I'm not thirteen anymore and there is something special that is known as the 'BSB sound' or 'Backstreet Sound', where you'll hear the intro to a song and know right away that its one of theirs... there is something that makes most of their songs really worth listening to.
Its not their best album ever, I feel but yet it does have some gems, as mentioned above and so is well worth listening to. I was sad that the tracks don't showcase their vocal talents better, I know they can sing tracks that do showcase that more but I believe their next album (the follow up to 2007s Unbreakable) will have more of an R&B/Vocal harmony sound to it, so hopefully that will be good. I'm sad that they didn't write or co-write more of the tracks too.
I hope this review is useful for some, I find it hard sometimes to think how to explain my opinions, why I particularly like or aren't so keen on particular tracks and how to explain why I think some are particularly atmospheric, so some I reckon I can do that without listing actual lyrics but others I get stuck if I don't do that, I think... I don't mean for it to be a cop out though... I had waited until I had posted many other film and other types of reviews that were well rated before I thought I would attempt to try and review music CDs, let alone some of my favourite ones.
I hope this review either serves as a nice trip down memory lane for some or that its useful to anyone looking to add to their CD collection from this time... thanks, as always, for all r/r/c's.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
2 Just Want You To Know
3 Crawling Back To You
4 Weird World
5 I Still?
6 Poster Girl
7 Lose It All
8 Climbing The Walls
9 My Beautiful Woman
10 Safest Place To Hide
12 Never Gone
13 Song For The Unloved (Bonus Track)
14 Rush Over Me (Bonus Track)
Disc #2 Tracklisting
1 Incomplete Video (Available in Dolby Digital Stereo and 5.1 Digital Surround)
2 Making of Incomplete
3 Photo Gallery (14 photos set to ?Incomplete? Instrumental)
4 Bonus Audio Track ?Last Night You Saved My Life? (Available in Dolby Digital Stereo and 5.1 Digital Surround)