Newest Review: ... spine from the opening 'Standing....' right through the lowered key change as Barlow and Williams co-lead on the track. There are certain... more
No more holding back the flood for these guys
Progress - Take That
Member Name: pmcds
Progress - Take That
Advantages: Mature and diverse; all of them partake and it's passionate
For me, it started with the front cover, showing the five members of the band in an image that reminds you of the evolutionary line from ape to man, each one of the band striking a pose. It does actually make you wonder if the music here is going to be somewhat different to what we're used to from them.
Largely, it is, and although my lack of recognition of the tracks was initially a worry that I just wouldn't get into it, I found myself impressed with the composition skills that have Gary Barlow's stamp all over them, as well as the now recognisable vocals from most of the band. While previous attempts have usually focused a lot of Barlow's voice, curiously this album features rather little of it. His keyboard skills are put to use on every track, but vocally it's Mark Owen and Robbie Williams who take the plaudits for the singing for the most part here.
The album starts off with the commercial track that has no doubt caused the majority of sales for the albu, The Flood. I really enjoyed this one when it came out as a single, being played pretty much everywhere. It was not long after Williams' return to the fold to reform the five of them that this came out, and fans of Take That will no doubt have experienced a shiver down their spine from the opening 'Standing....' right through the lowered key change as Barlow and Williams co-lead on the track. There are certain feel good elements on here that have become quite signature with Barlow's writing, and there are no surprises, just entertainment.
This is where the expectations finish though. Much as Williams' first solo album Life Thru A Lens was, this features a lot of passionate and quirky sounds, from the harmonious falsettos of Happy Now to the loud and low aggression of SOS, which Mark Owen takes the lead on. Owen's music has seen highs and lows. I thought his first couple of solo efforts after they originally split were okay, but not enough to go and buy the album. However, put him with the others in Take That and he really shines. You only have to look at Shine (not on this album) to see how much more relaxed and capable he is with the others around him. Here, What Do You Want From Me? is a prime example, with the singer's thoughts and feelings strong as is his voice. I thought this track invoked passion from the lyrics and the gentle way he sings it, while his voice on SOS with Robbie has an aggressive tone that matches the co-singer.
Owen has made no bones about the hurt he felt when Robbie left the band originally; indeed, Shine was written by Owen about the man he considered his best friend and role model. The ego-mad Williams dips into most tracks here, and in many ways it's as if he never left. The voice integrates very well with the rest of them, and in particular the way his and Howard Donald's voices link on Wait makes you smile somewhat. Donald and fellow backing vocalist Jason Orange were always considered the two less likely to provide lead vocals on tracks, but this never seemed to bother them as much. I'm sure Barlow still rues the day he let Donald sign the lead on Never Forget, the group's iconic track that has fans with their hands in the air and is always a great one to end a gig on. In Progress, we see a solid solo effort from Donald in Affirmation, and it's curious how I find myself listening to the tracks not just for the music, but to see who's singing each track.
I suppose it's hard to have a decade of your teenage years dominated by a band who took the world by storm only to see them split up just as you turn your attention to something different and more current and contemporary; only to then see them come back again with a maturity that makes you listen a lot more to the lyrics than their lust and love fueled churn pop did in the 90s. The same sort of things are there, talking about life's journeys and loves lost, but there are also a lot of forward thinking lyrics. It's no longer just about living in the moment. These teenage hearthrobs are now family men, and proud of it. Owen sings about wanting to continue a future with the love of his life; he and Barlow sing about being in trouble when the kidz (not a typo) come out, which I gathered was about parenthood; while the reflection of time running out and wisdom not being forthcoming enough in What Do You Want From Me? is a panic button being pushed, completely the opposite to the buildup of quirkiness in Pretty Things which crescendos and is possibly the most enjoyable all round tune on the album.
Progress is perfectly named, in all ways. It not only highlights the way their musicality has developed over the years and how they're more mature and wise; but also how they have progressed as a group of friends. Perhaps the key thing is the finish, which is Jason Orange's chance to shine, for once. Certainly the one to have been left out of the solo opportunities throughout the group's history, this is often put down to the fact that his voice is not as reliable as the others' vocal talents. Here though, there is a secret track at the end of the album that Jason leads on, and it's one of the most thought-provoking there. Thumbs up for him on this one, even if the breakdancing, philosophising and harmonies are his forte within the group.
The album doesn't supply you with the lyrics for this one as it's secret, although the stark yellow paper accompaniment that helps make this album instantly recognisable on your shelf (unless it's next to Dizzee Rascal's Boy In The Cover) gives the lyrics to all the tracks. I like this - who really wants to know the name of the man who played third guitar on the sixth track and whether it was created in 2010 despite the album coming out in 2011? Not me - I want to know what they're singing, and this album gives you just that. On the left of each double page you have the lyrics for the two tracks, and on the right a head and shoulders digital image of one of the boys from the band. Simple yet effective and you don't have to spend the whole album making up words because you can't quite make it out.
All five of them take credit for writing the album, and so they should. There's a maturity here that impresses me, and although the album is now two years old, you can tell that because Robbie dips in and out of the band but the other four carry on, there's a certain acceptance about it. They're friends who like making music together and who are actually very good at it. Their personalities balance in real life and in their music, and you get a true feeling of intent and feeling when listening to this album. It's experimental in a way, almost as if they're feeling their way into this decade with it, a second wind in their professional careers taking shape after comfortably and successfully coming back onto the screen and reintegrating their estranged fifth member, if only for a one off. This particular one is a single disc, 11 track (including the secret track) CD. There is a further purchase, a double album called Progression, which adds something extra, but this single disc is enough to be going on with. Well worth the purchase, you no longer need to be a screaming teen to buy a Take That album. In fact, it's almost cool.
Summary: Impressively mature and experimental album from a reformed Take That