"Taking the Mechanics for a test drive" - The new Mike & The Mechanics album. Review by Alan Hewitt.

Well, it is now some fourteen years since the Mechanics began their existence and I am sure that I am not the only one who was pleasantly surprised by their success both at home and further afield. Now the band come to that difficult "fifth" album and what does it have in store for us? Well, we shall see...

"Whenever I Stop" opens the album with a pleasant acoustic shuffle which certainly reminded me vaguely of "Another Cup Of Coffee" from the band's previous album, without being too derivative and with a jazzier tinge to it - an excellent opener.

"Now That You've Gone" is the first single from the album and is an altogether more mainstream 'pop' song which owes a great deal to Everything But The Girl's "Miss You". An infectious rhythm track and superb vocal delivery by Paul Carrack will ensure that this is a massive hit when it is released on May 17. "Ordinary Girl" is, to my ears, a definite nod in the direction of earlier tunesmiths The Beatles; especially the lush string driven opening and jangly guitar playing and heavier percussive moments. Paul Young's vocals certainly deliver the goods with this one making it another potential single.

"All The Light I Need" is another example of the Mechanics' skill at writing power ballads; and this one is certainly one of their finest. Paul Carrack's plaintive vocals make an emphatic pull at your heartstrings and leave you basking in the afterglow of the music. "What Will You Do?" Is a rockier number which will certainly get people on their feet at the forthcoming gigs by the band. Certainly the bass and drums take higher priority on this one, giving the lie to the people who think that Mike & The Mechanics can't do rock'n'roll!

"My Little Island" is another fine performance by Paul Young in the slightly bluesy style which he has made an integral part of Sad Café, perhaps the island is where the "Beggar" found his/her beach of gold - who knows? "Open Up" delivers another fine performance by Mr Carrack accompanied by as lush a musical backdrop as you could wish for and personally is another tip for a prospective single. "When I get Over You" is an angst driven rocker with a feisty vocal from Mr. Young where he delivers the venom of the jilted lover who is the subject of the song, with fire and commitment ably accompanied by a darksome keyboard wash and jabbing acoustic guitar, almost like twisting of a knife - an excellent dramatic track!

"If Only" harks back to "Beggar..." this track is a delightful love song acoustically driven and perfectly delivered by Paul Carrack and some of the acoustic playing which fans of Mike's earlier work have always wished for on a Mechanics album. "Asking (For The Last Time)" is a deliciously funky little number powered along by some super bass playing and jazz guitar, very much in the mold of Paul Carracks' polished Northern Soul grooves. "Always Listen To Your Heart" is very much Paul Young's side of the field; a funk driven rocker with a powerhouse rhythm section backing his credentials as one of rock's finest singers.

"Did You See Me Coming" is an almost countrified acoustic track which blends melody and counterpoints it with Paul Carrack's distinctive vocal style, to give us a track which is pure Mike & The Mechanics. "Look Across At Dreamland" an intriguing title for the album's closer, but having run the full gamut of emotions and styles over the previous twelve tracks; it is only fitting that the album is drawn to a glorious conclusion and this track certainly fits the bill.

So, there you have it. Already apparently the critics have their knives out for the band but they shouldn't really worry about them too much, because the fans are far more discerning than the critics and I am sure that this album will satisfy any Mechanics fan - it certainly rates highly with me!

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