Monday, June 13, 2011

Album Review: Take That - Progressed (4.5/5)

Take That's Progress was a remarkable pop album, surprisingly forward-facing with its smart Stuart Price production. It was the Christmas season's biggest seller in the UK--spending 6 weeks at #1 to become the year's best-selling album. As wonderful as it is though, it's shelf-life has proven to be remarkably short, with the album's singles after "The Flood" failing to gain much traction.

So here comes an EP, Progressed, to rejuvenate the project just in time for Take That's summer tour. Sold as a double album, Progressed contains an EP of eight new songs plus Progress as a second disc. Here on in, I'm referring to Progressed only as the new material.

These are obviously leftovers from the recording of Progress, but as that album was so great, these cuts are in no way inferior, although they do at times sound like the Progress songs that made the cut. The opening synth chords of "The Day the Work Is Done," recalls the opening of "SOS," although it proceeds on a smoother melody, making it more like "Wait." "Love Love" has a stomping beat similar to "Kidz."

There's a bit more '80s flavor present here. "Aliens" in particular, which borrows its beat from Michael Jackson's "Thriller." It's certainly got a quick pulse to it. As does "Man," which, like some of Progress, recalls Pet Shop Boys.

The biggest departure from the Progress sound comes on first track, a gentle guitar-backed ballad "When We Were Young," which sounds like a very Robbie-esque song. It's an epic song that reminisces about the group's youthful years of massive popularity in the '90s. It's the only track that Williams provides lead vocal on.

Like the album, it's hard to pick standouts, since all the tracks are good, although I must say there's no hands-down standout like "The Flood." "Don't Say Goodbye" has a rather epic sweep to it, with sweeping cinematic strings blending with buzzing synths and a dance beat. It's moodiness is balanced by the breezier "Beautiful" and the gentle grandeur of closing track "Wonderful World."

As an EP, Progressed is not quite a wonderful as a full new album would be, but it's pretty amazing nonetheless and almost as satisfying as Progress was in its breadth, willingness to experiment (a bit) and top-notch production.

Best: When We Were Young, Love Love, The Day the Work Is Done, Man, Don't Say Goodbye

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