We covered Kim Wilde’s recent album which surprised a few people, and now we’re giving you the ultimate non-Rickroll by actually taking a listen to Rick Astley’s forthcoming release. “Why?”, I’m sure many will ask. Well… because it’s Rick Astley. And he’s pretty damn cool. Take it away, James…
Rick Astley is one of those artist where people might know the name, but as soon as you play his biggest hit, then most folk will instantly recognise it. Even my dad, who mainly listens to classical music, said, “I know that name. He’s a singer, right?” To which I replied, “Yes. One that I like very much.” That statement was met with a little shock given that typically I listen to music with lyrics consisting of “So overcome with pointless tears, to test pain receptors, nothing matters ever here” (Dark Tranquility – “Lost to Apathy”). So without further ado, here’s a metalhead’s review of an album by a rather excellent singer.
The title track of the album opens proceedings, and immediately I’m reminded of the sort of music you would hear at a classic dance club. Unlike a lot of the modern dance clubs that play synth-laden trash, this gem provides an expert introduction to the album. “She Makes Me” takes a slightly different approach and showcases some of Rick’s excellent vocal range with his upper-mid being utilised in full in the latter half of the song. With the catchy clean guitar riff and harmonised choruses, it is easily one of my favourite tracks on the album.
“Last Night on Earth” has an almost country style to it with the flowing acoustic guitars and harmonised vocal lines carrying the track throughout. Upon the introduction of the drums, the track takes on a whole different form with it becoming more of a ‘pop-love’ song with “Love like it’s, your very last night on earth” further reinforcing that. “I Need The Light” keeps the acoustic guitars, however this time it’s the piano’s and backing singers that take the limelight. Layering everything with Rick’s classic lower-mid range singing makes an incredibly catchy song that you’ll find yourself singing along to every time you hear it.
“Empty Heart” has a similar opening to “Last Night on Earth” with the acoustic guitars and Rick singing, however the track then becomes more of a reflective mid-tempo affair when the rest of the instruments come in. Choosing to focus more on the mid range of his voice in this song, Rick delivers arguably one of his strongest performances of the album with both the harmonised sections and the single voice parts being delivered superbly. “The Good Old Days” ends the album with a massive nostalgia trip. Tapes, records, the yellow brick road, yellow submarine… it’s all mentioned in there. I hope that Rick makes a video for this track, it’s certainly worthy of one.
With singers from the era that Rick is from, there is always a risk that as time goes on their voices cannot deliver the same performance that a lot the artist’s fans are familiar with and expect. With Rick however, something different has happened. Sure, he’s not singing as high as he did on “Never Gonna Give You Up”, but I feel as though this new lower pitch suits him better. No doubt there will be the ones who will still see him as a “one hit wonder” but to them I say as Rick said on the last song, “Listen to the words and the music”. Then see if you still think he is just a one-hit wonder.
Standout Tracks: Beautiful Life, She Makes Me, Last Night On Earth, Try, The Good Old Days
Beautiful Life is released on July 13th via BMG.