30 years is quite the milestone for a band that was put together as a British response to New Kids On The Block and hence not necessarily designed with longevity in mind. In an age where the shelf life of a band in the limelight is limited, Take That’s 30-year long illustrious career most of which was spent dominating the singles charts and album charts in most parts of the world (besides the US) is a herculean feat that ought to be celebrated. It goes without saying that this trajectory was also fueled by their comeback against all odds in 2006 as a 4-piece (without Robbie Williams). The departure of two strong personalities in the band (Jason Orange and Robbie Williams) did not deflate the band’s creative spunk, drive, and their larger-than-life theatrical concerts. They soldiered ahead as a three-piece and even joked about the change in the band’s composition by saying “we are what’s left of Take That” when introducing themselves at the concert tour to promote their album “III” (their first as a three-piece). 30 years is also an appropriate juncture to release a career retrospective.
In the past, Greatest Hits compilations have been viewed as a shortcut to fulfilling a contractual obligation to a record label – wherein the number of albums due to a record label as part of a contract also includes greatest hits collections. Rarely are all songs on these compilations actual hits. In the pre-digital era, these collections were a good deal for the fan of an act that churned out great singles distributed across multiple albums. That being said, Greatest Hits albums rarely offer any novelty since the new tracks (if any) on them constitute a tiny slice of the assortment of songs.
Take That seems to have been cognizant of that perception of limited novelty via a Greatest Hits collection. To this end, it appears that they have chosen not to take the path of least resistance and have opted for a rather non-traditional approach to Odyssey – their 30th anniversary Greatest Hits album. The key tenets of this approach include reworked versions of classics such as “Pray” as well as unlikely collaborations with acts such as Boyz II Men on a reworked version of “Love ain’t here anymore”. It is quite possible that their motivation for this direction was gratitude for the undying support they have enjoyed from their fanbase. An endeavor such as this is also an exercise in curation. It could either be an avenue to showcase a band’s legacy to a new audience or a way to reward existing fans. It appears that Take That aimed for the latter. In fact, it appears that the choices that Take That has made with this album have been with the idea of putting the fan front and center.
One of the elements of the album’s novelty is the collection of reworked versions of classics such as “Pray”, “How deep is your love” (re-recorded with Barry Gibb from the Bee Gees), and “Love ain’t here anymore” (re-recorded with Boyz II Men). While the reworked version of “Pray” highlights just how achingly beautiful the voice of frontman Gary Barlow is, it does not improve on the perfect original and feels more like an interesting experiment. On “How deep is your love”, the band opts for a purely acoustic rendition of the hit classic. In our opinion, the band has missed a golden opportunity to marry the best elements of the original with some of the vocal innovations and harmonies that they brought to the cover version of this song back in 1996. “Love ain’t here anymore” is where both Take That & Boyz II Men absolutely shine. The song’s intrinsic beauty stems from the contrasting vocal styles between Gary Barlow and Shawn Stockman. In fact, after one listen, I cannot help but feel like this song could have been a massive hit in the US back in the 90s if only American gatekeepers had not isolated themselves from the international mainstream as much as they did. I hope this is not the last of the two collaborations between the two acts. In fact, in addition to performing this gem live, I would love to see Boyz II Men do a reworked version of their hit classic “End of the road” along with Take That.
“Out of our heads” (the first new single from the band) showcases the band’s fearlessness as it applies to stylistic musical experimentation. The song paints a vivid picture of the swinging sixties and marks yet another departure from a sonic template typically associated with the band. While the band’s intent with this song warrants praise, the song is unlikely to win the band any new fans solely based on its own merit. The two other new songs on the album, “Spin” and “Everlasting” while pleasant are far from instant in their ability to hook a listener.
Despite our criticism of some of the choices made on this collection, one cannot dispute that the songs on this collection have stood the test of time. To say that Take That has a gift for churning out beautiful and memorable melodies would be quite the understatement. Hence, it is virtually impossible for them to go wrong with a greatest hits collection. That being said, based on the choices the band has made (i.e. minor remixes of their best hits blended with reworked versions of hit classics), it appears that this album was created more as a symbol of gratitude to fans as opposed to an avenue to introduce themselves to a new audience. We are not suggesting that there is anything wrong with this approach. It is an unconventional approach and kudos to the band for taking that chance. Furthermore, this collection really does capture their biggest hits and does not include their moderately successful gems such as “Love Love” (featuring in the movie “X-Men: First Class”). Odyssey chronicles the journey of an act that defied the odds in a cruel and fickle music industry and triumphed while healing old wounds and positioning themselves for the ultimate catharsis from the bitter after-taste that led to their first Greatest Hits collection back in 1996. We wish the Manchester lads the absolute best and can barely wait to see the precursors to their 40th anniversary greatest hits collection.
STAR RATING: 5 out of 5 stars
We are an American internet radio station that broadcasts worldwide. The station features an eclectic mix of current pop and rock music from both sides of the Atlantic alongside hits, forgotten gems, and rarities from the last three decades. The music of Take That is a regular staple on our radio station – even though we are an American radio station. We were the first US-based station to feature “The Flood” when it released in 2010. In addition to Take That singles and singles by members such as Gary Barlow, Mark Owen, and Robbie Williams, we also feature album tracks and b-sides by these artists fairly regularly on our 24/7 global broadcast. Right now, “Out Of Our Heads” by Take That is getting 5 plays a day on our station.
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