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Reunions have a way of building momentary excitement and fizzling soon after – more so in today’s day and age – wherein gratification is instantaneous and ephemeral. Manchester quartet (a quintet with Robbie Williams) Take That gave a whole new meaning to the concept of a “successful reunion” – returning for three UK #1 albums, four stadium tours, and three UK #1 singles. In doing so, they have become the biggest comeback act in music history against all odds. More importantly, it cleaned the slate for two of the four band-members that flirted with solo careers soon after the first chapter of Take That ended in 1996. The success story of Robbie Williams is widely known and does not require much introduction. Mark Owen had some success but was unable to sustain it. Howard Donald recorded the beautiful “Speak without words” but the single never saw the light of day as an official release. It was widely known that in the first chapter of Take That, Gary Barlow was the band’s creative core. He was also the one poised for the greatest success. Many music experts had predicted that Barlow would be an Elton John or George Michael-like figure. Unfortunately, his solo music, though pleasant enough, was too mellow and adult contemporary for pop at the time – thus forcing Gary Barlow to be dropped from his label. He also relegated himself to a “behind the scenes” role in music.
The resurgence of Take That as a force to be reckoned with in today’s music landscape has freed Gary Barlow from the shackles of his past and has put him right back in the limelight where he belongs. This time around, he does not have to battle Robbie Williams in the media or try to prove himself. Some of that ease and relaxation appears to have translated to the lead single of his new album (slated for release in November 2013).
Gary Barlow‘s “Let Me Go” showcases him making an audacious foray into “folk” territory – a sound that is very different from anything he has indulged in sonically in the past. The song has a “live” sound and seems quite divorced from any of the standard production techniques that embellish the overall feel of a pop song. The song opens with a sparse acoustic guitar arrangement. The lyrics and the sonic aspects of the single reveal an inherent dichotomy. Barlow sings with remorse about a relationship having gone sour but he does so with more than just a hint of optimism. Instead of delving into the elements of what went wrong, he looks forward at the life after this relationship. The folky upbeat harmony-driven chorus of the track is almost a celebration of freedom post the relationship and a motivation for the people involved to let each other go.
Fly high, let me go
The sky will save your soul
When you pass by, then you know
That this is going to take a bit of getting used to
but i know it’s right for you.
Let me go!
This song does not feature intricate harmonies or particularly memorable hooks. It has a simplistic and light-hearted melody. Barlow’s sense of comfort and ease is one of the best aspects of the song. He comes across as someone that is not trying too hard to please. Furthermore, he has finally got solo reinvention right. His failure to get this right back in the 90s had more than a little to do with his inability to rise to the expectations that the masses and critics had of him when he moved on from Take That back in 1996. “Let Me Go” undoubtedly has Gary Barlow moving into “Mumford and Sons” territory – which is not necessarily a bad thing – especially for those that like a folky singer-songwriter sound. Folk music has rarely ever been a part of the musical mainstream. Mumford and Sons changed that in 2010 but they did not necessarily pave the way for more acts like them in the mainstream. Gary Barlow does not need a path to be paved for him but the question still remains as to whether his new incarnation will be embraced by ardent and casual fans. Given the fickle nature of people’s acceptance of folk, the commercial viability of “Let me go” is by no means a guarantee. That being said, hopefully it serves as yet another opportunity for listeners to appreciate Barlow’s increasing versatility as an artist.
STAR RATING: 3.5/5
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