The New Classic
It's taken 14 years, but Gary Barlow's third solo album could have used a little more time.
Album number two – 1999's Twelve Months, Eleven Days – stiffed outside the UK top 30, so you can forgive Barlow for hesitating. That alarming drop-off in sales sent him back undercover, licking his wounds until he hit upon the idea of a Take That reunion, a masterstroke that's kept him buoyant right up to now.
But moving to the forefront of the public mind on The X Factor has clearly encouraged him to give this solo thing another stab. You'd say the break's allowed him to tackle it with a more mature outlook, but Barlow was never really young. Since I Saw You Last is as straight-laced and MOR as anything he's done, either solo or with the grown-up 'That.
He's clearly been listening to the youngsters though, wheeling out passable imitations of Mumford And Sons on single Let Me Go and More Than Life, and doing his finest Brandon Flowers on the title track. Even so, his closest musical peer is that old duffer Paul McCartney, which means the odd lovely classic pop melody on 6th Avenue and Requiem, but also empty thumbs-aloft jauntiness on Small Town Girls.
Funnily enough, Barlow's at his liveliest duetting with Elton John on Face To Face, a cheeky facsimile of the Four Seasons' December, 1963 (Oh, What A Night), confirming his comfort with vintage tunes and vintage colleagues. The odd tasty moment then, alongside insipid fare that could've done with longer in the oven.