Take That Part 1 – Slowly Up The Stairs


“Looking for a way back up again”

Certain things go through your head when you hear that a band is going to reform. Can they still do it? Do they still have it? Does anyone still want it?

It is very important, crucial you may say.

When you hear that a band are going to reunite your mind may find itself relaxing in many varied presumptuous locations.

You may think you know what is going to happen. If said band are reforming on stage, you’ll probably write it off as a smash and grab affair; the band will stand up there, sing the hits maybe in a lower key, bang a few of the songs that weren’t quite as good in a medley in the middle.

If choreography is attempted, they either relearn it all faithfully, change it to mask the bits they cannot do anymore, or ditch it all together. This is a no-win situation for the band in question. If they attempt it all, they run the risk of looking like sweaty middle agers losing a battle with time, oh dear, how sad. Another option is for them to do some of the routine, but if that happens, they probably scrapped the other half because they bottled it. Oh dear, how sad, snigger snigger. The third option is to ditch dancing completely, but that just highlights how able they used to be and how unable they are now. Oh dear, how sad, snigger snigger, carry on with life. Once a band distances themselves from days gone by they run the risk of having to lean into it; tell everyone they are a now a man band, wear suits and distract everyone from the lower key and slower pace, they may have to go all Sinatra and do a swing album.

John Lennon, you may have heard of him, once told an interviewer how part of him always wondered about reforming that old gang of his, until one day he heard a DJ on the fade out of one of their hits, saying thank you to the four of them for not getting back together. There is something to be said for leaving the memories alone.

Released in November 2006, Beautiful World was Take That’s return to the spotlight.

The band were returning to a world vastly different from the one they had departed. Back in 1995 telephone helplines had to be staffed to help TT fans face a world without their heroes, so many fans tore their collected hearts out at the news, news that was delivered by a band equally as distraught. “The rumours are true… from today there’s no more”, Gary Barlow knew what he was saying, and he still could not get through the, so what chance did anyone listening have.

Beautiful World is fascinating. It was a plan partially conceived in secret because no one knew what would happen if. The boys sat in rooms together, wrote words together, found spaces for each other in their lives again and only went ahead with the rest when they knew they had a project worthy of the Take That name.

The album was not only worthy, it was a second brand new start.

Reach Out begins the adventure perfectly, the drops of piano sound like an alarm and the music fits together perfectly to carry a solid Barlow vocal. When that chorus hits the song just takes you along. I guarantee you’re on the desk saluting and cheering before you’ve even heard the rest of the song. Reach Out is almost Take That’s appeal to  fan conscripts; they are talking to you, they are talking to us… and we are there. True, the ‘same sunrise if we all just look to the sky” bit is a bit Somewhere Out There American Tail-esque, but it works. Lyrically Take That are giving peace a chance and imagining no difference.  This is their mission statement.

Reach Out literally pulls you in, and while it might whisper to those that didn’t cry to a volunteer on the phone line all those years ago, it seems to yell to those who did.

Patience is another one that works on the two levels. The song is about rebuilding after love and loss, but there is always the deeper level of the returning bandmates too. As an appeal for patience it ultimately fails because this was track two on their comeback album. How much patience can anyone listening be expected to have if they deliver something this strong so early?! It almost feels too late to reign in our horses at this point, they have already started leaping.

Beautiful World gets the unenviable job of following such a standout and could get lost but actually holds its own. Howard steps up and delivers vocally.  Hold On lyrically seems to be about a fight, this is the perfect song for Mark’s whispery delivery.

Like I Never Loved You At All is about a broken relationship and the moving on that happens once something has ended. The instant switch from “lovers to strangers” works as a message to Take That fans too, because the relationship did have to change over night and lives did have to go on. It’s not the deepest song Take That will ever include and they find better ways of saying the same thing elsewhere on this very album.

Shine is practically perfect pop, with a practically perfect video, the next high point of the album. Everything about this song works on its own merit before we even think about the fact that it is a message from Take That to one Robert Peter Williams, once of this Parish. Look at this song through that lens and it speaks on a whole new level. Lyrically, the brilliance of the song is that it could work for you too; anyone listening could use the positivity this song radiates. Our anticipation could be pulling us down, you could indeed have it all and maybe “your time is coming, don’t be late”.

“I think it’s time to open your eyes…”

Robbie was the big question mark in the Take That reunion. If they ever did come back would they ask him? What would that be like? Fans had so many questions and the intrigue level only increased with the release of things like For The Record; Robbie broke out of the band and wanted to be a super star, not only that but he wanted to crush Gary Barlow and he did so.

It is entirely right that Robbie did not come back for the Beautiful World sessions, because he was not in the band when the band departed the stage. The album works because it was started with the four boys that finished things back then, the four boys that walked away. Shine is a massive show stopping number with their own showstopper in mind, a nod to Robbie when he was going through a tough time. Four boys, no fuss, looking in the direction of the fifth.

When you strip all that context away it still works, and it allowed for a big video production, lavish costumes and a massive stage moment for the tour, pop music at its best. The fact that this song is so brilliantly over the top, allows the subtlety of the message within it to breathe.

I’d Wait For Life is a four minute beautiful contradiction, much like Shine it is both gigantic and tiny. It has an epic nature and a localised focus, it reveals strength, and fragility. I’d Wait For Life is a song for someone, everyone and no-one in particular all at the same time. This is the musical version of those portraits you see in art galleries, wherever you move it feels as if the eyes are looking at you. The song truly has that quality, it finds you wherever you are. It can give a person whatever they need right at the moment they hear it; tears for loss, gratitude for existence, memories, yesterday, tomorrow, there are so many tones within it which allow the listener to find their own answers. Gary Barlow never sounded so good. His vocals on this song are perfect and both the backing vocals and the music rise to that level.

The “if I close my eyes” part where the song goes all minor is exceptional; strings, background vocals, guitar, lyrics, all are faultless. 

On a more literal note, the video features the boys dropping into water, eventually reaching the surface, and being pulled into safety by each other. The fall could represent the end of the band back in the day, the struggle underneath the water seems to be about finding themselves without the spotlight, and being helped out of the water at the end is arguably the boys ready to start again.

There are all sorts of games you can play with this video, the drop into the water plays nicely with the fall of the cliff in How Deep Is Your Love and the climb back to the summit in Patience and there’s always fun to be had with the regenerative, redemptive, restorative qualities of water. Take That, born again!

Ain’t No Sense In Love is all background vocals and poppy chord progressions tied up in a nice pop bow. What You Believe In is a perfect Mark Owen vehicle, the song you can’t hear anyone else singing once you’ve heard it on the album.

Mancunian Way just begs to be ignored, seriously, the opening lyrics are as cheesy as you can get. The line “we used to think we were the bomb then someone left a real one” is cringeworthy. However, once the opening lines are out of the way, however, a good album song emerges like a worker bee from the hive. The strings and the tone do help you to swallow the sugary taste of the song and there are ELO vibes all over it but do not look too deep into this one, it is a song for the city they still think of as home AND it would prove popular on tour.

The album closes with Jason’s Wooden Boat; and boyband pop saunters down a folky country lane. It’s a song that listeners either love or hate but it’s arguably worth a place on the album for “that’s the time to be the first one on the dance floor” alone.

“If Angels cry…

Later editions of the album feature Rule The World which is good because the first releases did not and while there is something old school and commendable in putting the song out only as a single, it deserves a place on the collection. The sheer quality of it demands that it be alongside Patience, I’d Wait for Life and Shine to such an extent that even though it was released eleven months after the album, in October 2007 and it was written on demand, it almost makes a mockery of any uncertainty Take That felt about returning to the music world. They didn’t need to worry at all.

It doesn’t even matter what this song is about, no one should really care about who the girl is, who the boy is, or frankly the name of the movie it was written for.

The you in question is whoever it needs to be, the you that deserves the starts lighting up the sky is different for everyone listening. We all think of someone.

Beautiful World is as brave today as it was when it was released, pop comeback songs are rarely as strong as Patience and that the album quality beyond the singles is deep and everyone had input too. No longer was this band a Gary Barlow catapult, no-one was donated a moment like a charity case, everyone was working together and it shows.

“Breathe deep, who knows how long this will last”. And they truly had no idea.

No one ever does.

Based on and referencing the Take That album Beautiful World (Polydor, 2006)

Words © 2020 Simon Andrew Moult / Moultymedia. Artwork, lyrics and quotes used under fair use for illustration, discussion, criticism and review.


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