Have You Heard? – (24) “Heaven” by Simply Red… and Talking Heads

I was working at home today, and while I worked I had music on as usual (at home). I’m writing a bit for my book on Simply Red, 80s/90s soulsters, at the moment, so I thought I’d re-acquaint myself with the music, on Spotify and on my iTunes. I ended up listening to seven albums! After starting with the debut, “Picture Book”, from 1985, which is a really good album, I was slowly overwhelmed by the blandness of most of the music, so that I didn’t even have the energy to switch to something else. It was, like, let’s just let this one come on , it might be a bit livelier, but if it isn’t…zzzzzzz.

I was coffee-tabled!

I exaggerate – a little.  Simply Red – led by singer Mick Hucknall – did make some classy music. The album “Stars” in 1991, was probably the peak,  and you can’t really deny its quality. It was one of the best pop-soul-dance albums of the early nineties and sold shedloads. And Mick was one of the people who invested some of his proceeds in reggae music, though the Blood and Fire label, bringing us some wonderful music from 70s Jamaica – the conscious sounds, the dub sounds, the dancehall sounds. A good man. And he had – has – a voice from Heaven…

Oh yes, Heaven. That is what this post is about.

My favourite track on ‘Picture Book”, just beating the claims of “Money’s Too Tight To Mention”, “Holding Back The Years” and “Jericho”, is “Heaven”. It’s a cover of a Talking Heads song, off the brilliant 1979 album “Fear Of Music”.

The Talking Heads original was a fragile, spacey, eerie piece, in keeping with the intense, edgy feel of the album. Singer David Byrne at his most affecting.

Heaven, heaven is a place, a place where nothing,                                                                            nothing ever happens… 

I loved the way that Mick Hucknall took the song, retained the essence and turned it into a real soul tune, with a bit of the blues.  With the horns lifting it higher. It could have been Otis Redding, or James Brown, or Van Morrison, the way Simply Red arranged it. A brilliant take, wonderful imagination.

Later Mick played it a bit safe and tended to rehash soul or pop classics, like ‘If You Don”t Know Me By Now” or “The Air That I Breathe”. They were fine.  But he took a punt with “Heaven” and I think it is one of his finest moments.

Here’s the song.

Which version do you like best? If you twisted my arm I guess I’d go for the Talking Heads – because they are just one of the best bands ever – but I love them both.

About John S

I'm blogging about the things I love outside work: music, sport, culture, London, with some photos to illustrate aspects of our wonderful city. And anything else that I happen to think is worth writing about!
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