“She’s a big fan.”
– My mum, about me, regarding Take That…
…and it’s a pretty accurate description.
As those of you who know me will know – I am an unwavering Take That fan.
I knew all the choreography and danced around the house to their music when I was little (still do); I could recite every single song lyric (still can); and I remember clearly when the band went their separate ways back in 1996… it was just days before my seventh birthday and yes, before you ask, I did cry. I just loved them.
Fast forward almost 10 years to 2005 and I cried again – although they were happy tears on this occasion – when I heard Gary, Howard, Mark and Jason were reforming and going back on tour.
I’ve now been to every tour since Beautiful World and the band continues to be one of the best acts I have ever seen live. Unfortunately, I have never had the opportunity to meet any of the guys because, while living in Northern Ireland can be great, nine times out of 10 we are left out when it comes to the really cool events like store signings or meet & greets (most of the time it feels like we’re lucky to get any gigs, to be honest). So, the closest I’ve been was front row at Mark’s The Art Of Doing Nothing tour in Belfast in 2013, but he seemed like a lovely guy and one of those celebs you could just sit down and have a nice, fun chat with for a few minutes.
I have also gathered a few pieces of merchandise over the years including my signed Beautiful World album which I, ironically, won from Take That’s official website for a gig review I wrote back in 2007. (Side note: if you haven’t listened to the album, do it. It’s fab.)
I’m getting distracted from the point of this blog post which is an album review but, just to clarify, I am a huge Take That fan and even during the band’s hiatus years (I refuse to call it a split), I followed their various solo careers. So, when this surprise bundle landed on my doorstep last week (see below ⬇️), I thought I’d change things up and give it a little review.
I’ve always had the impression that Mark is one of the hardest working people within the music industry; he writes his own solo material, I believe he’s written for others as well, and he has his own record company. Yet he hasn’t appeared to achieve the same commercial success as other members of Take That (namely Gary Barlow and Robbie Williams), which I think is a real shame.
Land of Dreams is Mark’s first solo album in nine years and while a lot of time has passed, his distinctive vocals and song-writing talent have remained unchanged and by the end of the opening line of opening track ‘Superpower’, I found myself smiling. It was good to hear him back.
There’s a mix of musical genres and inspirations to be found here but, for me, pop reigns supreme. Take ‘Rio’, which just begs to be belted out on stage with thousands of fans singing along in the crowd while ‘Magic’ (a pre-release for the album), sees Mark channels his inner Bee Gee as he lets loose on the chorus of this disco anthem and the lines:
“It’s raining all around us like confetti,
Are you ready…
Let’s just say it’s magic.”
The track reminds me of Take That’s ‘Giants’ – it has that LA summer feel to it. You know the one; where you’re in a great mood and you want to roll the windows down on the car and just drive with the music playing and the sun shining…
The fun, funky disco vibe continues with ‘Come Back’ and I can see this being popular if included on the setlist for Mark’s upcoming tour.
‘Boy’ is another favourite of mine. It’s uplifting; it’s a reminder to be kind to yourself while making the most of your life; and it’s an absolute earworm.
I also have to give a shoutout to ‘Are You Looking For Billy?’ which highlights Mark’s distinctive vocals beautifully, while ‘World’ rounds off the album in an anthemic way, much as ‘Never Forget’ does for any TT gig.
Overall, I love the album and there isn’t one track I’d skip over.
Land of Dreams can be purchased via Mark’s website here and is also available to listen on Spotify.