Gary Barlow: Pop star’s new tracks bring sunshine when we need it most

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There are no maudlin, piano-driven ballads here. It’s upbeat, positive and brimming with energy and joy. Single Elita, featuring Michael Bublé and Colombian pop star Sebastián Yatra, was the first clue to Gary’s radical change of direction. The gloriously catchy South American-flavoured jaunt told the saucy tale of a small-town Brazilian girl “born to move her hips” whose eyes can “turn a flame into a fire”.

It was Barlow’s first solo hit since 2013. 

The whole album echoes that vibrant feel-good vibe. It’s a world away from Gary’s last solo release, the double platinum-selling Since I Saw You Last, which saw the Take That star venture into folky Mumford & Sons territory.

The upbeat Latin swing of opening track Who’s Driving This Thing sounds destined for the Strictly treatment. 

Barlow, 49, has recruited a small army of talented humans – an orchestra, quartets, a Latin band, and jazz and big band sections.

There are also appearances from Wolverhampton powerhouse Beverley Knight (on the soulful Enough Is Enough), Alesha Dixon (What’s Leaving All About) and TV’s James Corden who duets with Gary on The Kind Of Friend I Need.

Paris-based jazz genius Ibrahim Maalouf adds his trumpet wizardry to the relaxed and sensual Eleven, while Grammy-winning pianist Chilly Gonzales pops up on Oh What A Day, a track you could imagine on a 1950s film soundtrack.

This is not fashionable music.

It’s a paean to the big band exuberance of yesteryear, and rather refreshing too.

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