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Music Review

Take That: 'The Greatest Day'

By
Take That: 'The Greatest Day'
Released on Monday, Nov 30 2009

Take That are two albums into the most successful pop comeback since Elvis dusted off his leather jacket in '68. While their pre-split records featured some brilliant singles and surprisingly little filler, it's the band's post-return platters that have established them as a credible album act. 2006's Beautiful World had an assured quality throughout and rightfully cemented the boys' return to the top of the pop tree. Last year's The Circus was less immediate, but had enough charm and euphoric pop moments to keep the group flying high.

After successful DVD releases chronicling the visually (and musically) incredible Ultimate Tour, Beautiful World and Circus dates comes Take That's first live album proper. Billed as The Greatest Day - Take That Present: The Circus Live, it does exactly what it says on the tin, with a whopping nine of its 16 selections taken from their last LP. Also present are two songs from their first comeback album ('Patience', 'Shine') and the bridging single 'Rule The World'. That leaves less than a handful of the band's biggest hits ('Pray', 'Back For Good', 'Never Forget', 'Relight My Fire') juggled around the newer stuff. Despite that initial disappointment, The Greatest Day is a triumph.

As anyone who's seen Take That live since their return will know, their faultless backing band give a sense of depth that just can't be compared to anaemic tapes, while the boys' live vocals more than match the instruments. Gary Barlow serves as ringmaster and on tracks like 'Greatest Day' and 'Said It All' he reminds you that he should be lauded not only for his immaculate songwriting but also for the oft-forgotten quality of his voice. Mark Owen's double-header of 'Shine' and 'Up All Night' show that even if Mr Williams never rejoins the group, he's more than capable of filling that cheeky chappy void himself. Jason Orange's 'How Did It Come To This' is even more barmy than on record - you can't help but grin when he asks for "every single pair of hands in the air" because "we're rock and rolling now with Take That". "I know it's a wordy verse", he adds, "But help me out if you know it. Please".

What really surprises is how a cavernous stadium show and one so wedded to a visual theme survives being committed to plastic. Songs that perhaps sounded a little too restrained and polished on record are in fact improved by the energy of the surroundings. Furthermore, the whole disc has been expertly mixed by Bob Clearmountain to offer clarity without dulling the live edges. The extended intro to 'What Is Love' is a case in point, sounding so intimate and hushed it's almost as if you're in the same room as the group. Talking of intimacy, to sweeten the deal the boys have bundled in a bonus disc of their recent Abbey Road session. Like the stadium gig, it's dominated by tracks from The Circus, but it too offers a new dimension, as the stripped-back arrangements unveil layers you didn't know the songs had first time around.

Back on the main disc from Wembley Stadium, the boys certainly missed a trick by failing to rope in Lady GaGa, support act at the gig, to do her thing on 'Relight My Fire' - though Loleatta Holloway, who sung on the 1979 original, enthusiastically steps in to reclaim the track. As the band's sole audio live document it may have been preferable for The Greatest Day to be a bit more representative of their whole career. That aside, as an of-the-moment snapshot of a group who have maintained their relevance and class against the odds, it's almost perfect.

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