There has been numerous reports in the press the past couple of days that Take That will be taking a 2 year sabbatical from making albums (which in Duran sabbaticals is almost laughable). Different websites claim different reasons, everything from exhaustion to Robbie's ego, but nevertheless, it's got me to thinking is it a good thing for bands to reform with their original line up? Sure the fans clammer for it and it's a guaranteed crap-load of money if they can hold out through that first reunion album...but creatively, is it the best thing and can they recapture their original magic?
For those of you who don't know who Take That is, Wikipedia them, it would take too long for me to explain. I wasn't a fan of theirs in the 90's, mainly because we only had one single of theirs in the States, "Back For Good" (which I do remember and did like, and I do remember drooling over Mark even then). That was pre-internet, so my access to music was limited to whatever I could get on MTV or radio.
OK, back to the question at hand...when their reformation album came out, everyone, including myself (everyone meaning the rest of the free world...I'm probably the only person in Arkansas with a copy) couldn't get a hold of it fast enough!. Parts of it I loved, parts of it I liked, and parts of it I didn't like so much, but the main thought I had was, "Crap! Robbie is singing practically every song! Where's the reunion in that?". It was Take That featuring Robbie Williams...not what I was looking for. What is what they wanted?
I've learned from listening to both their together stuff and all their individual stuff, their different styles...the early TT stuff was mainly all written by Gary anyway and he's always had a strong romantic pop song style, he's just matured more through the years, Mark's lyrics are gut-wrenching and brutally honest (sometimes painfully so), and Howard's are perky and fun,but can be romantic. Robbie, on the other hand, has a rhythmic, but Dick and Jane kind of lyric...and usually about his favorite subject...himself. But while both of the previous two TT albums without Rob have been melodious flowing things, Progress is a choppy miss-mush of obvious so and so wrote this, and so and so wrote that songs. There is practically no blending of styles at all, almost a collection of solo hits by various band members (mainly Rob). Makes you wonder how much they actually spent in the same room doing the album (before you ask, according to the documentary, they were in the same room most of the time or communicating constantly).
When the "Kidz" single came out, there was a B-side called "Rocket Ship" and finally! A true Take That song! I'd almost bet Robbie had very little to do with it at all. But, on the outside, the reunion was still a success! Everyone was loving it! TT were the ultimate Bro-mance. Mark was loving having Robbie back, you could tell when they performed! It was like the old days! And if Mark was happy so was I! Every clip I saw on YouTube when Mark looked over at Rob and smiled or they interacted funnily just made my day!
The cracks really didn't start to show (at least to us little folk) until about the middle of the tour when Rob's ever-widening mouth kept getting in the way. Everyday in the news he was saying or doing something different or pissing someone off. I almost dreaded looking at the news because I was always thinking..."wonder what Rob did today?". TT had just spent the past 5 years with pretty much, dare I say, a wholesome, family-friendly, adult contemporary style of music, and Rob's antics were quickly running it in the toilet.
Now, before those in the know shoot me in the foot...I'm talking family-friendly musically. I'm quite aware of the personal issues of both Mark and Howard and I'm not ignoring them. Mark's admission to his affairs and his subsequent rehab stint was such a shock to everyone because of the fact that TT was known for their clean-cut image, and the cleanest of the bunch was Mark. I personally couldn't even look at a picture of him for several months! I think he might have actually broke my heart a little bit (and trust me, I didn't think I had much left)! But you can't stay mad at Mark for very long and "What Do You Want From Me" made all OK again from the first second I heard that song. Howard's relationship troubles shouldn't have been a shock to anyone, only his Ryan Giggs approach to the whole situation (and if you don't know who Ryan Giggs is, or his situation, the fact that I DO know just goes to show I so do not belong in bum-fudge Arkansas!). But Howard's "love rat" reputation was also always kept on the down-low and was never flaunted too publicly and even he, being Howard, can't be grudged against (OK, so maybe the fact that ever since I started using the My Dear Watson Scentsy smell in my bedroom started causing me to have dreams about Howie has something to do with my forgiving him so quickly, but I digress).
I know off topic again...mid tour, Progress was re-released as a double album with more new songs, most of which were NOT sung by Robbie and all of which were almost all tried and true TT! One song was the title track for the new X-Men movie (yep..had to get that Michael Fassbender mention in there...you thought I moved on didn't you? OCD, remember?) and another is for the new Three Musketeers movie. I can't help but wonder, especially because of the ones obviously written by Mark, if most of these songs were written either before or during the same writing sessions as the original Progress tracks, and if so, why they weren't included on the originals, and I keep coming back to the same conclusion...Robbie.
So, to make a long story even longer, I'm a dedicated fan and I stick with my bands through thick and thin, next year will be my 30th Duran Anniversary (who have also been through various reformations BTW), and I've seen it happen time and time again with other bands as well. While it's good on paper and while us fans all want to see it, most of us, don't really want it to last because it's never how we imagined it. Seeing all five Durans on stage together is one of the finest moments of my life (I never appreciated Andy until Warren showed up and then I couldn't wait for Andy to come back, but now that he's gone again, it's fine, they do work better without him). Same can be said for Take That. It was nice while it lasted, but I absolutely cannot wait until the next TT album (minus Rob hopefully).
For the future, Rob is reportedly working on solo material for a new album. Gary took Simon Cowell's place on X-Factor UK, so he's busy through Christmas. I'd like to see Mark try his hand at another solo album, but I don't know if he feels up to it. Howard's still DJ'ing, although they are all millionaires numerous times over, he does it because he loves it. Lord only knows what Jason does. Two years is not a long time (especially the older I get). Like I said at the beginning...Duran takes four to five years between albums. Two years is chicken feed!
In summation, fans need to see their bands reunite, bands need to reunite to heal their relationships, but creatively, it's a useless process, although a lesson neither the bands themselves nor I have seemed to learn as of yet. I can't remember one reunion album put out by anyone that was equal or better to the originals (although TT's new stuff (meaning their four-piece) is better than their original stuff). Maybe because those feeling change over time, or maybe simply because you really can't go back and recreate the past, no matter now hard one might try. But try and try again we will!
BTW...Progress Live comes out on DVD on November 21 and yes, I have pre-ordered it!