Released: 1st December 2008.
One critic wrote upon Elvis Presley's death in 1977 that he was the last artist everyone agreed on; that is to say, he had a cross pan generational appeal for young and old alike. If that critic were still around, he would probably have to change his statement, because everyone, or so it would seem from the 1.5 million copies already shifted of this album, agrees on Take That.
"The Circus", Gary, Mark, Jason and Howard's fifth album (not counting their two best of compilations from 1996 and 2005) sees the manband extraordinaire work once again with "Beautiful World" cohort John Shanks, along with co-writes from Steve Robson (Busted, Sophie Ellis-Bextor) and indie duo Turin Brakes (whose biggest hit was 2003's "Pain Killer") to create an 11 song set of more sublime, timeless and classically written pop that only they know how to do best.
In fact, there is much to suggest that the boys are becoming a modern day Beatles with the songs on this album. Opening track "The Garden" is a 5 minute mini epic that starts off with all the soft ambience of a William Orbit number, before building into a euphoric march that would even give Coldplay a run for their money. Recent #1 hit "Greatest Day" follows a similar pattern musically, whilst maintaining the radio friendly sound they're also rather good at tapping in to.
But it's further into the album that the experimentation is most evident - two of Mark Owen's lead numbers - "Julie" and the forthcoming second single "Up All Night" are very reminiscent of Britpop pioneers like the Kinks and the La's. The title track, sung by Gary Barlow, makes more than a definite nod in the direction of John Lennon's "Imagine", whilst Jason Orange's number, "How Did It Come To This?", an addictive little number that at times sounds a bit like "Origin of Symmetry"-era Muse, sings of "a girl in Camden town" who's "slightly OCD my friend" (said girl is believed to be Amy Winehouse according to some sources).
As a result, it's a most enjoyable listen, if not one of the best pop records released in the last quarter, and will undoubtedly, as anyone who's been to see them live will testify, sound brilliant on their stadium tour later this year. Long may these comeback kings reign!