Recording information: Echo Studio, Los Angeles, CA; Electric Lady Studios, New York, NY; Future Studios, London; Henson Studios, Hollywood, CA; RAK Studios, London; The Canvas Room, London; Tracques, Los Angeles, CA; Wolf Cousins Studio, Stockholm.
Photographers: Nick Thornton Jones; Warren Du Preez.
Robbie Williams once again left Take That in 2014 and, not long afterward, so did Jason Orange, leaving the group as the trio of Gary Barlow, Mark Owen, and Howard Donald. Hence the title of 2014's album, III: this is not the group's third record, nor does it herald a new phase ( la Van Halen III), but it's simply an album made by the three men of Take That. III wasn't intended as a trio album -- Orange left during the recording, leaving the three survivors to split his parts -- and, honestly, it doesn't feel that much different than the Take That albums released prior to Progress, when the former boy band returned as a quartet of men. Wisely, Take That retain a shade of the stylish sensibilities of Progress -- "These Days," the opening track and lead single, is nimble with its chicken-scratch guitar and distilled disco -- but those aren't the focus of the record; they're accents to what's essentially a very well-done adult pop album. Compared to some of Barlow's past solo projects, III is livelier -- even when it slides into a series of ballads it manages to not quite be staid -- due to these lite disco cuts ("Give You My Love" feels like a de facto Bee Gees tribute) and savvy electronic arrangements. The key to III's success is that Take That don't push these electronic elements too hard; they're there not to bring in a younger audience, but to show that the group knows it's 2014, not 1994, so it winds up feeling reflective and tasteful, a record that feels more realized than any latter-day Robbie-less Take That album. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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