David Joseph on Gary Barlow's new solo album

David Joseph on Gary Barlow's new solo album

Universal Music UK boss David Joseph has saluted Gary Barlow's "extraordinary" songwriting ahead of the Take That man's new solo album.

Music Played By Humans, Barlow's fourth solo effort and first since 2013's double-platinum Since I Saw You Last (723,307 sales, OCC), is released via Polydor today (November 27).

Joseph praised the quality of the big band-fuelled record, which was trailed by Barlow's Michael Bublé and Sebastián Yatra collaboration Elita and current single Incredible, which soundtracks the Argos Christmas TV commercial.

“Gary is building up the most extraordinary contemporary songbook," Joseph told Music Week. "Certain songs will live on for a very, very long time, so each time I hear his new records I’m thrilled, but I also think, ‘This is adding two or three extra to that songbook'. 

"He’s got an extremely high quality threshold and he clearly knew what record he wanted to make. But it's one thing knowing what record you want to make and how you want it to feel, the other thing is actually writing and recording a record that lives up to those expectations."

Barlow first approached Joseph, who was head of artist development at RCA during Take That’s initial ’90s run and co-president of Polydor for the group’s earth-shattering 2005 comeback, with the concept for the album in early 2019. 

“It was Grammys week and he played me the basis of Incredible," recalled Joseph. "In one second I got exactly where he was heading, which I adored. The question then was, ‘How was this going to become a complete album?’ He didn’t take the route of redoing big band versions of standards, so it was like, ‘How does Gary put his songwriting into a timeless genre?’

"It's only his fourth solo record - amongst all the Take That studio records - and it's interesting seeing the evolution from [1997 debut] Open Road to where we are now."

There was a little crystal ball into a time where people need uplifting

David Joseph, Universal Music UK

Barlow has pulled in a vast array of international stars to guest on the LP, including James Corden, Barry Manilow, Chilly Gonzales, Alesha Dixon, Beverley Knight, Ibrahim Maalouf and Avishai Cohen, as well as Bublé and Yatra.

“This isn’t about features, this is about collaboration," stressed Joseph. "Gary writes a song and then figures out who could enhance it. Obviously, to be able to reach out to the biggest stars of Latin America and then Michael Bublé is not a bad way to start. That shows the respect other artists have for him.”

Joseph added that Barlow had made the perfect record to lift the nation's spirits at this most testing of times. 

“There was a little crystal ball into a time where people need uplifting," he said. "Obviously, none of that was conceived in its genesis, but I actually think the timing of the music becoming everybody else’s and playing a part in their lives couldn’t be much better.

"It always strikes me when I go to the live shows that there is an entire new audience going to them. I've been part of the journey. I was there when the crowds were just 16 and 17 and now they're 16 and 17 and 40 and 50 as people have grown up - and that is incredibly rare. The band hold this incredibly special place in our journey of music." 

Click to read the full Gary Barlow Music Week cover story here.

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