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Take That - The Circus
Almost exactly two years ago, Take That showed their triumphant reformation wasn't just about nostalgia with the splendour of 'Patience' and the all-conquering Beautiful World.
The excitement which met their return also papered over Beautiful World's cracks, but such things can't last. Now they're definitely back for good, they have to prove they're worth having around.
The Circus's aim seems to be to do just that. An album of measured, mature songwriting by all four (the quartet are all credited as writers, though Gary's recognisable hand is still the heaviest), it is by far their best.
And it isn't just a fine album; it also proves that inbetweener single 'Rule The World' wasn't a one off. Future wedding first-dance classic 'Greatest Day' has a chorus capable of conjuring fireworks, both 'How Did It Come To This' and 'Hold Up A Light' are Snow Patrol-worthy stadium fillers, and the title track might just be the best (and most mournful) moment to have burst forth from Gary's piano.
Not that they've forgotten to have fun. 'Hello' is insanely jaunty, while 'Up All Night' is a confident, swaggering cousin of 'Shine'.
The truth is that the older work always had the hand of a record label executive guiding it, while Beautiful World was the sound of four fellas finding their own feet. Take That now sound like they're having fun, and soaring with confidence.
As Gary once put it, they've come a long way - and they've never sounded better.
Picture: Rex Features