First off, I admire Simply Red’s Mick Hucknall because he can sing his ass off. For a quarter century, he’s been one of the most soulful voices to come out of the U.K.-an area that has no shortage of great soul singers (George Michael, Amy Winehouse, Joss Stone, Annie Lennox, Alison Moyet).

Second, I admire Mick because he manages to score hot chicks despite the fact that he is NOT aging very well (and he wasn’t that much of a looker to begin with).

Finally, I admire Mick because he’s a fantastic song interpreter. Although Simply Red has maintained a long and successful career partially because of Hucknall’s songwriting talent, the fact is that these guys (this guy?) makes some killer remakes.

There’s “Money’s Too Tight to Mention”, their version of Barry White’s “It’s Only Love”, a remake of The Hollies’ “The Air That I Breathe” which was remixed by Puffy’s Bad Boy camp and ostentatiously sampled John Mellencamp’s “Jack & Diane”. Among their most recent hits are a cover of The Stylistics’ chestnut “You Make Me Feel Brand New” and “Sunrise”, which liberally sampled Hall & Oates’ “I Can’t Go for That”. Oh! There’s also their 1989 cover of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes’ “If You Don’t Know Me By Now”, which became the second of their two #1 singles here in the U.S.

So here are two of my favorites (and I’ve also included the originals for your comparing pleasure).

Simply Red’s 1996 “Greatest Hits” album contained one new song-a cover of Aretha Franklin’s Seventies classic “Angel”. Tackling Aretha is never easy, but Mick acquits himself quite well here. The song also features at least 2/3 of The Fugees, who were red-hot at the time. The production is quite tasteful (although we could have done with Wyclef’s ad libs), and it isn’t farfetched to imagine that this may have been the deciding factor when it came to Aretha coming to the conclusion that she wanted Lauryn Hill to write and produce for her.

Here’s a version of “Angel” performed live by Aretha. I don’t know exactly when it was filmed, but I’d be willing to guess late Eighties-early Nineties. I love this song not only because of the beautiful lyrics (written by Aretha’s sister Carolyn), but because Aretha’s vocal is so restrained on this song.

Who knew Mick Hucknall had a voice for reggae? When production legends Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare recorded their “Friends” album, they recruited Mick to handle lead vocals for a couple of songs, with the clear winner being a rendering of the classic “Night Nurse”, originally recorded by Gregory Isaacs. “Nurse”, originally recorded and released in 1983, is obviously a reggae-fied rewrite of Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing”, but the song actually manages to be as sensual as Gaye’s classic (while also being less obviously sexual). It’s one of my favorite reggae songs of all time.

Check out the original. I’m sure lots of Jamaican babies were made off of this song.

And for good measure, let’s throw in “Sexual Healing” too!

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