Massive respect to any artist who restarts their career after having one of the biggest pop hits ever and then retires young, especially with a brave foray into a different genre. Rick Astley might be best known for 1987 earworm Never Gonna Give You Up, but his new album Beautiful Life and its predecessor 50, his 2016 comeback record, are light years away from that bastion of pop cheesiness.

Astley is hoping to score success again after 50, at the time his first record in 10 years, sold more than 300,000 copies and topped the charts. Beautiful Life is a fair effort, comprised of tracks penned by Astley himself and on which he plays all the instruments.

The title track is a hit, an uptempo pop piece that showcases Astley's soulful vocals. But from there, some of the songs - best described as an homage to mid-noughties Take That - get a bit lost within each other. Some are forgettable, and some are still rather good, such as She Makes Me, a solid piece that's more than two-thirds country-inspired. I Need The Light is one of the catchiest tracks, although nowhere near as catchy as Astley's breakout classic. But let's be honest, nothing ever will be. He's come a long way, and where he is now suits Astley just fine, and fans will love this.


(Review by Lucy Mapstone)