Human Nature | Reach Out (Sony/RED)

cd_human-nature.jpgHuman Nature performed at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney and have several multi-platinum albums to their credit.

Human Nature is an Australian vocal harmony group which is hugely popular in their native land, outselling competing boy bands such as NSYNC and The Backstreet Boys in the 1990s. They performed at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney and have several multi-platinum albums to their credit. But I’d never heard of them before receiving this album for review, which just goes to show you how different the world can look depending upon what particular patch of land you happen to be standing.

But in fairness, Reach Out is Human Nature’s first album to be released in the United States, and their first performance in this country was in 2008 at the Tropicana Casino in Atlantic City, not a venue I tend to frequent. They’ve also opened for many acts, including Celine Dion and Michael Jackson, but how much attention do most people pay to who opens for the main attraction?

Human Nature is currently performing at the Imperial Palace in Las Vegas and that may be the perfect locale for their music, which these days (judging from this album) comprises primarily squeaky-clean covers of Motown hits from the 1960s: "Reach Out and I’ll Be There," "I Heard it Through the Grapevine," "Stop! In the Name of Love" and so on. Guest appearances from Smokey Robinson, Mary Wilson and The Temptations add something special to an album which otherwise features very good imitation of other people’s musical styles. I’m not sure if it is a re-release, compilation album or brand new material since they released an album with the same name in Australia in 2005 and there are no recording dates provided in the liner notes.

I also find it odd that their Las Vegas stage show is advertised in the CD liner notes and that those notes contain only one page of text (which tells you something about the band but very little about the music) versus seven of photos; maybe this album was designed to be sold to people attending the show? I can see the appeal of a stage show because these guys are very good looking and their singing is technically polished: I’m just wondering why, when the original recordings are readily available, anyone would choose to listen to a cover instead.

But there’s no accounting for tastes; some people prefer Elvis Presley to Big Mama Thornton and some may prefer Human Nature to Martha and the Vandellas or the Four Tops. For that matter, loads of people loved the stage musical The Four Seasons while I would happily have given it a miss, and Reach Out could very well appeal to the same audience. Human Nature’s technique is impeccable and their presentation as clean as it gets; it just lacks that individuality which distinguishes artists from singers. You can read more about Human Nature on their website, and if you’re heading to Vegas you can learn more about their stage show from this site. B | Sarah Boslaugh

RIYL: The Definitive Collection by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles; The Best of the Girl Groups vols. 1-2; Reach Out


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