Rick Astley – Whenever You Need Somebody review
By Classic Pop | June 24, 2022
Celebrating 35 years since the teaboy from Newton-le-Willows went global, at this remove it’s bizarre that Rick Astley was ever doubted. Sure, the perennial patronising of working class northerners in pop helped make Astley’s background seem unlikely for a superstar but, as soon as he sang, it was obvious there was a major talent ready to burst forth. In Astley, SAW had a gift for bringing their pop to life. Sure enough, Never Gonna Give You Up packed about 306 hooks around Astley’s boom, with Whenever You Need Somebody and Together Forever just as factory ready for eternal chart dominance.
However, the production trio didn’t get to be so successful without knowing when to ease up on the froth when necessary. Aware that Astley’s voice was composed enough not to need trickery, it’s great to hear a more soulful, relaxed backing let Rick tell the story in The Love Has Gone and the easy bounce of No More Looking For Love. Only the clunky office drama You Move Me really shows its age, sounding like it was written by someone who’s never been a wage slave in their life.
Far more than just its singles, Whenever You Need Somebody is one of the great SAW albums. Following its vinyl reissue, the 2CD edition adds a host of B-sides and remixes. It’s maddening that the digital edition adds an extra four tracks, especially when even that doesn’t account for all the PWL remixes from its original singles. A 3CD set was needed, but at least the many mixes that make it, like Phil Harding’s mighty 12″ of Never Gonna Give You Up and Pete Hammond’s House Of Love mix of Together Forever, show PWL’s affinity with early rave. Astley has long enjoyed the last laugh. Here’s why he should have been smiling all along.