Personnel: Rick Astley (guitar, vocals); Mike Stock (keyboard); Matt Aitken (guitar, keyboard); A. Linn (drums).
Additional personnel: Ian Curnow (keyboard); Daize Washbourne (keyboard, drums); Gary Barnacle (saxophone); Shirley Lewis, Dee Lewis, Mae McKenna, Suzanne Rhatigan (background vocals).
Producers: Stock, Aitken, Waterman, Phil Harding, Ian Curnow, Daize Washbourne.
In the '80s and '90s, England's dance music team Stock, Aitken & Waterman was often accused of being too slick for its own good, and favoring style over substance. But the producers/songwriters (also known for their work with Dead or Alive and Samantha Fox) should definitely be proud of their work on fellow Briton Rick Astley's often captivating debut album, Whenever You Need Somebody. While the high-tech production is very '80s, Astley's soul/pop/dance music approach is very much a production of the '70s -- sort of the Average White Band meets Philly soul/disco meets Tom Jones. The best dance music works both on and off the dancefloor, and this certainly holds true on such slick yet gritty fare as "Together Forever," "Never Gonna Give You Up," and "Don't Say Goodbye." There are a few weak moments -- the lackluster "No More Looking for Love" being a glaring example -- but overall, this CD proved Astley to be a welcome addition to the British R&B scene. ~ Alex Henderson