Almost a year since finishing runner up in the sixth UK series of X Factor in 2009, Essex born soul man Olly Murs has finally collated a selection of damn infectious, laid back, funky reggae pop songs on his co-written eponymous debut album. Despite the determination of X Factor judge, mentor and big music industry executive Simon Cowell to only work with the winner of X Factor, Cowell couldn't let go of mentee Olly Murs, which has resulted in this album release.
Opening with funky, foot-tapping number 'Change Is Gonna Come', Murs immediately proves himself as a Will Young-Daniel Merriweather crossbreed with his soulful vocals sounding clearly through an upbeat feel good pop song with strong brass-backed chorus. A similar vibe resonates throughout the entirety of the album as is exemplified in both his recent number one single, 'Please Don't Let Me Go', a laidback yet catchy number with a funky reggae feel, and similarly in Murs' current single release, 'Thinking Of Me'. 'Thinking Of Me' has a ska/reggae groove reminiscent of The Specials with a strong brass and piano offbeat over which Murs' comfortable vocals sing clear; it's a musical vibe that's later echoed in 'Hold On' with offbeat clapping, funky, chilled reggae groove and call and response chorus vocals.
The strummed offbeat acoustic guitar and accompanying percussion brings a Jason Mraz-like, soulful surf-pop feel to the likes of 'Busy' and later 'Accidental'. 'Busy' grooves along with cool, laidback verses before moving into more driving choruses which highlight Murs' seamless transitions between chest voice and falsetto; complete vocal control. Later, the irresistibly catchy 'Love Shine Down' offers more of a gospel-reggae feel with organ offbeat and soulful female backing vocals.
Cool and funky reggae numbers are occasionally interspersed with the odd pop ballad; love song 'Ask Me To Stay', for example, who's piano intro bears resemblance to David Gray's 'This Years' Love'. This is followed by the powerful string-drenched pop ballad 'Heart On My Sleeve' which sounds like it's been pilfered from a Take That offering with its' strong, high-pitched yet chest voice chorus. The album later concludes with another Take That-esque piano-led, string-drenched ballad, 'A Million More Years' with its' chorused backing vocals, swooping strings and undeniably strong chorus, it's easily of the strongest songs on the album and stands out with potential to be another future single.
All in all, 'Olly Murs' is an enjoyable collection of clichÃ©-free, feel good, funky-reggae pop and the odd heartfelt ballad through which Murs showcases his humble, laidback personality and comfortable, relaxed strong vocals; a solid debut.