Face to Face

Studio Album by released in 2005

Face to Face review

Seventh studio album from Westlife and their first since the departure of Brian McFadden

In the tradition of British and Irish boy bands like Take That and Boyzone came Dublin's Westlife, a quintet consisting of Shane Filan, Nicky Byrne, Brian McFadden, Mark Feehily, and Kian Egan. Filan, Egan, and Feehily were among the group's six founding members, but the other half of the group was dispatched when Louis Walsh, Boyzone's manager, took interest in them. This made room in the band for Byrne and McFadden; Walsh also introduced Westlife to Boyzone vocalist and solo artist Ronan Keating, who became the group's co-manager shortly after they cemented their recording contract. Now with 35 Million records sold worldwide, 7 Million in the UK alone, 12 UK Number 1’s Westlife are back. Face To Face is the seventh studio album from Westlife and their first as a four piece since the departure of Brian McFadden in March 2004. The band have got back on track here following their flirtation with big band music on their inexplicable Sinatra tribute. Their first collection of new songs since 2003's Turnaround brims with the kind of songs that have made them a household name over the last seven years. The album sticks to the winning formula that has graced their previous releases – a mix of contemporary adult pop and heartfelt ballads. Guest vocals also come from Mariah Carey and the legendary Diana Ross.

Great covers and new material

Song writing and production duties were equally divided between long-term collaborator Steve Mac and Swedish hit-makers The Location, returning to the Westlife fold after working on their first two albums (and for Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys and ‘N Sync among many others), with recording done in Ireland, Sweden and London over the long hot summer. Highlights include the first single You Raise Me Up, which begins with Shane accompanied by a piano melody before the rest join in with those distinctive harmonies building the song to an epic gospel-inspired crescendo. There are even bagpipes! Diana Ross guests on When You Tell Me That You Love Me, which is another potential smash. Other covers include The Eagles' Desperado – a soppy but convincing version. There is also the odd harder sound like She's Back – a tidy bit of electro-funk with a definite 1980s feel. Slick tracks such as Amazing, Colour My World prove that the boys continue to work well enough as a quartet. But Westlife – always the boy band who really could sing – do the softer, more climactic songs best.

Face To Face is an astonishing return to form

Westlife looked as if they had completely run out of ideas when they donned the tuxedos for the Rat Pack album ...Allow Us To Be Frank. But Face To Face is an astonishing return to form, completing the Irish foursome's evolution from boy band to cabaret giants. It's a good thing that after two long years of absence, they've decided to make a return, because really, nobody has managed to replicate the kind of sound that has seen them climb charts and win fans like they once did so expertly before. And apart from their return itself, their fans sure have a whole lot of other stuff to cheer about. Most importantly, their sound hasn't changed. They haven't tried to attract the crowd with an entirely different image, but have instead chosen to stick to their tried-and-tested formula and return like what they've always been remembered as. While the majority of the tracks on the album are covers, the quartet's identity still shines through as they breathe their own brand of romance into the classics. A new start and a new chapter ...but the Westlife story is far from over.