Review: Boy George and Culture Club make long-delayed return

Boy George and Culture Club, "Life" (BMG)

Like clockwork, every decade or two you can count on a Culture Club reunion album. In 1999, "Don't Mind If I Do" closed a 13-year gap and now, not even 20 years later, "Life" has arrived after long gestation and difficult birth. Thankfully, the whole band appears in good health and this 11-track baby has Boy George's deeper-but-wiser voice and no DNA tests are needed to recognize the contributions of Roy Hay (guitar and keyboards), Mikey Craig (bass) and Jon Moss (drums). Pass the cigars.

Setting a precedent for the 2029 compilation "Bono and U2 — Just the Hits," though probably not the 75th anniversary tour in 2037 of Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones (no way Keith Richards acquiesces to that!), "Life" is credited to Boy George and Culture Club. What? Why? Huh?

Initially expected as "Tribes" years ago, the band has chosen to record anew some of the tunes from that unreleased collection. "Runaway Train," once billed as a country-ish Johnny Cash tribute, is now a catchy soul sensation awash in strings and horns, while "More Than Silence" has sadly lost its erstwhile rocking guitar but found an extra layer of emotion in Boy George's vocals.

"Oil & Water" is a ballad in Elton John mode, usually, and here, too, a seal of quality and "Different Man" is more '70s soul, partly inspired by one of Sly Stone's many hardships. It would hardly be Culture Club without a little reggae and first single "Let Somebody Love You" pleasantly fits the bill.

After all the distractions, detours and restarts, Culture Club — Boy George included, of course — has made a "Life" that's full of the sounds that gained the band worldwide acclaim, bringing fans comfort and joy until the next reunion. If they can wait that long.

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