Today’s POP RESCUE is the 1998 second solo album, I’ve Been Expecting You, by Robbie Williams.
It’s impossible to not know the four big tracks from this 12 track album – all UK singles.
At this point in his career, Robbie was not only doing well in the albums chart, but in the singles chart too.
The album opens with single Strong, and this track starts off as if it’s been lifted straight from Oasis‘ What’s The Story (Morning Glory?) album. Combined with long-term writing partner, Robbie’s lyrics are slick, clever, and mature, and feel miles away from the Take That that he had first left. It’s perfectly sing-a-long.
Next up, the lovely gentle electronic bleeps usher in the second single, No Regrets – one of my small list of favourite Robbie tracks. This is probably because it has a Pet Shop Boys feel to it – unsurprising as you learn that Neil Tennant is on backing vocal duties here. His vocals are joined by Neil Hannon from The Divine Comedy. It’s a warm, mellow, track, and Robbie’s vocals make light work of this. It’s a perfect blend of voices.
The James Bond styled hit Millennium is up next. Oddly released as the lead single with a few years yet to be topical, but even still, this song is a polished track that was deservedly a hit. This would have no doubt been aided by the completely hypnotic use of the You Only Live Twice string section. Amongst the backing singers here is Claudia Fontaine, who has worked with The Beatmasters, Betty Boo, Dusty Springfield, and many others. I think that this is my favourite Robbie track.
Piano opens fourth track Phoenix From The Flames, complete with higher-pitched vocals in the intro, before a drum fill return a mid-tempo rock number. Again, the influences of his (mostly) turbulent friendship with Oasis are shining, and that’s far from being a bad thing.
Up next is Win Some Lose Some, which opens with a telephone message from his then partner Nicole Appleton from All Saints (and later Appleton). This track is loaded with chugging guitars, pitched perfectly against Robbie’s rockier vocals. This was released as the 5th and final single from the album, charting only in New Zealand.
Grace is up next, a kind of 60s lounge track. The kind you might find playing in the background of a Bond movie bar/cocktail party scene. It’s up-beat, and fun. The style reminds me a little of his later co-write Loveboat for Kylie Minogue‘s Light Years comeback album in 2000.
This is followed by Jesus In A Camper Van, which is a light indie-pop track. I really like the line ‘They told you not to meddle with the bass and the treble. There’s dust on your needle and you think that you’re a rebel’. This is clearly an album track, and there’s nothing offensive about this one at all.
Acoustic guitars fade in for next track Heaven From Here, and it remains a lovely mellow track. There’s no sudden bursts, it’s just a really nice track, and Robbie’s vocals compliment it perfectly.
The sound picks up the pace for Karma Killer with chugging guitars that follow someone saying ‘You’ve been naughty, very very naughty..’ before bursting into orchestra-backed soundtrack-esque track. It’s a fantastic track, that reminds me musically Pulp‘s track I Spy.
Tenth track, She’s The One was also a huge single, and one that I can imagine gets played heavily at wedding receptions. It’s piano led, utterly sentimental, and Robbie delivers the vocals perfectly.
Man Machine is up next, and we’re back to a rockier track again, and it’s here that Robbie’s vocals remind me most of Liam Gallagher. The track is fairly catchy, and I can imagine that it would be great to have seen this played live.
The album closes with These Dreams which is musically beautiful, building up perfectly, with guitar, orchestra, and vocals….
…but that’s not the end. At about 11:50 the sound of waves arrive, and then some acoustic guitar ushers in another 3 minute song called Stand Your Ground.
And still, that’s not the end… Stalker’s Day Off officially brings the album to a close about 27:40 minutes into These Dreams. A phone rings, before Robbie and a piano begin, singing a song about stalkers.
Having never listened to a Robbie Williams album in my life, I am really pleased that this is my entry point. I can see why this album performed extremely well commercially. £1 very well spent.
POP RESCUE RATING:
- POP RESCUE 2014 RATING: 5 / 5
- 1998 UK CHART POSITION: #1, certified 10x Platinum, biggest selling album of 1998, and 38th best selling album of all time.
- POP RESCUE COST: £1.00 from a Poundland store.
Where is Robbie Williams Now?
Robbie Williams has continued his solo career, earning him 17 BRIT Awards, and a whole host of other awards around the world.
He re-joined Take That in 2010, remaining with them for recording and performances until 2014.
Robbie has earned World Records for fast-selling tour tickets, and given the freedom of his home town. He has also had buildings and streets named after him.