Today’s POP RESCUE from a potentially loveless future, is the Special Edition 2 CD version of In The Beginning by 10-piece British boy group Blazin’ Squad. Does this album sound like the start of something good, or should it be torched to the ground? Read on…
The album opens with some piano, vinyl crackle, and then some vocal harmonies that usher I Understand, over a slinky beat and bass line. ‘Hey short, hear me, I understand what you’re goin’ through’ members Rocky B and Krazy sing. There’s plenty of verse rotation going on here, and whilst some of the lyrics feel like they are a little awkwardly shoe-horned into place, the chorus is actually quite nice. It’s a nice, smooth, slinky track, and a nice opener.
The pace picks up a bit, and it’s hit single Love On The Line. Rocky B is back on the vocals – his deeper voice sits perfectly over this song, whilst the rest sound a bit S Club 7. Whether it was that that took it to #6 in the UK singles chart remains a mystery
Third track, is debut single Crossroads, which is a partial cover of the 1996 Bone Thugs-n-Harmony hit Tha Crossroads track. Blazin’ Squad’s version is pretty light in comparison, and became their only number one in the UK. When watched with the video, it comes across like a group of drunk teenage lads singing a song they know in a bar. Semi-smart shirts included. It feels pretty pointless.
Next up, All About The Music, which opens like some extravagant Madonna song. Once again, Rocky B carries this track with great ease. He’s certainly sounding the strongest and most confident of the Squad so far. Flava, Strider, Spike-e do a good job here in the verses. This is quite a nice song, and reading the sleeve notes reveals (surprisingly) that Richard ‘Biff’ Stannard (Spice Girls, Kylie Minogue, Sophie Ellis-Bextor etc) is one of the songwriters.
This is followed by The Love Song, which takes a slightly garage sound, but sadly Freek‘s vocals are a little bit out of tune here, whereas Melo-D manages to rap at warp speed. This track feels a bit like a filler.
I Belong To You (Every Time I See Your Face) brings the tempo down a little, with some smooth RnB beats and bass. There’s some really nice vocal harmonies on this track, as well as giving some of the guys space to stretch their vocals.
Up next is Standard Flow, which opens with the sound of a helicopter, and I’m pretty sure there’s some gunfire snuck in there. ‘In the beginning there were two decks and a microphone, in the end the Blazin’ Squad stood alone’ Rocky B reminds you (we all forgot, yeah?). Spike-e’s rapping sounds a bit like a somewhat pissed off 14yr old girl. This is followed by Freek, whose appearance on this album has so far been a bit flat, and remains so. Kenzie throws the oddest line: ‘Back in the beginning it was me and Flava, the two best MCs inside your manor’. This slightly odd rap competition song ends with the helicopter again.
Third and final single Reminisce is up next (although this was part of a double-A side), and this is another smooth, slow track. Again, Rocky B is back, and alongside Flava, the pair really deliver a great song. You’d think for a moment that this was Another Level.
Supastar follows this, and this is another nice, mid-tempo track, complete with synth strings, with quite a catchy chorus.
This is followed by penultimate track Riders, which rolls out lots of pizzicato strings over a dub-step beat and lots of bass synth. The song is pretty paint-by-numbers until about 3min 11s, when Rocky B arrives, where he gets to rap whilst some kind of brass section (synth) plays over a beat – and this has a great sound. It soon switches back to the pizzicato and beats before heading to the end.
The album closes with the other track from the third single (double-A side), Where The Story Ends. This opens gently with breathy vocals and what sounds like chimes. Flava and Kenzie come in with some important messages. This song is clearly a teenage message to their fans about peer pressure and gang culture…
.. but hold on the song continues in silence, until 6m 40s, where there’s a hidden track that gets no mention on the sleeve. I’m guessing that it’s called Play The Game. A pulsating synth gives way to a 1993 synth line (probably last seen in Freed From Desire by Gala), before the guys are back in full force. This song is actually credible enough that it should have been a single, and it’s a shame that it’s been tucked away at the end.
The second disc here contains just one track – a version of Love On The Line. The sticker on the front of the ‘Bonus CDRom’ entices the owner to print off the 12 shots of the band ‘to create your very own 2003 Blazin’ Squad Calendar’.
No, it’s alright thanks.
Where are Blazin’ Squad now?
After this album, the group released two more, with a greatest hits. Despite a number one, and several top 10 singles (and the excellent Flip Reverse), their albums have performed poorly, resulting in their record label dropping them.
The most visible member of the group is undoubtably Kenzie, who has since appeared on numerous other TV shows, including Celebrity Big Brother 3, and The Weakest Link. In 2005, he published his autobiography. He became a qualified Personal Trainer, but is currently a member of the group 5th Story alongside Kavana, Gareth Gates, and Adam Rickitt.
Rumours of reunions, or partial ones at least, have continued to surface, but the original 10-piece are yet to return.
In the meantime, check out Now Magazine’s Then and Now photo gallery, to see how the group turned out!
Over all, I was braced to hate this album, but it’s hard to do so. Whilst some of these teenage rappers sound out of place (Freek, and occasionally Spike-e), the others – particularly Rocky B, Flava, Strider, and Kenzie, do a credible job of sounding like a much older, mature, group.
There’s a few fillers here, and A-Z RnB tracks, but the vocal harmonies, the vocal diversity, and the music, really help to make this album quite an easy listen.
One thing that strikes me, is that amongst the Squad is Tommy B, and whilst the sleeve tells you who is rapping, I can’t see any credit to him. What did he do?
- POP RESCUE 2015 RATING: 3 / 5
- 2002 UK CHART POSITION: #33, certified Gold.
- POP RESCUE 2015 COST: £1.50 from a Cancer Research UK store.