Today’s POP RESCUE from a fate unknown, is the 1995 album Up All Night by four-piece group East 17, but was this worth the late night, or would it make you nod off regardless?
This 13 track album opens with the gentle synthscapes of Innocent Erotic – sounding almost quite spacey with bleeps, whooshes, and minimal percussive sounds mixed in. This gives way by about 1m 20s and 20s after that we get the first vocals. This song is quite a lot of nothingness to be honest, and album producers Ian Curnow and Phil Harding (legendary PWL producers/remixers) must have had a hard time with this track. The space sounds are really nice, but it’s the kind of sound that you’d expect on a meditation album. A very weird start.
This is followed by the dark plodding piano and cracks of thunder in the introduction of lead single Thunder. Despite this dramatic introduction and a great sounding chorus thanks to the group’s vocal harmonies, Brian Harvey‘s vocals in the verses are weak here and and fall flat, but this aside, the song is actually really quite catchy. Towards the end there’s a nice stadium audience hand-clap section which i’m pretty sure must have been great on tour. The single gave the group a #4 UK hit.
Up next is I Remember, which by contrast is up-beat and somewhat funky too thanks to a great thick bassline and a snare-filled beat. Piano dances throughout the chorus, but it’s the vocal harmonies set alongside the beat that really makes this song. It’s quite a bassy song – with low register vocals, and lots of ‘oh’ breathy vocals in the background, but I think that this could have been a single. It’s really quite catchy.
This is followed by second single Do U Still? which has a melody that reminds me partly of their 1993 hit Deep. This song is just as catchy, and a great choice for single. It gave them another top 10 UK hit – reaching #7. Layers of bleepy synths run throughout, alongside piano, and some great ‘doo doo doodeedoo‘ vocal harmonies. This track works really well.
House piano stabs opens Gotta Keep On, followed by a dance beat and vocal samples of Brian Harvey sounding very much like Push The Feeling On by Nightcrawlers from the same year, but with lots more bass notes. This song is pretty much just Brian sampled set to a dance beat, but it works really well.
This is followed by Ghetto, where the boys attempt to sing about the ghetto of East London. Um. The end result is a song that sounds a bit awkward like if PJ & Duncan sang it. This would probably work a tiny bit better if Blue had sung it, but over all, this RnB number doesn’t really feel right for East 17.
Up next is Looking For, which sees Terry Coldwell take the writing credit. This song has a strong reggae feeling to it in melody and it’s bass-heavy backing, with Terry’s vocals in warp drive over some very fast percussive beats. A piano gently leads us through, but the two different vocal styles here, really make this sound great – even if it doesn’t sound like East 17, and instead, like something from Massive Attack.
Best Days is up next and it incorporates what seems to be an uncredited sample of Smokey Robinson & The Miracles‘ hit Tracks Of My Tears, but aside from that it’s only the chorus that sounds any good (where this sample is also included). The rest of the song sounds somewhat weak.
Synths and some-kind-of-almost-sax opens next song Don’t You Feel So Good, and it takes the pace down. This sounds – musically and lyrically – like it belongs to a much younger boy band. The song doesn’t really go anywhere and feels like a bit of a mellow filler.
The tempo increases for Free Your Mind, which sees the return of a dance beat and house piano. Whilst most of the lyrics seem to be ‘you got ta free your mind‘, it does end up amongst the more catchy songs on this album.
Right Here With You feels like much more of a return to the kind of East 17 songs that we’ve heard in the past, with bleeping synths, strings, Brian’s vocals, a light pop beat. The beats sound like they’ve been borrowed from Eternal’s debut album, but the guys vocal harmonies again shine here.
Third and final single Someone To Love is the penultimate track. This is a much slower song. Again the piano returns, joined by guitar, and Brian’s vocals. This is like a rock ballad, and again I can imagine that this would be popular on tour, but perhaps also intended to repeat the success of big hit Stay Another Day from the previous year. However, the single stalled at #16 in the UK.
The album closes aptly with It’s All Over, which is true for this album, but also for this incarnation of the four-piece. Samples and a simple beat lead us into the song, which sees Tony take the vocals. The song builds into a fairly catchy piece, and it ends with a 2min ‘stuck record’ vinyl sound with the line ‘war – it’s all over’ repeated until the end.
Over all, this album is reasonably catchy, even though it was the group towards the end of their initial run. There’s no Let It Rain, or House Of Love on here, but there are some great little tracks that perhaps could have found their way to being the 4th or even 5th single.
Forays into a more dance sound worked well, as did, surprisingly, reggae, but this doesn’t really sound like East 17 at times, and alongside these are some duff songs that really could have been cut from the album.
Where are East 17 now?
This was East 17’s final album as a four-piece group, and whilst the singles did moderately well, the album stalled. Even the ‘moving image’ on the cover.
Two months after final single Someone To Love, East 17 teamed up with Gabrielle to release the fantastic duet If You Ever. The album was swiftly followed by their ‘best of’ album Around The World Hit Singles: The Journey So Far in 1996.
Brian Harvey was sacked from the group after his comments about ecstasy, and he was soon followed by main writer Tony Mortimer who left due to ‘musical differences’, for the first of several times.
After a number of changes to the line-up, John and Terry remain the only two to have remained in the group.
In 2015, John, Terry, and new-comer Robbie Craig, announced in an interview that they were releasing a new album ‘after Christmas’ along with single Warning. However, in June 2015, they managed to perform to only 30 fans in a Dublin venue that had a capacity of 800+. Maybe the fans are just not ready for them again.
The group’s most recent charting UK single was Hey Child in 1997.
POP RESCUE RATING
- POP RESCUE 2015 RATING: 3 / 5
- 1995 UK CHART PEAK: #7, certified Platinum.
- POP RESCUE COST: £2.99 from a British Heart Foundation store.