Today’s POP RESCUE from an obscure fate, is the 2004 re-issue of the debut Funky Dory album from ex-S Club 7 member, Rachel Stevens… but would this album be more flunky boring? Read on…
This 14 track album opens with third single Some Girls, a song that bizarrely also appears on her second album Come And Get It. The song itself is a wonderful synthy, pop, catchy song, and highly reminiscent of the sound of Goldfrapp, who were doing well in the charts around the same time. Not really sure why this song appears on both albums, but that aside, it is a belter. It reached #2 in the UK.
Speaking of which, Sweet Dreams My LA Ex is up next and this has a wonderful melody and this is expertly carried by the acoustic guitar and bleeping synths. Infinitely catchy and singalong, this track was Rachel’s debut solo single away from S Club 7, and it gave her a #2 UK hit.
Second single and title track Funky Dory follows this and it is laden with Spanish-sounding guitars which were sampled from David Bowie’s song Andy Warhol from his album Hunky Dory, and joined by a light percussive beat. At times I can hear little bits of Jennifer Lopez or Sugababes in the musical style. As a song, it isn’t an easy ride and feels a little bit clunky compared to the previous two tracks. The single stalled at #26 in the UK, believed to partly be down to limited availability of the CD single, and extensive play of debut hit Sweet Dreams.. on radio.
Fools is up next, which sounds very much like a Sugababes song – with bass, guitars, and a bit more of an indie feel to it. Vocally, there’s echoes of Dannii Minogue here too. This song is fairly mellow, and moderately catchy, but it’s far from the synth pop that we’ve heard so far.
Guitar and beats lead us into Breathe In Breathe Out (Swat-team Version), and there’s plenty of echoey vocals here – even a choir joins in. The song itself sounds very much like it had previously been intended for S Club.
Glide follows, with some very familiar sounding guitar sequences that remind me of Sweet Dreams My LA Ex. Still, this song has a great sound, and therefore can be forgiven for its similarities. Unsurprisingly, long-term S Club writer (and pop star) Cathy Dennis is writer of both of those songs. Rachel’s vocals sound rich and warm, even if the song itself feels a bit wandering… which perhaps fits in with the gliding theme.
If you’ve been waiting for a piano-led ballad, then your time is now. Heaven Has To Wait fits this bill perfectly, and is another one of the five Cathy-penned tracks here. Strings weave around the piano and Rachel’s delicate vocals. They are joined by gentle brushed percussion and a double bass. The song is quite nice, with gentle vocals and music, and no generic X Factor style over-baked epic ballad moments.
This is followed by a cover of More, More, More, originally released by Andrea True Connection in 1976. This track is far from a good song anyway, so why pop acts keep covering it. Rachel puts in a somewhat bored performance of it (who can blame her), that kind of mirrors the enthusiasm-lacked version of Bananarama’s version. This track was released as the fourth and final single and somehow reached #3 in the UK.
A gentle bossanova gives us Blue Afternoon, where Rachel gets to show off her soft and gentle vocals again. Strings and bass swell around her voice, leaving you with a very mellow sounding song. This is a nice little album track.
I Got The Money gives us a bit of a slick RnB sound. It’s a simple song, that allows Rachel’s vocals to shine. To be honest, this could almost be by anyone from Eternal to Mis-Teeq, and it would be just as good.
Cathy Dennis’ pen returns for Little Secret, which sees a breathy introduction over a twangy guitar. Rachel is soon in with great, seemingly effortless vocals that remind me a little again of Dannii. It’s another simple song, but it works really well and is quite sultry and catchy.
Solid follows this and this gives us a catchy mid-tempo pop song, with bleeping synths and record scratches in the background. This sounds wonderfully warm, with backing vocals, piano, and a gentle beat that takes over for a brief moment before the song’s final push. I really like this one.
Penultimate track Silk is up next, with it’s low beats and Rachel’s subdued lower vocal tones. ‘Your touch is like silk, making me shiver’ she sings as pianos gently tinkle in the background sending the hairs on the back of your neck skywards. A slightly sinister string section broods in the background, courtesy of Nick Ingman, reminding me of something you might hear on a Massive Attack album. This song makes the perfect album closer…
..but of course there’s one more song – a 6m 46s version of Some Girls (Rhythm Masters Vocal Mix). This is a fantastic pumping remix of the third single, and it’s the version that originally caught my ear. Again, she’s oozing Alison Goldfrapp here and that can only have helped both artists to find success in 2004.
Over all, this album has some brilliant electro pop sounds that were proving successful in the charts at the time. Sweet Dreams My LA Ex and Some Girls were rightly huge hits, but the other two singles are certainly weaker.
There’s a fair range of sounds here – RnB, ballad, pop, electro, and this makes it a little disjointed. Not as good as her second album.
- POP RESCUE 2015 RATING: 3 / 5
- 2004 UK CHART POSITION: #13 (this re-issue), certified Platinum.
- POP RESCUE COST: £1.99 from a British Heart Foundation store.
One thought on “Review: “Funky Dory” by Rachel Stevens (CD, 2004)”
Great review, this was one of the first chart pop albums i owned and I still listen from beginning to end in 2015. Her followup album is also essential.