Today’s POP RESCUE from a potentially loveless fate, is the 2000 debut solo album New Beginning by former Boyzone member, Stephen Gately, but was this album more of a false start? Read on…
This 13 track album bursts open with title track New Beginning, and it’s a new beginning indeed ‘seven years i’ve waited, seven years i’ve been holding on‘ as the second chapter of Stephen Gately’s musical career began – this time without the fellow Boyzone-rs. He’s sure ‘i’ve made up my mind – it’s time for a new beginning’. This is a great start to the album, with a bright and uplifting song. Stephen’s vocals are strong and defiant, and he’s surrounded by backing vocals and soaring strings. The bass here is pretty lush too. This anthem gave him a #3 UK hit double A-side single.
Next up is second single I Believe, which takes a more mellow sound – there’s still plenty of dramatic strings and drums vs vocals moments, and Stephen carries this off perfectly, as the lyrics are obviously once again straight from the post-Boyzone heart. There is a little Robbie Williams, or perhaps even a little Elton John in it’s musical and vocal style, and isn’t as strong as the lead track, although it’s still quite nice. The single just missed the top 10, giving him a #11 hit, despite being from the hit musical and film Billy Elliot.
This is followed by the acoustic guitars of If Only You Were Here, which user in a gentle and warm song. Stephen is joined by lots of ooh and aah-ing backing vocals that really help to lift him up. The soaring strings are back again too. The acoustic guitars help to keep this song feeling light and almost summery – and once again Stephen’s pop vocals make light of the lyrics throughout.
Third and final single Stay is up next. This opens with piano and some shoo-doo-duh-doos from Stephen, before switching to what sounds somewhat like a Backstreet Boys track with it’s heavy beat and dramatic vocals and bassline. This feels like a boy band song and is very catchy, but despite this and the charts being filled with songs like this in 2001, this song only reached #13, giving a moderate final hit.
Wanna Be Where You Are is next, and this follows a similar sound, although I could easily imagine this having been covered by Billie Piper. The chorus is pretty catchy – naming the days of the week and seasons and adding an instant familiarity. The hand claps make you want to join in as well. Perhaps this should have been the second single?
The acoustic guitar is back out for Where Do We Go, which sees Stephen singing alongside this for a fair while before a big crisp 80s pop beat arrives, followed by swathes more strings. This a really nice little pop song, with a tinkling of piano that returns for a sweet little ending too.
Judgement Day is next, beginning mysteriously with industrial sounds and bleeping, fast drums, and that’s soon joined by a screeching synth. Suddenly this switches to acoustic guitar, vocals, and a simple bass. The synth returns for the chorus. This song is faster and louder than the other songs we’ve heard so far, and perhaps more dance and experimental too.
Tinkling piano and a space-y sounds begin as strings float in for You Lied. This song feels like a great companion piece for the title track – as Stephen really roars during the chorus. Musically it’s quite chilled and bright in the verses, boosted by those vocals…and it’s actually pretty catchy. This should definitely have made it as a single.
Just in case you forgot that Ireland has a role to play in his success, Far From Love opens with some musical nods to it, but this gives way to a kind of bouncy pop track that reminds me somewhat of DJ Sakin and Friends hit Protect Your Mind (For The Love Of A Princess) single, although lighten it a bit and it could easily stray onto the Vengaboys or Alice Deejay albums. However, this was 2000, and that fitted in fine. The end result is quite a nice fun little pop/dance track.
A simple little organ opens Just Can’t Say Goodbye, and this time we’ve got a tender little ballad. Fingersnaps and luxurious vocal harmonies are soon all over the track. Stephen’s vocal strength really shines here, even if the song is a bit saccharine.
Do Without Me follows this and it opens with a gentle rumbling thunderstorm overhead. This time, Stephen gets a break-up song, over an RnB track. This song sounds like it maybe belongs to Sean Maguire or Blue. It’s okay, but hardly really stands out amongst the rest of this album.
Penultimate track Coming Back is a great up-beat track. Here, Stephen gets some great vocal harmonies to play with, and I love the beat and simple synth section. The end result is a catchy almost chanting song. It reminds me of something else, but I can’t quite put my finger on it.
The album closes with a cover of Art Garfunkel’s hit song Bright Eyes from Watership Down (1978) (a film that traumatised me repeatedly as a child – thanks to my sister!). Stephen puts in a great performance of the song, although it doesn’t quite have the same teary feeling as watching dead rabbits leaping around in the film (still gets me now). This is the perfect ending – the video link doesn’t do the orchestration justice – hunt out the actual track.
Where is Stephen Gately now?
After this album, Stephen found continued success on the stage starring in the lead role of the 2002-2003 run of Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamboat. He followed this with roles in The Wizard Of Oz, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and Godspell.
By 2007 he had starred in Absolutely Fabulous, recorded audio adventure for Doctor Who, and competed on Dancing On Ice.
In 2008 he was reunited with Boyzone, but sadly this was not to last.
He died aged 33, of an undiagnosed congenital heart defect whilst in Spain. The Daily Mail’s resident shit-stirring witch, Jan Moir, decided for herself that it must have been something else and decided to share her thoughts with millions of readers.
Over all, this is a really strong solo album, and clearly showed that his label was serious about making him a success beyond Boyzone – and that he could easily hold his own.
The exploration of harder boyband sounds (Stay), the more experimental sounds of You Lied, and the dance tracks of Far From Love, show that he would have become a diverse performer given time.
- POP RESCUE 2016 RATING: 4 / 5
- 2000 UK CHART PEAK: #9
- POP RESCUE COST: £1.45 from a Sue Ryder store.