Today’s POP RESCUE from an uncertain future, is the 1999 album Rise by Gabrielle, but does the album command a standing ovation, or should you stay in your seat? Read on…
This 11 track album begins with Sunshine – like all good things should. This was the lead single from the album, and almost like a sunrise, it slowly builds, laden with acoustic guitars, wonderfully warm and soulful vocals and light percussion. Strings join in as the song progresses into later verses, but it never gets too high – with Gabrielle’s beautiful vocals shining like a bright summer’s day. The song gave her a #9 hit UK single.
This is followed by the huge #1 UK hit single and title track, Rise. This song is a masterpiece, not simply because of its liberal use of a rarely-authorised Bob Dylan sample of his 1973 hit Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door (apparently he liked it so much, he let her use it on the cheap). The beat here is slouchy, and perfectly so, and this fitted well with the 2-step and garage sound that was dominating the charts at the time. Gabrielle’s vocals are again rich, and relaxed too, fitting in perfectly with the underlying borrowed ‘mmm‘ sequence. This is flawless, and was rightly a huge hit.
When A Woman follows this, bursting open with a ton of strings and ‘doo do dee doo doo‘, which in my opinion gives it a wonderful 60’s feeling – aided by a little nod to Donny Hathaway. I just simply love the way this song shuffles along, and even the video is fantastic (I love those two matriarchs at the counter!). The song gave her a #6 UK hit when it was released as the third single.
Next up is Tell Me What You Dream, which is the first of the album-only tracks here. The tone is more downbeat and mellow, as a simple beat leads us through bubbling synths and sweeping strings. This is a much softer, slower song than the previous tracks, and this works well as a contrast.
It’s 5′ O’Clock next, and this has a much harder RnB beat, accompanied by some stabby dramatic piano/keyboards and bass sequences, with Gabrielle’s vocals skipping across it. There’s also plenty of vocal affects on the backing vocals too, with it all coming together in the chorus to make a pretty slick track.
Up next is Should I Stay, which is a wonderfully gentle, slow, track – with bleeping synths – almost like a heart monitor at times, echo-y vocals, and an almost breathy angelic tone. The strings really are brooding here, and the occasional piano really helps to lift the song at all the right moments. It feels beautiful sad. This song was the 4th single, giving Gabrielle a #13 UK hit (really should have been higher!).
Guitars lead us into a chilled intro of next song Over You. Gabrielle’s vocals are a bit breathy here, somewhat sad, as they sit alongside the descending chord sequence. The vocals deliver almost heartbroken lyrics, as she sings about a lost love. The strings are fittingly woe-filled, and despite it’s somewhat miserable theme, the song is really quite nice.
In what feels like another nod to the sound of Motown, Falling comes bursting in. The rapid snare, the backing vocals take me back to the feeling the brilliance of some 60’s Diana Ross and The Supremes songs. Despite this, this is an original track co-written by Gabrielle and the songwriting master duo Richard Stannard and Julian Gallagher. This is a great little track.
If You Love Me follows this, opening with a rich wave of strings, bass, gentle tapping percussion, and resonating keyboards. Gabrielle takes her vocals down a notch for this mellow track. The backing vocals are perfectly breathy for the chorus, and Gabrielle lifts hers just for a moment in the chorus, before switching back for the verse.
A simple keyboard sequence opens Independence Day, swiftly followed by Gabrielle’s vocals. This eventually gives way to acoustic guitar, beats (i think there’s a vinyl crackle in there), and the song slowly begins to build. There’s some wonderful funky guitar and strings in this song too, resulting in what is a really nice companion song for hit single Rise.
The album closes with Gonna Get Better, which again sees a descending bassline, but this also feels more upbeat – in line with the ‘It’s gonna get better’ lyrics. The backing vocals, strings, and brass sections all come together to really help the song turn into quite an uplifting track.
Over all, this is a wonderful album. I think that this is Gabrielle at her musical and vocal peak (so far). With tight songwriting, slick production, and fantastically rich vocals, the entire album shines.
I’d love to see this album performed live with a full orchestra (Gabrielle, if you’re reading this……!) as it’s simply fantastic from that first glimmer of Sunshine.
There’s nods to some of the great 1960’s acts like the Supremes, Donny Hathaway, and of course 1973’s Bob Dylan, and the album feels like a natural progression from her previous eponymous (and great) Gabrielle album from 1996.
This album is far more than just the title track – you need to hear it.
- POP RESCUE 2016 RATING: 5 / 5
- 1999 UK CHART PEAK: #1, certified 4x Platinum.
- POP RESCUE COST: £1.45 from a Sue Ryder store.