Today’s POP Rescue from obscurity is the 2000 album Four Sure by four-piece (see what they did there?) group Scooch, but is the best yet to come? Read on…
This 12 track album opens with title track (well, almost) and fourth single For Sure. The song bursts open with a kind of carnival music sound with plenty of cowbells. Natalie Powers and Caroline Barnes take the vocals of this bouncy party song. The catchy intro vocals of ‘ba-da-ba-baya‘ weave themselves into the chorus making this wall of sound really quite catchy. At times the vocals sound a little bit too processed, but then in 2000 we were in the shadow of Cher’s hit Believe.. so it’s all okay. The song gave them a #15 hit.
This is followed by second single, and biggest hit, More Than I Needed To Know. The song opens like a forgotten ABBA song – with rich female vocals and piano, before a thumping dance beat and synthscapes launch, making it sound very much like their chart contemporaries, Steps (this song reminds me of their Better Best Forgotten). I personally don’t find this song as catchy as For Sure, but despite this it proved to do well, giving them a #5 UK hit, and is currently their biggest single.
The thumping dance beat continues in next song When My Baby (Dances With Me), which stood as their debut single. Once again, it is heavily reminiscent of Steps. Despite this debut stalling at #29, this song is really infectiously catchy, and it commands a tapping foot. The song bounces along perfectly, with occasional brass bursts along with a light scattering of electric piano. Brilliant!
One Of These Days is next, which has some wonderful harpsichord sections at the beginning, as Scooch take it in turn to deliver the vocals – with this song giving the first real noticeable appearance of the guys Russ and David, who not only add weight to the many vocal harmonies in this track, but also have a share in the vocal solo time. Again, there’s a Steps/ABBA sound echoing through this song as it bounces along as piano and dance beat meet, and the end result is another strong little pop song.
The tempo is down for the cover of Zoom (originally released by Fat Larry’s Band in 1982). There’s a great bass here, and the modern spacey sounds really help to refresh the song and emphasise the ‘zoom’ part. It’s pretty loyal to the original – musically and vocally, and feels just like a nice modern cover.
This is followed by Never Stop Believing, which so far feels like the most Stock/Aitken/Waterman song on this (mostly) Stock/Aitken written album. The lyrics, vocals, and music feel like they’d fit in perfectly with some of the earlier S/A/W hits. Once again, Scooch’s vocal harmonies really shine here, and the song is unashamedly pop. You can even imagine them smiling whilst singing it in the studio.
The Best Is Yet To Come is up next, and again reeks of Steps and ABBA. There’s drama timpani, a thumping beat, soaring strings, and stabbing pianos alongside their immaculate vocal harmonies. At about 1m 50s there’s a really nice stripped vocal/synth section that lets Natalie and Caroline really show off their vocals (particularly the former), as the song leads into its final push. The track was the third single, giving them a #12 hit (it should have reached higher).
Eighth track Stay opens with some dramatic beats and a wave of harmonies. A hard bass drum follows as some spacey synths and grand piano joins in over the vocals of the first verse. Once again, it’s a challenge not to tap a foot, and the chorus really gives it a catchy hook.
Acoustic guitars and a slow clappy percussion intro to The Next Step gives Russell Spencer and David Ducasse the chance to show off their vocals over a simple minimal sound. They’re soon joined by the girls, who seem to steal the song from them. This is a simple song, and whilst earlier songs are catchy and loaded with sound, this one works really well with its space and slower pace.
Syncopated Rhythm is up next and this is another fast dance track. Those Steps piano sequences return over the bass drum and high-hat race, but this time there’s a wonderful bass in here too, which takes each twist and turn in its stride, and particularly in the chorus the section. There’s an almost vintage sound to this song in its melody, but I can’t quite put my finger on the era.
Penultimate track Music To My Heart opens with piano and strings, before a racing beat joins in that takes the song for a gallop. This song is really quite catchy in the vocals, if only for it’s nod to the long-running compilation series of ‘now that’s what i call music – music to my heart’.
The album closes with Third Time Lucky, which is loaded with percussion, acoustic guitar, bass and synths. Not the best song here, as it feels more like a b-side song, and a bit of a weak ending for the album.
Over all, if you’re a Steps or ABBA fan, or even a Mike Stock and Matt Aitken fan, then this album really is for you. It is a wonderfully crafted piece of dance pop. Natalie Powers’ vocals really stand out here, and I struggled to notice Caroline somewhat, but that’s not a fault of the album – it’s clearly taking the expert songwriting and musicianship of Mike and Matt, along with the other co-writers, and making a brilliant pop gem.
There’s also an ‘Interactive Maze Game’ on my CD, but in the 16 years since this album was released, I’ve no idea how to open/activate that with my 2016 computer (it’s probably online somewhere anyway).
Where are Scooch now?
After the success of the singles, and the stalling chart placement of this album (#41), the group eventually found themselves standing for the UK’s entry to perform in the Eurovision Song Contest in 2007 with Flying The Flag (For You).
Whilst they came 22nd out of the 24 entries, the single performed better, giving them an equal highest hit at #5 in the UK singles chart.
Whilst the group appear to have stopped recording, they have occasionally performed. All four members have continued to work in entertainment, with theatre and television presenting roles.
Natalie released two solo singles as Natalie Powers through Almighty Records, one of which was a solo version of Music To My Heart which features on this album. However, she now appears to focus on being a vocal coach at her Allstars Academy in Hertfordshire.
POP RESCUE RATING:
- POP RESCUE 2016 RATING: 4 / 5
- 2000 UK CHART PEAK: #41
- POP RESCUE COST: £1.43 from an eBay seller.