Review: ‘Awake and Breathe’ by B*Witched (CD, 1999)


Today’s POP RESCUE from obscurity, is the second album from Irish quartet, B*Witched, 1999’s ‘Awake And Breathe‘, but does this album feel like a breath of fresh air, or like it’s half asleep? Let’s find out…

B*Witched - Awake And Breathe (1999) album cover
B*Witched’s 1999 ‘Awake And Breathe’ album

The album opens with If It Don’t Fit, which opens with some really nice acoustic guitars before the ladies leap in with almost Natalie Imbruglia meets All Saints-esque vocals. There’s some nice warm harmonies here, and this results in a nice mid-tempo track, and really good upbeat start to this second album.

Next up is the album’s lead single Jesse Hold On, which opens with a catchy little banjo hook, resulting in a song that instantly feels somewhat reminiscent to their previous album style. It feels much more pop-lite to the previous song. It’s still mellow though, and there would be no double denim jump-and-shout moments here, despite the vocal gear-change in the final third. However, this song gave the group a #4 UK hit single in late 1999. This was, at that point, their lowest charting UK single, with the 4 previous singles all hitting the #1 slot.

The album’s second single, I Shall Be There follows this, and this track is a slow number, allowing the sweeping strings in the charge of Anne Dudley (Art Of Noise, ABC, and countless orchestral production credits) to soar, whilst Ladysmith Black Mambazo do their thing. This single didn’t repeat the success of the previous single, again giving the group their lowest UK charting single at #13.

Jump Down opens with some chanting crowds as a nice big fat late-90s pop bassy synth leads us in. This sounds like a familiar format for their previous hits, again with the Irish fiddle section and vocal gear-change in the final third. Sadly, when the track was the third and final single from the album it again saw them chart at their lowest position in the UK – reaching #16.

Up next is a dreamy ballad called Someday, again with Anne Dudley expertly wielding the string section. The vocals feel really sincere here, and it almost feels like the song belongs on the soundtrack of a Disney film.

It’s Leaves next, which instantly makes me wonder whether this song is going to be about foliage. And the first line of the lyrics reveal that it is. This is quite a nice abstract song – with some spaciey synths bubbling away in the background, with

The Shy One follows this, and it’s a return to the power-pop sound as it bursts out of my speakers. This song sounds a bit like All Saints, and probably would have fared well as a single.

Next up it’s Red Indian Girl which has a wonderful mix of acoustic and bass. The vocals really shine here as solo and as harmonies, and this is definitely a high point of the album, but it belongs here on the album.

That’s followed by It Was Our Day, which opens with harmonica setting the scene as a bit of a slow sad song that deals with death. Topic aside, it’s just a nice sounding song.

My Superman is up next and this brings the tempo right back up – with happy harmonica this time, over a bouncing dance beat. This sounds like it could have turned up on an early Cathy Dennis single, but it definitely should have made it as a single rather than I Shall Be There.

More acoustic guitars usher in penultimate track Are You A Ghost?, which allows for breathy vocals and a nice slow soft beat. Despite this, the chorus’ lyrics don’t help to make this particularly catchy, but the verses and overall sound make this another really nice song.

The album closes with track In Fields Where We Lay, which unless i’m mistaken is a line from While Shepherds Watched, the Christmas carol, but…this is definitely not a Christmas song. Instead, the song is an a capella which allows the vocals to get one final chance to shine, and they do.

Verdict

If you were sold on B*Witched from their debut just 1 year before, with them being an all-out jumping girls-in-double-denim smiling 110% Irish mini-flashmob, then this album is probably going to disappoint you a bit.

Gone is the nauseating teen pop (in the most part) and instead we have a much more mature album that really showcases the vocals of Edele, Lyndsay, Keavy, and Sinead as adults. Even the cover depicts this, and the music is more orchestral, vocal, and acoustic.

Perhaps the problem here is that in the hurry to deliver album 2 to cash in on the teen pop success of that debut, the songs (and perhaps the group) have evolved a bit too far and fast from that sound.

If that means that what we’ve got here is the real B*Witched, then that’s a good thing, right? I just wish a better choice of ‘transitional’ singles were chosen to help bring their fans across to this album too. Sadly, they were dropped by their label after the poor performance of this album’s singles.

  • POP RESCUE 2019 REVIEW RATING: 4 / 5
  • 1999 UK CHART PEAK POSITION: #5
  • POP RESCUE 2019 COST: £1.49 from a British Heart Foundation store.

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