Review: "Studio 1" by All Saints (CD, 2006)

Today’s POP RESCUE from a fate unknown is the 2006 album ‘Studio 1‘ by the Canadian-British group All Saints. But will this album feel like harmony, or will it Never Ever sound good? Read on…

All Saints' 2006 album 'Studio 1'
All Saints’ 2006 album ‘Studio 1’

Single Rock Steady bursts open the album and gives the wonderful soundscape of beats, synths, and familiar All Saints vocal harmonies. This has a wonderful tempo and melody and instantly feels like it belongs with the rest of their discography, and acts as a perfect return for them. The track gave them a #3 UK hit single, and opened the door for their long-anticipated return.

The album’s second and final single Chick Fit is up next, and this track is far rockier to earlier songs. This single failed to repeat the success of previous single, was download only (those having only been included in UK chart figures the year before), and failed to chart. The vocals, which aren’t particularly warm or sung, aren’t sat on top of a disorientating track that sounds like some kind of mega mix rather than a consistent song. It’s more cheap fit.

Up next is On And On which opens with some gentle bleepy synths and beats, and a bass line that is reminiscent of Lou Reed’s hit Walk On The Wild Side. This returns the quartet to the sound you’d familiar, with the brilliant Greg Kurstin on production. It’s a pleasant meander through a dreamy sound.

Scar is next, opening like a funky Sugababes track, but lacking the vocal power. Either way, it’s still quite a nice song, but again sounds like this isn’t really All Saints.

This is followed by Not Eazy, which musically follows on from Scar. In fact, those two feel like they’ve blurred and already I can’t tell what was different between them. A kind of reggae sound, with punctures of brass, muted vocals. Not Eazy is at least somehow familiar.

Up next is Hell No, and this is sadly another vocally wasteful track, with too many harmonies over heavy beats, and doesn’t really go anywhere. It sounds like a bored Beyoncé track.

One Me And U comes in with some mellow guitar chords, as the vocals cut in over a subdued beat. This is quite a nice song, and it builds with spacey sounding synths and hand claps as the verses grow. Definitely album material.

This follows on to Headlock, which opens with some clunky piano before throwing in hand claps, percussion, and vocals that all sound like they’re being sung in your garage. Again, it’s a nice mellow track, and definitely album material.

Next up is Too Nasty, which sounds like a sultry 1930s song, and highly reminiscent of Lina’s Playa No Mo track. It’s a really nice song, although the vocal harmonies make it a bit soft and mumbled. Again, warm and mellow, but not single material.

In It To Win It begins with a bass and plucked introduction, swiftly dropping the beats and vocals in. There’s some vocal power in it briefly, but it’s mostly harmonies (nice though) and quite a sleepy song.

Flashback comes bursting forward with heavy beats, and is actually quite a catchy upbeat song. There’s some great vocal harmonies in the chorus, set against the roaring electric guitars and rock drums. The group then get a brief chance to show their delicate vocals before it picks up again. I think this could have fared ok as a single. It certainly feels the catchiest song after Rock Steady.

The album closes with Fundamental, and this starts off as a vocals and tinkling piano ballad. After the success of Pure Shores, this track could have given them success as this album’s equivalent. It layers nicely, and takes this mellow album to its inevitable conclusion via some flurries of strings and gospel style vocals.

All Saints’ lead single ‘Rock Steady’

Verdict

Over all, this album had a hard job to do – unify All Saints with each other, and also reacquaint them with their fans.

The lack of William Orbit, and presence of K-Gee gives this album a bit of an off-brand feeling for the group. K-Gee’s influences come from rap, reggae, and hip-hop, and perhaps they wanted this sound, but it definitely dominates here, leaving All Saints’ more than capable vocals pretty much just slapped on top.

The songwriting is clearly well done, but the musical delivery is just a waste of All Saints. Getting them to churn out tired Beyoncé or Sugababes formats is not fair on them, and they really should have been allowed to do themselves justice. Thankfully they would.

Rated 2 stars - A tough listen!
  • POP RESCUE 2020 RATING: 2 / 5
  • 2006 UK ALBUM CHART PEAK: #40, certified Gold by the BPI.
  • POP RESCUE COST: £1.00 from a Poundland store.

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