Review: “Eternal” by Eternal (CD, 1999)

Today’s POP RESCUE from a fate unknown, is the eponymous 1999 fourth album Eternal by the now reduced-to-a-duo British R&B group, Eternal. Will this album Be The Only One you should listen to, or will you be wondering What’cha Gonna Do with it? Read on…

Eternal - Eternal (1999) album cover
Eternal – Eternal (1999) album

The album opens with the lead and sole single What’cha Gonna Do. “One, Two, What’cha gonna do?” the vocals aptly ask – now that they find themselves down to a duo. The track is quite a soft start and with slick production, sounding like you’d easily mistake for something on the All For You album by Janet Jackson, or even Mis-Teeq. This is Eternal on the edge of the dominance of R&B and Garage in the UK charts, and their warm vocal breathy harmonies still sound great, but their days were numbered. The single was a moderate hit at #16, and has been their worst performing UK single so far.

Record scratches lead us into Treat Me Like A Lady, before it gives away to a track not dissimilar to the previous track, with it’s breathy vocals. Musically it’s a pretty simple track, and it simply lacks the oomph that we’re familiar of Eternal having.

Sunday Morning is next, and this sounds like someone’s found the volume dial and it feels like the first fuller sounding track. The first 30 seconds or so are given to an uncredited male, before giving way to the Eternal duo. This track does at least sound more Eternal than the previous tracks with the trademark Bennett vocal soaring. It’s nice enough.

This is followed by I Cry Real Tears, which was originally scheduled as the second single, but got cancelled along with their recording contract. That’s a shame as this again sounds like a more fuller formed song. The tender vocals are backed with a lovely set of brooding strings, piano, and percussion. Think Oh Baby I…, halve its power, and then you’ve got this.

Next up is Pillow Talk. At least we do have a clear beat here, set alongside the Bennett vocals and some acoustic guitar. There’s some nice vocal harmonies and a whiff of castanets in the background, but sadly little else.

The tempo lifts a little for Missing You, and it all hangs around a little acoustic guitar riff. It’s pretty repetitive, but wholly inoffensive. Again, the breathy vocals sit atop a R&B beat and it just wafts along without leaving much of a memory.

Sensual Man does at least have some energy, and lyrically sounds like it’s a cover of some forgotten 60’s track, but it’s actually co-written by professional backing singer extraordinaire Tracey Ackerman. Sadly, apart from in the chorus, the lack of musical instruments means it lacks a sense of melody, and I begin to wonder whether Eternal only had a budget of about £13.72 to make this album, quietly.

In contrast Free To Live seems to be a much fuller sounding song. It builds for the chorus and is laden with synths, percussion, strongs, backing vocals and Spanish guitars, mostly likely due to producer Emilio Estefan (of The Miami Sound Machine, and husband of Gloria Estefan). This is the first track that feels like it should have been released as a single. The high point so far.

A funky bassline finally turns up for Your Love Makes Me Weak, and it instantly lifts Esther and Vernie’s vocals, just like how we remember they did. The vocals are stronger here, and again we have a fuller sounding track, and this definitely should have been the lead single. It’s the most Eternal song here so far.

We back to a ballad this time for If She Breaks Your Heart, with gently lullaby ‘naa naa na na’ vocals over a strummed guitar and chimes. The vocals are thankfully brighter and audible here, and whilst the track could do with a bass, it is a fairly nice little track.

Finger clicks and guitar usher us into Absent From You, joined by a flittering occasional light piano over a simple beat. These continues as vocal layers work their way through this reflective broken hearted song.

Pianos bring us into penultimate track A Melody, which you’d hope has one. The track is quite simple but does at least let the sisters show off their vocal range, as that’s been lacking from most other songs.

The album closes with He Is, which is all about the vocals and the sisters’ love of God. They even performed this on BBC’s long-running Sunday night religious TV series, ‘Songs Of Praise’. It’s short, and then there’s a pause for a few minutes…

…and we have a hidden track You’re Keeping Me Down from the 4m 37s mark! Tinkling pianos, a funky bass, and lots of ‘ooh woah’ vocals before the track starts proper. I’m not sure why you’d hide this song, as it’s better than quite a lot of the rest of the album. It has beats, melody, big vocals, and good structure.

Eternal’s lead single ‘What’cha Gonna Do’.

Verdict

Over all, this album is quite weak, and that’s a real shame.

It takes 8 tracks before a strong or catchy track appears, instead opting for breathy, whispery, minimal tracks that can’t decide whether its R&B or Garage. Mostly gone are the powerful songs of their earlier career, and instead it’s a timid affair and mostly just boring, aside from Your Love Makes Me Weak, Free To Live, and hidden track You’re Keeping Me Down.

This album had hardly any promotion, so it’s no surprise that it failed to step anywhere near to their previous success as a trio or foursome. A gross misuse of one of the UK’s most successful girl groups, and a sad ending to their triumphant career.

Rated 2 stars - A tough listen!
  • POP RESCUE 2020 RATING: 2 / 5
  • 1999 UK ALBUM CHART PEAK: #87
  • POP RESCUE COST: £1.00 from a Discogs.com seller.

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