Review: “Open” by Shaznay Lewis (CD, 2004)

Today’s Pop Rescue from an uncertain future, is the 2004 debut solo album Open by British singer and songwriter, and member of All Saints, Shaznay Lewis. Will this album leave you like you’ve Never Felt before, or will you wish it was closed. Read on…

Shaznay Lewis – Open (2004) album

This 11 track CD opens with the crackling vinyl of the aptly titled Intro/Open. It’s laidback, sounding like a lazy listen to old vinyl on a Sunday. It’s only just over 1 minute long, but is a nice little intro to the album – “I’m an open book” Shaznay sings. We’re about to find out.

Next up is Dance which opens with a man roaring into the mic before the track bursts in. It sounds like a kind of Austin Powers’ 60’s theme song. It is rich and luxurious, and Shaznay’s distinctive voice fits in here perfectly. The song is up-beat, fresh and interesting, and pop royalty Rick Nowels (Belinda Carlisle, Melanie C, Desree etc) can be found on co-writer duties. There’s even a beat-box moment and rap from Biz Markie, and this compliments her sultry vocals. It’s a playful song that should have been turned into a single.

That’s followed by lead single I Never Felt Like This Before. The track musically hints towards the William Orbit influences heard in several of the All Saints tracks. The song is also a wash of percussion and beautifully warm strummed acoustic guitars. Shaznay works her lyrics seemingly with great ease. Songwriter Rick Nowels gets his second co-writer credit here alongside Shaznay. Rightly, this gave Shaznay a #8 UK singles chart hit, and could easily have been an All Saints hit.

Mr. Dawg follows that, and this is a jamboree of sounds with a distinct reggae feel to it. It’s perhaps no surprise to find Basement Jaxx on production duties. The track is a foot-tapper, and with a wonderful bass line, and a good fun track.

Next is Heart Made Me A Fool and the reggae sound continues here, partly because Shaznay’s co-writer is a post-humus credit to Bob Marley. punctuated by blasts of brass. Fellow All Saints member Melanie Blatt is here on the backing vocals, making this a song with 50% of All Saints on it. This track should also have made it as a single, but sadly remains tucked away here instead. I love the tracks vinyl crackling ending.

Mood shifts for second and final single You. This track gives Shaznay a love-lost song that reminds me of Morcheeba’s Skye Edwards meets Lamb meets William Orbit. Once more, Rick Nowels is back again as co-writer. There’s lots of All Saints style here with lingering synths, guitar notes, and soaring strings, but ultimately this downbeat song drifts a fair bit, and was perhaps a bit too sad for fans, as it stalled at #56 in the UK singles chart.

Mr. Weatherman is next, opening with some kind of psychedelic organ and synth pads before the beat drops. Shaznay’s vocals are strong and confident here, lifting the mood from the previous track, as she sings about washing ‘all my teardrops away’ as a guitar chugs along. Melanie Blatt is back on backing vocal duties here as well. It’s a nice little song.

Then it’s Butterflies, and this is a delightful track, packed with snares, backing vocals, shouty vocal sections, and a ton of big band samples. The track has a wonderful tempo too, making it a catchy track that harks back to a vintage era. I’d love to be able to tell you the great sample used on the album, but considering the sleeve artist chose to write the credits for this song in white, on a pale yellow background in a highly decorated font, I can’t make it out, but you briefly hear a direct sample of the original artist towards the end.

Nasty Boy follows that and the track has quite a unique sound to it – sounding somewhere between a Muppet travelling band, and a Kelis track, with Britney on vocals. The ploddy synth line is great, and Shaznay just about holds it all together by weaving her effortless vocals throughout.

Radio is the album’s penultimate track. A weird spacey sound permeates throughout, alongside a heavily distorted guitar, and what sounds like the bossanova setting on my childhood 80’s Yamaha keyboard. The song is wonderfully catchy though, and Shaznay delivers another song’s vocals with seemingly great ease.

The album closes with Now You’re Gone, and we’re returned to a reggae sound, but I feel that there’s a distinct ‘by-the-sea’ feel to this song, amongst all the percussion and wonderful backing vocal ‘oooh oooh oh ohhh’s that sound like they’ve dropped out of a 1960’s track. It’s the perfect ending to the album, and perhaps puts her the closest to the vocal style of the late Amy Winehouse.

Shaznay Lewis’ lead single ‘Never Felt Like This Before’ (2004).

Verdict

Over all, this album is wonderful.

In 2004, in our first post-All Saints world, this album will have felt like a continuation of their work. There’s plenty here for their vocal style, or the William Orbit sound that they adopted. Shaznay’s ability as a songwriter and vocalist in All Saints, is blatantly clear here in her solo album.

Collaborations with Rick Nowels, Basement Jaxx, and fellow All Saint-er Melanie Blatt, are perfect, and they help to keep the album bright, and catchy, but you just know that Shaznay could have delivered without them.

The highlights are very much Dance, Now You’re Gone, Butterflies, and Radio, but generally it is a great solo album to add to your collection. My only low points, that prevent it getting a full five stars, were Mr Weatherman and Nasty Boy, which stylistically jarred with me, or felt a little lacking in direction.

Definitely Open your ears, and give this album a play.

Rated 4 stars - You're missing a treat!
  • POP RESCUE 2021 RATING: 4 / 5
  • 2004 UK ALBUM CHART PEAK: #22
  • POP RESCUE COST: £1.49 from a British Heart Foundation store.

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