Today’s Pop Rescue from a fate unknown is the 2001 debut album All Rise by the British four-piece pop group, Blue. Will this album deserve a standing ovation, or will it flop about all over the place? Read on…
This 12 track CD opens with the harmonica riff of lead single and titular track All Rise. Simon Webbe is straight in on the vocals as the song swaggers along over an Garage-tinged R&B track. There are echoes of Backstreet Boys here in some of the vocal styles, aside from the rap in the mid-section, but the group sound good as they each take turn to show off their vocal style, and they work well with their vocal harmonies too. The song is catchy, and rightly took them to #4 in the UK charts. The album is off to a great start.
That’s followed by Too Close which stood as the group’s second single. Its innuendo chorus of ‘you’re making it hard for me’ works well as the song is laden with sultry bass, soft drum machine beats, and more soulful vocals. The track is pretty much a faithful cover of the hit single by American band Next from 1997 (they reached #24 in the UK in 1998). Blue’s version gave them their first #1 in the UK singles chart. Once again, the vocal harmonies work well here, with plenty of opportunities for the vocals from Lee Ryan and Simon Webbe in particular to shine.
Next is This Temptation, sounding a bit more up-beat and initially a little more Garage-like. At times though it also sounds quite pop-ish and bounces along enough that I could almost imagine S Club 7 belting this one out. The change in pace at about 2min 50s works really well before it returns for the finalé.
If You Come Back follows next, and we’re back to a Garage sound, with looped acoustic guitar acting as the song’s undercurrent whilst heartfelt croaking lyrics in this soaring ballad. The song, when released as their third single took Blue to #1 in the UK, and clearly captured the hearts of the singles-buying public. It’s a simple song, but it allows each member to show off their vocal range in a slow song.
Then it’s Fly By, which has an intro that sounds like me aged 9 on a mini Casio keyboard stabbing away at chords before the simple R&B beat kicks in. This is a fairly simple track, again laden with record scratches, and plenty of ‘yeah yeah’ sample moments. A rap drops in mid-way for a while before the track returns with the Casio keyboard. A version of this song was released as Fly By II, and saw the group reach #6 in the UK.
That’s followed by Bounce which opens like an early Billie Piper song, before the guys arrive on the mic. A gurgling bass synth sits beneath some stabbing synth chords that give it an occasional whiff of disco. These are eventually joined by another at a higher key. The layers in this song build nicely though resulting in quite a warm and rich sound with their soulful vocals over the top.
An acoustic guitar opens next song Long Time, and we’re treated to what feels like a gentle warm ballad. Once again, there’s a load of really nice vocal harmonies here, allowing the song to gently build up as the guys take their turns on the lead.
Then it’s time for Make It Happen and this song is a good little pop song, with each of the guys taking their turn. However, the vocal styles seem to be thrown about a bit too much here as they grab high notes. The track doesn’t really feel very well suited to Blue – and is perhaps just a bit dull.
Next is Back To You and this has a heavy bass drum and bass line, as a guitar is strummed with what feels like an urgency. The song sounds like a return to the Backstreet Boys formula of quiet vs loud, as the electric guitars duel with some snarly rock-ish vocals. These harder vocals work really well though, even though I can’t work out who is singing them.
That leads on to Girl I’ll Never Understand, which has Gary Barlow tucked away on the co-writer credits, but it’s not the schmaltz that you might therefore be expecting. At my guess, I think I can hear his songwriting in the chorus for sure, but there’s no sign of him in the production credits, allowing the song to sound more Blue than Take That.
Back Some Day hints towards its role as penultimate track, and the melody has an air of an earlier era to it. The vocals here are wonderfully warm, and delightfully rich in their harmonies, even at their croakiest heartfelt. Of course, it comes with a step-off-stool-with-arms-outstretched key change in the final third, but the sheer built up track by this point lets it off the hook. This track feels like the perfect ending to the album, but it’s not quite….
The album closes with acoustic guitars and finger clicks in Best In Me, as Duncan James takes the lead. He’s soon joined by the higher register of Lee Ryan. This track saw it released as a promo single, but never received a full release, nor did it touch the charts, which is a bit of a shame as it really shows off their vocals well in what is quite a sweet little song.
Over all, this album is a collection of well produced tracks that take advantage of the vocal differences and harmonies that the group have to offer.
The high points are certainly All Rise, Too Close, and the tender album closer Best In Me, but there are plenty of other songs here that really showcase the group’s abilities vocally. There are a couple of lower points – not bad songs – but those that fail to stand out amongst the rest of the tracks. Those being Bounce, Long Time, and Make It Happen, which are all good songs, but they just feel like they’re just sub-versions of other tracks.
This album was a great career starter for them, and rightly gave them a #1 hit. It’s definitely worth a listen, if only to reminisce of that fleeting garage+R&B cross-over era.
- POP RESCUE 2022 REVIEW RATING: 4 / 5
- 2001 UK ALBUM CHART PEAK: #1, certified 4x Platinum by the BPI.
- POP RESCUE COST: 33p from a British Heart Foundation store.