Today’s POP RESCUE from a fate uncertain, is the 2002 debut duo album Another You Another Me by Steps members H & Claire. Should you ask the DJ to play this album, or will you be All Out Of Love for it? Read on…
The album opens with the tinkling piano opening third single All Out Of Love, which formed a double-A side single. A piano lulls you into what feels like a heartfelt ballad, but this evolves under Claire’s vocal command, building up to the chorus when suddenly it bursts open with H, and suddenly feels like it is a younger sibling of Steps’ hit One For Sorrow. Claire’s vocals are soon grabbing at those high reach big notes amongst thumping beats and pumping synths – very much like a Steps continuation – complete with gear change towards the end. The track gave them their final single, reaching #10 on the UK chart, familiar territory for the songwriters Mark Topham, Karl Twigg, and Andrew Frampton.
Next is lead single DJ, and I remember this charting, as I hadn’t expected to hear from Steps members after the split. The track was a hit, giving them a promising start in the UK charts at #3. The track is highly reminiscent of disco, in particular the signature riff from Donna Summer‘s I Feel Love. Swooping strings, dramatic stringed swoops, and handclaps make all the essential disco ingredients, as Claire and H take turns with the verses. It flows effortlessly along, before taking a turn with robotic vocals that reminds me momentarily of Madonna before the disco beat and swathes of synths return. It’s wonderfully catchy, and lyrically light.
Title track Another You Another Me follows this, and it’s a breathy synth-pad ballad. This was written by pop royalty Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus from ABBA, and had been an ’80s hit for Swedish duo Gemini. Claire really gets to hit some fantastic high notes, reminding you of the sheer power, range, and control that she has. H’s vocals are softer and slightly soulful in contrast, but he’s clearly not as strong as Claire here – and it shows. It is unashamedly ABBA meets West End stage show in performance, and feels a bit out of place here following the previous two tracks on this album.
Beauty And The Beast is next, and this formed the other half of the third double-A side single. As you’d expect, this is a heartfelt ballad cover of the song. Musically, it’s fairly loyal to the original Disney version, which is why this track was recorded – to celebrate the anniversary of. The track allows Claire to show off her vocals further, with H giving ample contrasting vocals, even if he’s here reminding me very much of Peter Andre’s performance in Katie Price and Peter Andre‘s Disney attempt. The single gave the duo their final charting single, reaching #10, and perhaps this was a little generous.
Second single Half A Heart follows this, which opens with a nice bass led track. The the track has a nice slinky sound to it, one that you could easily imagine George Michael, En Vogue, or Christina Aguilera singing over. It sounds really good, and the chorus is nice and catchy, with Claire getting to soar occasionally. The track gave them a #8 hit, which is great, although the track would have benefitted from.
Next up seems to be Claire in full Christina mode with All I Want Is You, which has some kind of funky 70’s slightly disco sound to it. H turns up for the chorus before getting some verse vocals, but where he can take the vocals to a soulful place, he doesn’t carry the same vocal power as Claire. This track bounces along nicely, and is pretty catchy too, and reminiscent of Steps gives no surprise that Topham, Twigg, and Frampton are once again on songwriter duties. At times there’s almost a few echoes of It’s Raining Men in the melody before it manages to shake itself short of a lawsuit.
Acoustic guitars and piano warn us of another ballad in the form of Centre Of My Heart. Breathy vocals from Claire lead the way in, and here she sometimes sound like Natalie Imbruglia. She’s soon joined by H in the run up to the chorus, and here in this more mellow track he sounds well placed and is contrasting Claire perfectly in the vocal harmonies. It’s a pretty simple pop song, and one that would never have been a candidate for single release.
Piano returns us to another ballad You’re A Love Song, along with a flurry of strings and dreamy synth pads. You could almost imagine the backing vocalists in the first few minutes being the whispering-all-sexy style by the Bee Gees (obviously it isn’t). By about 1m 40 the beat arrives, and eventually as strings swirl around them, precisely as the lyrics “as the music starts to soar” this seems to nudge Claire into action as she throws out some wonderfully soaring vocals, before the strings deliver the ending.
With what sounds like the first few notes of the theme to Neighbours, it soon switches to ballad Two Hearts Beat As One. This is a mid-tempo love song, which comes complete with some really nice warm layered vocals and instruments. We’re treated again to Topham, Twigg, and Frampton on songwriter duties, ensuring it gets a fully fledged sound. This could easily have been a Mariah Carey song.
No Turning Back follows this, and thankfully we’re back to a more up-beat pop song. There’s echoes of those wafting synths synonymous with William Orbit at times, but this is a nice little catchy pop song, allowing H to show off his pop vocals, although caging Claire slightly until towards the end. I could imagine Steps covering this song and giving it a pure 10x adrenaline shot, and with Claire and H on co-writer credits, there’s always a chance!
Starting off mysteriously, Nothing At All gives us some more soulful vocals – and this suits H well, who takes the mic at first, but Claire sounds somewhat restricted here. Either way, the vocals are heavily affected, and this makes H’s vocals sound a bit scrappy in the mid-section. The downtempo guitar notes throughout make this sound like it could have been trying to audition for a discount Bond movie. At the 3m 15s mark, the track seems to get an injection of energy and returns us back to an almost Steps style.
That’s followed by There You Were, which gives H the lead in a piano-led ballad. He’s joined by some guitars, and finger snaps before Claire arrives. It swiftly makes me think of the ‘journey’ montage moment afforded to X Factor contestants as they sing some kind of heartfelt power ballad. A few more bpms on this track, with some roaring electric guitar would probably do this justice. Instead, it’s a paint by numbers ballad, and sadly one of many in the early 00s.
Next up is Invincible seeing Topham, Twigg, and Frampton take their last songwriter credit on the album. Again, we’re threatened with some plinky plonky piano notes before Claire turns up alongside it to lead us into the first verse. Suddenly, a cymbal, finger clicks and H’s vocals arrive, and then we’re into full on ballad territory. There’s stylistic echoes in the chorus here from earlier cover Beauty And The Beast, and guitars seem to dominate during H’s vocals, to the point of distracting. This could also easily be an X Factor winner ballad or West End song.
Then it’s time for Too Close To Tears, which seems to echo Cher’s Believe in its intro, and this is a great thing. This gives way to a thumping dance beat, Spanish guitars, and pulsing synths as Claire sings about ‘dreaming of those endless summer days‘. H sounds at home here too, resulting in a great little dance track and a grateful break from ballads. Both Claire and H have co-writer credits here, with the safe hands of Brian Rawling lurking on the producer credits alongside Graham Stack.
The album closes with Let Me Carry You, a song about angels sharing the weight of life’s burden, and this song comes complete with and un-named choir. The song is quite a nice album-ending plodder, and the choir really does add to this. It’s great to hear Claire alongside them, although H seems to be a bit lost in the mix.
Over all, this album has some really strong pop tracks, but it proves that Steps are far more than just Claire Richards’ belting vocals, and H’s soulful pop vocal.
The album is off to a perfect start – two belting dance-pop, disco-y sounding songs that fit well with the post-Steps back catalogue. By the time that the ‘why bother’ of Beauty And The Beast has finished and you’re stepping into the soulful sound of Half A Heart, you’re wondering what the remaining 10 songs are going to be like.
The highlights are undoubtedly DJ, All Out Of Love, but Half A Heart, All I Want Is You, and Too Close To Tears all work perfectly, but it’s the reliance on their other type of song – the saccharine heartfelt ballad, and the sheer volume of tracks, that make this album daunting. There You Were, Nothing At All, and Invincible hit the lowest point on this track, with the second half of the album on the wane.
The choir near in final track Let Me Carry You gives the album a great send off, but perhaps this is buoyed by Too Close To Tears immediately before it.
If you enjoyed all tracks on a Steps album, or some of the more ballad-y X Factor, Fame Academy, or Pop Idol albums, then you’ll likely enjoy this more than I did. I’d have preferred a bit more energy, songs that are easier for H to show off in, and at least 3 songs shaved off the album.
- POP RESCUE 2022 RATING: 3 / 5
- 2002 UK ALBUM CHART PEAK: #58, certified Silver by the BPI.
- POP RESCUE COST: £1.90 from an eBay seller.