Today’s Pop Rescue from a fate uncertain, is the 1992 eponymous debut album Michael Ball by British actor, singer, radio host, and former UK Eurovision entrant, Michael Ball. Will this album Change Everything, or is it just One Step Out Of Time? Read on…
The album bursts open with with the thud (you can imagine the air punch) and ‘ooh yeah-ee-yeah‘ of his 1992 Eurovision entry One Step Out Of Time. This is a real upbeat chugging track thanks to the simple synths and electric guitar. Here, Michael’s light pop vocals make him sound not dissimilar to Wet Wet Wet’s Marti Pellow. The track stumbled, giving him a #20 UK position despite coming second to yet another Ireland win in that year’s Song Contest in Malmö, Sweden. Over all, the track is quite a catchy belter, and flows effortlessly, and it’s unfortunate that the charts didn’t treat it better.
That’s followed by the album’s real lead single It’s Still You, which opens like the titles to This Morning with Richard and Judy. It’s a heartfelt mid-tempo ballad, loaded with with wailing vocals penned by songwriter Don Black (the first of three of his co-writings here) and saxophone. Despite this, the track is a bit bland, and understandably the track flopped, falling at #58.
Holland Park is next, and this brings in some wonderful sweeping orchestral strings. The track gives Michael a nice slow number to show off his softer and more soulful, but still big, vocals and he sounds great here.
Then it’s Secret Of Love, which opens with a flurry of drums. It’s a more upbeat pop song, giving us some more guitars, well placed backing vocals, and Michael gets to open up its vocals nicely. This would have been nice to have had as a single rather than It’s Still You.
Next up is As Dreams Go By, and aptly the song has a wafting quality here courtesy of some soft synthscapes and strummed guitar in the verse. However, it also takes on some kind of old time swaying beer drinking song in the chorus, and that makes it feel a bit dated even for 1992.
Who Needs To Know follows that, and we’re back into slow and tender ballad, courtesy of a piano and guitar. For the final chapter of the song, the inclusion of the gospel choir and huge vocals for Michael, alongside the saxophone, really brings the song up and up to its big vocal climax.
Then we’re on to Simple Affair Of The Heart, opening with an aching guitar solo, before switching to a gentle beat. The track switches quite a bit, throwing in some strings and brass and sounding like a 70’s song, with 80’s guitar solos, and yet more big vocals. It’s certainly a song that evolves, and there’s some quite nice moments in this mixture too, but its jumpiness almost sounds like a theatre song.
If You Need Another Love follows that, and this is another mid-tempo song, but sounds like it’s an 80’s theatre song. That aside, Michael sounds like he makes light work of it, and easily shifts from big notes in the chorus to the verses.
That’s followed by Beautiful Heartache, and here Michael gets to show off a more playful vocal style in this cock-sure lyrical song about an encounter with a lady. This is quite a fun track with a great big mid section where Michael’s flanked by an orchestra. Whilst I doubt it could have worked as a single, it’s a good strong track.
Then it’s No One Cries Anymore, and as you might expect, it’s a ballad, with an orchestra swirling around Michael’s crisp and tender (not chicken) vocals. It’s a nice and sad, yet warm song… but the song is sat in the foyer of what we know is coming next….
..the album’s closure with the epic track Love Changes Everything, which gave Michael a big #2 UK hit, taken from the Andrew Lloyd-Webber musical Aspects Of Love (which as we write in 2023, Michael is starring in). This track is tagged on here, despite having been released as a single in 1989, but its inclusion is a perfect ending for this album – Michael’s debut. Regardless of whether you like Michael, or that this isn’t pop music, it is an epic song and perfect for the ending.
Over all, this album bounces between ballad and up-tempo pop-ish, but its clear that whilst some tracks are a little tepid or benign, Michael can deliver the vocals perfectly.
I remember Michael Ball being announced as the performer for the 1992 Eurovision song – this was the year before Sonia’s similar success of taking the UK to 2nd place. I wasn’t too impressed it was him, as I already knew the slow ballad of Love Changes Everything that closed my beloved NOW! That’s What I Call Music 14 LP and suspected he’d do the same style. However, I was surprised to find that One Step Out Of Time was upbeat, and Michael delivers it with great energy and it’s a gem of a track. It stands out here, still packed with energy, and thankfully it’s not alone in energy, as it’s closely paired with Secret Of Love. Alongside Love Changes Everything, which IS an epic song, Beautiful Heartache is also a great track too, showing off a somewhat different style.
There are some low points though, and why It’s Still You was deemed to be single material is a mystery – it is the worst track here, but the rest are mostly just middle of the road songs (musically or lyrically) that just leave you feeling ‘meh’ about it despite Michael doing the best with what he’s given.
A few more up-beat songs, and the album would have fared better in this review, but what do we know? – it spent a week at #1 in the UK.
- POP RESCUE 2023 RATING: 3 / 5
- 1992 UK ALBUM CHART PEAK: #1, certified Gold by the BPI.
- POP RESCUE COST: £1.00 from a British Heart Foundation store.