All Saints: All Saints (London 828979 £13.99)

Spice up your soul food

IT IS a simple fact of 1997 life that any new group of glamorous female singers will be compared to the Spice Girls. However, that is more a measure of the Spice Girls’ overwhelming pre-eminence than it is a reflection on the music of All Saints, four young women from West London whose self-titled debut album boasts some of the most stylishly soulful pop you will hear this year.

The opening track, ‘Never Ever’, is enough to disabuse anyone of the idea that this is one of those pop albums where the froth rises to the top. A long, slow, gospel-influenced tune with a spoken intro — “All the answers to my questions I have to find…” — it is produced, as is much of the album, by Cameron McVey of Neneh Cherry fame. The reflective tone continues through to the dark, almost trip-hop shades of ‘Alone’ and a creditable version of the Red Hot Chili Peppers song ‘Under the Bridge’, which boasts some brilliantly cut-up guitar samples lifted from the original.

Other songs have been carefully tailored for the teen-pop/dance market, most obviously ‘Let’s Get Started’ and their recent hit, ‘I Know Where It’s At’. But the slinky, sexy sound of ‘Bootie Call’ and a cleverly updated arrangement of the LaBelle standard, ‘Lady Marmalade’, confirm All Saints as a group working more in the R&B tradition of TLC and En Vogue than in the pure pop world of the Spice Girls. Either way, on the strength of this album, All Saints are bound for somewhere near the top.

© David SinclairThe Times, 21 November 1997

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