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Album Review

East 17 were billed as a London version of the boy band Take That, but there was always a harder edge to the band both in terms of its attitude and certainly its music. East 17's name itself came from the postal district of London where they originated, and their debut album's title came from the name of the district in full (Walthamstow). Where Take That concentrated on dance and pop, East 17 included rap and hip-hop/R&B beats in their songs, as heard on their first two Top Ten singles, "House of Love" and "Deep." There was harmony and melody, but East 17 were of the streets and proudly wore that badge for all to see. The single "Gold" could easily have been recorded by the Pet Shop Boys, as the intro and chorus had their lush orchestration and smooth vocals, although the verses featured Brian Harvey rapping about the futility of war and the need to live together in harmony on this planet. It was hardly a surprise when the archetypal London band of the mid-'90s recorded a version of the Pet Shop Boys' "West End Girls," which was the only cover on the album, all other tracks written by bandmember Tony Mortimer. Despite a faithful reproduction of the original, even this song had a harder edge, the rapping in the verses sounding more menacing than Neil Tennant ever had. The antiwar theme was continued on the tracks "I Disagree" and "Gotta Do Something," although the band also spoke about class and race and appeared to hold many other left-leaning political viewpoints. Unusually for a major-selling album, the sixth single released was the one that became the biggest hit. "It's Alright" hit number three during Christmas 1993, but at this stage of their career East 17 were just getting into their stride.


Formed: 1991 in London, England

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '90s

With the notable exception of Take That, East 17 were the most successful teen-oriented dance-pop band in Britain of the early '90s. Led by songwriter Tony Mortimer, the group initially tried to emulate American rap and hip-hop, before settling down into a commercial fusion of new jack R&B, hip-hop beats, rap, and pop melodies. The stylish, accessible blend of dance music, plus the group's boyish good looks, made East 17 into a teen pop sensation. Occasionally, the band achieved some credibility...
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Walthamstow, East 17
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