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Album Review

From her cover version of Dionne Warwick's "Walk on By" to her Bridget Jones theme "Out of Reach" to her brilliantly executed Motown pastiche "Give Me a Little More Time," the musical world's most famous eye-patch wearer, Gabrielle, was a successful exponent of retro-soul-pop long before the likes of Amy Winehouse and Duffy had even recorded a note. Following a disappointing country reinvention with previous album Play to Win, her fifth studio release, Always, sees her return to the trademark sound that helped to sell a million copies of 1999's Rise and her subsequent Greatest Hits. But far from being a step backwards, its 12 tracks, largely co-written with regular collaborator Julian Gallagher, actually provide some of the most inventive material of her 15-year career. "Love Me Like You Do" is an infectious toe-tapping stomper with shades of Phil Spector's Wall of Sound production, "Every Little Teardrop" is a laid-back summery midtempo number featuring a guitar riff reminiscent of Lenny Kravitz's "It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over," and the title track is an intriguing blend of Kanye West-style helium vocal samples and orchestral jazz-funk. Not averse to the odd sample (the original version of her debut hit, "Dreams," borrowed the guitar hook from Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car," while her second number, "Rise," lifted the backing from Bob Dylan's "Knockin' on Heaven's Door"), Gabrielle always proves she hasn't lost her knack of effortlessly adapting other artists' work. "I Remember" is a glorious slice of '70s soul that samples Tom Brock's "There's Nothing in This World That Can Stop Me from Loving You," also used in Jay-Z's "Girls Girls Girls," while lead single "Why" is a subtle acoustic song based on Paul Weller's "Wild Wood," and also features the Modfather himself on backing vocals and guitar. Unfortunately, the midsection of the album descends into MOR territory with countless bland guitar ballads like "All I Want" and "It's Breaking My Heart" all merging into one. However, "Show Me Love" is a dramatic orchestral love song that showcases Gabrielle's raspy Macy Gray-esque tones, while the gorgeous string-soaked "Closure" recalls the aching vulnerability of her most underrated single, 2001's "Should I Stay." The chart-topping success and Radio 1 support might be all but a distant memory, but Always wisely ignores any attempt to keep up with her younger contemporaries, its effortless blend of authentic soul and classy understated production a sure sign that Gabrielle is more than content to grow older gracefully, and on her own terms too. ~ Jon O'Brien, Rovi


Born: 16 April 1970 in London, England

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

British house/R&B vocalist Gabrielle began her career singing for free in London West End clubs whilst temping in offices during the day. Her big break came when she recorded a demo, called "Dreams," based around Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car," which subsequently fell into the hands of an A&R man at London's Go! Beat records. The track was re-recorded without the Chapman sample and ended up in the Guinness Book of Hit Singles as the highest U.K. chart entry for a debut female act, topping the charts...
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Always, Gabrielle
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