wears the trousers magazine


beverley knight: 100% (2009)
September 17, 2009, 1:39 pm
Filed under: album, review, video | Tags: , , ,

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Beverley Knight
100% •••
Hurricane

Beverley Knight is one of the few British R&B-styled pop artists from the ’90s to have made it this far. While so many of her contemporaries have seemingly fallen by the wayside – Gabrielle, Dina Carroll, Shola Ama, Kele Le Roc – Knight has managed to sustain a successful career, culminating in a platinum-selling ‘best of’ (2006’s Voice), the critically acclaimed ‘retro album’ Music City Soul, and even an MBE from the Queen. Having since parted ways with her record company Parlophone, the release of new album 100% on her own label, Hurricane Records, might well test her robustness even further. But despite being self-financed, 100% lives up to its title by scrimping on neither production values nor talent. Recruiting the likes of Chaka Khan, Guy Chambers, Amanda Ghost, Jimmy Hogarth (co-writer with the likes of Amy Winehouse, Sia and Suzanne Vega), and super-producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Knight has invested wisely to ensure she takes no chances with the album’s commercial appeal.

It’s no fluke that Knight has survived in the business for so long; she is charismatic, works tremendously hard, and her voice is always a pleasure to listen to. Although 100% doesn’t quite wield the same magic as her superb 1998 breakthrough Prodigal Sista or 2002’s chart-besting Who I Am, it’s a solid enough effort that has some great moments. Opener and first single ‘Beautiful Night’ kicks off the largely mid-tempo proceedings with a fairly sparse production by studio collective The Rural and Knight’s silky voice gliding effortlessly over the top. ‘Breakaway’ is an homage to ’90s house music and is full of energy, but lacks a chorus big enough to turn it into a sizable hit. Meanwhile, ‘In Your Shoes’ turns the clock back a decade to pay tribute once again to Chic’s disco classic ‘Good Times’, the same track she sampled on the remix of ‘Made It Back’ in 1999 (still one of her most recognised hits), and is the kind of effervescent pop-funk sound Knight made famous on Prodigal Sista.

The title track marks a shift into a slower pace that dominates the rest of the album. A sturdy Motown ballad, the kind Knight excels at, it could well have come from the Music City Soul sessions and shows off her capable songwriting skills. Vocally, it proves she has still has a youth and agility that someone like Whitney Houston would kill for. Airplay single ‘Every Step’, produced by Jam & Lewis, is the kind of R&B pop song Janet Jackson used to make in her heyday, and really benefits from their input. Lyrically (as with much of the album), it’s a story of survival, with Knight claiming that she wouldn’t change a single thing in her life if she could live it over again. It’s a theme that continues on ‘Soul Survivor’, co-written with Guy Chambers and Chaka Khan (who also contributes vocals) and another could-be leftover from Music City Soul. It’s surprisingly exhilarating to hear these two big vocalists pitted against each other, calling to mind Annie Lennox and Aretha Franklin on ‘Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves’.

‘Turned To Stone’ is perhaps the strongest song on the album and a clear contender for a future single as a wonderful mid-tempo rock number with a glorious chorus. The remainder of the album is perhaps a little too weak in places – ‘Bare’ is a non-eventful gospel-imbued ballad about being vulnerable in a relationship, ‘Square Peg’ is a mid-tempo number of the type that she’s been doing for years, while pop-funk numbers ‘Gold Chain’ and ‘Moneyback’ are also rather predictable. It’s not until the lovely ‘Painted Pony’, with its twinkling carousel feel, that things are redeemed slightly, though it’s a shame that a somewhat pointless cover of The Bee Gees’ ‘Too Much Heaven’ has to mar the album’s close. Playing it safe, and not surprisingly considering the circumstances of its conception, 100% breaks no new ground for Knight but it’s an assured, worthy effort that should keep her currency going steady.

P. Viktor
UK release date: 07/09/09; www.myspace.com/beverleyknightofficial

‘Beautiful Night’


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