on 27 October 2012
Rebecca Ferguson was my favorite X Factor competitor and, although I was disappointed that she did not win, I was actually quite glad she didn't as this gave her time to reflect on what type of album she wanted to release, write her own songs and determine the remits of her recording contract. It is fair to say that Rebecca has chosen well and has used a very mature approach to selecting the material for her album - it is soulful, very complementary of her superb yet unique vocals and modern yet meaningful. "Heaven" is a very strong debut album.
The lead single "Nothing's Real But Love" is a very unexpected but wise choice and sounds very Tracy Chapman like (think back to "Fast Car"), possessing strong Folk components. "Glitter And Gold" ups the tempo and veers into Pop territory whilst retaining the soulful feel this album has. The beautiful ballad "Shoulder To Shoulder" is the album's best track with spine tingling melody and vocals - sheer bliss. "Fairytale" and "Mr. Bright Eyes" are two more fantastic Pop Soul tunes. "Fighting Suspicions" opens with a Jazz intro where Rebecca sounds so much like Billie Holiday and then builds into a funky Reggae influenced Pop song. "Teach Me How To Be Loved" is another emotional ballad and the final three tracks "Run Free", "Diamond To Stone" and "Too Good To Lose" bring back that soulful and funky vibe that is so addictive and laid back.
This new version of "Heaven" includes 5 additional songs that lengthen the album to a now acceptable duration. The infectious new single "Backtrack" is a fast paced Motown inspired uptempo song that fits Rebecca like a glove. "Strange And Beautiful (I'll Put A Spell On You)" is a welcome addition to this album and is the second beautiful, emotional and haunting ballad on here. The cool "Good Days, Bad Days" lends itself to the atmospheric and contains Trip-Hop influences. "I'll Count the Days" is a very sweet piano led ballad with somptuous string arrangements and lovely vocals from Rebecca. The final song is a Live performance of "I'll Take Care Of You", a fresh sounding 80's inspired Dance track.
I am very impressed by Rebecca Ferguson's debut album "Heaven" as it possesses Soul and leaves you wanting more. I am hoping that she will grow into one of those consistently good Soul vocalists like Gabrielle who, no matter what they release, always deliver.
on 15 October 2012
It's not often I'm tempted to part with hard cash for a CD more than once (unless it's to share it with a friend, that is), but the extra tuneage on this "deluxe" edition makes it well worth it.
During the 2010 cycle of the X Factor TV juggernaut, so many "experts" whose paths were crossed by Rebecca babbled on about her "recording voice", to the extent that it became almost as much of a cliche as "you made that song your own" or "you don't know how good you are". Thankfully, Rebecca Ferguson not only proved them right here, but what might surprise you, if you haven't had the chance to hear her album, is the sheer CONFIDENCE of her vocal. Whatever they gave her: a pep talk, intuitive songwriting collaborators, a double espresso... it worked.
The original album clocked in at barely over 35 minutes, but it didn't matter, and there were one or two too many retro-soul arrangements for my liking (think Duffy), but we'll brush that aside, too, as the whole package was a breath of fresh air to anyone who - like me - has developed a serious hypersensitivity to needless Auto Tune vocal "effects" over the last few years. [There is a time and a place...which only the minority of genuinely creative artistes seem to understand]. Only the occasional bit of well-judged reverb seems to be used to embellish this singer's richly timbred vibrato.
Comparisons with other singers are always tiresome, if hard to resist, but it's tempting to wonder whether Rebecca can pull off the same level of success as Leona Lewis on the other side of the Atlantic, bearing in mind the quality of her voice when compared with other, established singers. Throughout Heaven, she's singing like the love child of Dina Carroll and Macy Gray (both American, last time I looked). Except she sounds unmistakeably like herself, and this woman's musical instincts are razor sharp. Many of the songs are co-written with Ivor Novello laureate Eg White, but her imprint appears to be all over them - that she couldn't sing them half as well if she wasn't able totally to commit to them.
The first couple of tracks, the singles Nothing's Real But Love and Glitter And Gold, seem to lay down a sort of manifesto but are basically the same song, albeit with very different tempos and instrumentation (if you listen to the lyrics, anyway), so thank goodness things get considerably more interesting. Shoulder To Shoulder is really quite something, and I'm still guessing it will go down as the standout song in general consensus, and Ms F sings it as though her life depended on it. In a world awash with tabloid "He said, she said..." nonsense, TOWIE and the like, it seems astonishing to hear a song dealing so honestly and insightfully about the pitfalls of attachment and co-dependency, and from a singer who's come through the reality TV machine, at that! THIS, ladies and gentlemen, is reality.
The horn section returns for Fairytale, a sumptuous retro-soul confection, before the breezy, ingenuous Mr Bright Eyes. This might have been just a bit too saccharine without the writer's gravelly vocal tone, which can switch up from sweetness to a throaty growl at the flip of a metronome. Fighting Suspicions showcases a more world-weary perspective, while Teach Me How To Be Loved returns to the piano-ballad territory of Shoulder to Shoulder, if not as memorably.
Things then move uptempo a bit: Run Free and Diamond To Stone - with it's unmistakable debt to Sunshine Anderson's Heard It All Before - are invigoratingly good, and the original track listing ended on a high with Too Good To Lose (criminally ignored when it was released as a single), where the melding of old school soul, electronica and even a sustained burst of the ever-familiar "Funky Drummer" bassline made it a winner.
You may have seen Becca perform the new single, Backtrack, on X Factor, and it's got the same retro vibe as much of the album, being most similar to Glitter And Gold. Strange and Beautiful is another ballad - not particularly strange, but fans will argue beautiful, all right - maybe up there with Teach Me How To Be Loved; Good Days, Bad Days is a mid-tempo soul belter which shows her ever-growing confidence; I'll Count The Days doesn't really do it for me,as it doesn't seem to fit too well with the other tracks on the album (although it's exposed Rebecca to Downton Abbey's audience and has an assured orchestral arrangement), while the closing track - I'll Take Care Of You - shows you what you're missing if you don't go out and hear her live. This song could be a real club grower if she takes it into the studio and has it remixed.
SO, Heaven was well worth the money WITHOUT the extra tracks, so if you missed it first time round, now's an even better time to invest in it (no, I don't work for her record company ;o) A year after its original release, I expect this to go racing back up the charts quicker than Louis Walsh could say, "I wanna go to DEADLOCK."