Review Summary: Once, All Saints were considered the credible alternative to the Spice Girls. While there's pleasure to be had here, it hasn't aged well.
I'm not entirely sure why, but when I was younger, All Saints stood out for me amongst the post-Spice Girls wave of girl groups. It might have had something to do with the fact that they reminded me a little of TLC, and yet, unlike many other groups who cribbed from CrazySexyCool
(my first ever favourite album, incidentally), I didn't have to reconcile the fact that they were American (which was a stumbling block of sorts when I was younger). Or maybe it was the notion that they were far more 'authentic' - the press, for a brief period, made a big deal of them being songwriters. In fact, this lot were toted as the more serious, credible alternative to the Spice Girls an awful lot - it was their entire marketing angle, if I remember rightly. Consider the chasm now between the way the 'edgy', 'real' Sugababes and 'fluffy', 'manufactured' Girls Aloud are percieved. This was that, 7 or 8 years earlier.
So I'm sure I listened to All Saints
more then any other record I owned back then. Which might make you think this holds a certain amount of weight, bringing back a lot of memories for me? Wrong.
Well, okay, maybe a little. "Never Ever" is a fantastic song; quite rightfully, it still gets a fair bit of airplay today, and I still enjoy it whenever it appears on one of those VH1 Power Ballad days or whatever. I enjoyed "Bootie Call" even before I knew what one was, and now I'm a little more worldly, I probably enjoy it more. And the cover of "Under The Bridge" isn't actually as hideous as most people make out. It's not as good as the original, sure, but in a world that's now seen the Scissor Sisters attempt "Comfortably Numb", I think this one's definitely forgivable. Maybe even enjoyable, in the right frame of mind. I certainly have moments where I'd rather listen to this version. The cover of "Lady Marmalade", on the other hand, is quite possibly the definitive version; the slightly sneering performance by Shaznay Lewis (a great singer, and always the star of this group) is a delight. Certainly far better than the monstrosity doled out a few years later by Christina Aguilera, Missy Elliott et al. On these songs, it's almost tempting to compare them with Sugababes one more time.
The rest of the album is a non-event, though. Boring in the extreme. "I Know Where It's At" is the only other song worthy of mention, and that's only because it's as annoying as hell. I used to like it a lot, of course - it was the reason I asked to have this bought for me. I even own it on single. But I cringe a little whenever I hear it now. Everything else is filler, though a couple of tracks do seem like vague stabs at Britpop credibilty, driven as they are by acoustic guitars and a more high-minded lyrical bent than the rest of the album. Bear in mind, however, that when I say 'Britpop', I mean 'Cast'. There are also examples of Shaznay rapping, which simply isn't pleasant.
I still have the CD, but it's in a box without a jewel case. Clearly, this failed to make the leap from childhood infatuation to happy nostalgia, unlike the apparently less credible Spice Girls. I still enjoy the singles a lot when I hear them, but if there was ever a war between the two groups, All Saints lost it.