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M People back with stunning new album
(4 out of 5 stars)
"From the opening strings of Just For You to the last broken beat of Avalon Fresco is another classic M People album, again delivering their timeless virtues of structure, performance and passion. It is also another musical advance for a band that will never be content with the status quo. As founder member of M People Mike Pickering declares "Everything we do, we feel, has to be better than what we've done before, and we certainly feel it here"Recorded primarily at The Strongroom in East London [as were the previous two albums, Bizarre Fruit and Elegant Slumming] with trips to the leafy surrounds of Surrey's Ridge Farm Studios and the very urban Chun King Studios in New York's Lower West Side, Fresco. contains eleven original songs and one very startling adaptation. Fans of M People's ability to stir the soul with songs such as Bizarre Fruit's Search For The Hero will luxuriate in the depths of songs such as Smile, Last Night 10,000 and the first single Just For You, with it's acoustic guitar, sweeping strings, insistent vocal refrain all building to a fantastic choral climax. There are few Bands as capable of lifting the spirit; Angel Street and Fantasy Island do just that, with their pace, drive and eternal messages of the need for both self-reliance and co-operation. The change of pace and rhythms carries on with bubbling reggae of Lonely and the ultra-contemporary drum + bass re-working of Roxy Music's Avalon, the stunning cover that closes out Fresco. Fresco is M People's fourth album in their impressive career and like its predecessors was written, demoed and recorded in part at Paul Heard's North London house. Continuing another tradition the Band produced the album themselves assisted by a stellar list of old friends and new accomplices; engineering credits include Warren Riker [The Fugees], Neil McClennan [The Prodigy], Phil Bodger [The Lighthouse Family] and David Sussman [Mariah Carey]. Guest musicians include Pickering's long-time Manchester cohort Johnny Marr, who plays guitar on three tracks, Chris `Snake' Davis [familiar to anyone who has witnessed the M People live show] who plays sax and flute throughout and Terry Burrus, the legendary American keyboard player who's CV [including work with artists of the stature of Miles Davis] tells its own story. Backing vocals have been handled by the likes of Will Downing, Danny Madden, Carroll Thompson and Claudia Fontaine - singers all notable for their inidividual careers.M People have notched up an incredible five million album sales in their six year career with eight Top 10 singles in the UK alone. From 1991's How Can I Love You More through an unbroken string of hits M People have forged a unique sound made instantly recognisable by Heather Small's extraordinary voice. The 1992 debut album Northern Soul showcased both the attitude and the ability of M People and earned them a prestigious UK `Brit Award' for Best Dance Band. The unbeatable combination of great songs and great live shows carried through with the Band's second album Elegant Slumming, a record that managed, as few others ever have, to achieve both mainstream success in the form of triple-platinum UK sales and critical success by winning the Mercury Music Prize for 1993. The forward march continued with M People's third album Bizarre Fruit; sales are two million and still rising and it spent an unbroken two-and-a-half years in the UK Top40 album chart, pushed along by a combination of spectacular stadium shows, four hit singles, massive airplay and the bonus of a Peugeot TV ad that utilized Search For The Hero to stunning effect. History and chemistry might not be everyone's favourite subjects but they come together in the bond between the four members of M People to create a winning formula. Mike Pickering, whose initials create the basis of the Band's name, was a legend to Club-goers Worldwide before the Band ever existed for his tenure at The Hacienda club in Manchester. His leadership of seminal Bands such as Quando Quango [who had Billboard Club hits back in the mid-Eighties] and T-Coy [creators of arguably the very first UK House record Carino] ably qualifies him for his current responsibilities. Heather Small was only ever going to be one thing in life - a Star. She had already garnered plaudits for her singing with UK Eighties soul trio Hot!House. Paul Heard's musical dues were earnt playing keyboards, bass and programming with Orange Juice and Working Week. The final piece in the jigsaw is filled by Shovell, former percussionist with South London ensemble Natural Life and now all-round human dynamo!"
This is the best M People album
Denmark Jensen | Carson City, NV USA | 10/08/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It took me a while to decide to pay the extra money for this import, but when I did, I wasn't disappointed. This is easily their best album yet (not counting the Best Of collection). Its quite a shame that their U.S. Label never released this great album, instead offering the pointless "Testify" bit of everything collection. However, the tracks "Last night 10,000", "Rhythm and blues", and "Believe It" offer more than enough reason for any true M People fan to purchase this instead of "Testify", and in addition to "Best Of"."
Great R&B album
Denmark Jensen | 10/23/1998
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is their first attempt at R&B, and the critics sadly described it as a failure. I do admit that I like the normal bellowing of Heather more than the R&B Heather. This does not mean that this album is not good! If you really want to hear the 'old' M People then you can listen to the tracks 'Fantasy Island', 'Angel St' and 'Bohemia'. They are the typical M People happy dance songs. 'Just For You' is a beautiful ballad, laden with wonderful lyrics and has a very good musical arrangement. 'Never Mind Love' is a cross between the 'old' and 'new' M People. Though this album is more geared towards R&B, don't expect to find anything like Brandy and Monica in it."