Saturday 29 October 2022

Prodigal Sista/ Beverley Knight (1998): Albums of my Life: an A-Z


  the cover of this album. Its shade of blue has adhered to my memory with Beverley's iconic presence looking you right in the eyes as you slide the CD out of its cardboard cover. Prodigal Sista came into my awareness as a teen when the single 'Greatest day' was released. Her voice, her positivity and her vibe had me captured within one listen of that song. I'm talking about the 'classic mix' of course, with its upbeat keys,brass and strings.

This was one of the earlier CD albums that I can remember purchasing with my own money and listening to a lot. Though it won 'Best Album' and 'Best R&B Act' at the 1999 Mobo Awards, it's always felt relatively lowkey to me-- none of my friends had it and, to this day, it's one of those albums that I've never spoken to anyone about. Until now!

Beverley Knight has such vocal agility and authenticity that listening to her is pure joy. Having said that, this album has a duplicity about it, being both upbeat and sultry smooth. I always listen to the album in question whilst creating these posts, and right now as I type, I'm on the track 'Damn'. It's one of the "fire tracks" for me and one that I have loved singing along to over the years! You could describe trying to sing alongside Beverley's vocals an Olympic sport; you might get better, but you'll never win gold. And we all know, she's 'Gold'. 'Damn' is a lesson in soul. It's slow, brooding and swings. Returning to a love that you know is no good for you is the focus of the song.  No matter how hard you try, that person is always stuck in your head, and you always want that feeling again. We can all relate, I'm sure. 

'Sista Sista' is another stand out, and another sad-feeling, reflective mood from Knight. What strikes me now is the simplicity of the instrumentals (keyboard and guitar with a drum track); it was always about the soul voices for me at this time, and the vocal on this song is solid. Its weaving sweetness in the verses gives way to more intensity in the chorus-- and that is what sells the pain of abandonment in this song. Loss is something Knight has clearly experienced.

As the album progresses, it reflects a time within the genre in terms of its production. Even though this is only her second album (coming after Knight's 1995, The B-Funk), it has such a different feel to her debut. It is late 90s cool, where The B-Funk feels much more late 80s/ early 90s in its vibe. The vocal effects on 'Tomorrow' (at around the 2:50 mark), for example, feel very much of a time. There's something of Blackstreet's 'Don't Leave Me' in there--which is another much loved R&B staple.  

As we move onto 'Send Me Move Me Love Me' we see Beverley Knight at her sexiest. There's the sweetness again, but when she sings 'gives me thoughts I shouldn't say' and 'rude boy love is heavenly', we know... I love how pared back this song is and how the background vocal sets the mood. It's a song that would have grown on me and has certainly stuck with me as I've got older. Indeed, 'The Need of You', which follows, is much in the same vein-- in one word: hot. 

This album is not one that I listen to a lot nowadays, but it holds a special place in my heart. Over the years, I've watched and read things about Beverley Knight and I've always had a lot of respect for her humility. She grew up singing in the church in Wolverhampton and speaks fondly of her heritage. Her work in musical theatre has also been a big part of her career and I regret not having yet seen her live. She's most definitely on my bucket list of singers to see.

Her albums following this one, Who I Am and Affirmation, are also favourites, with tracks like 'Gold' on the former and 'Straight Jacket', 'Below my Radar', and an incredible hidden track called 'Fatal Factor'! I'd also recommend her collaboration with Chaka Khan on her 100% album, 'Soul Survivor' which is on my running playlist!

1. Damn-- the swing, the vocal, the ability to put you right back in that lovesick trance.

2. Send Me Move Me Love Me-- the key changes, the vocal gymnastics, gorgeous. 

3. Greatest day- the classic mix, of course!

... I want to remember how great Beverley Knight is and has always been (and what a national treasure she is).

' You're an opiate, baby-- send me on a high, but in the end you'll kill me  (Damn)

...  that light blue, I guess. But maybe with some dark purple at the edges.
'Purple Rain'/ Prince and the Revolution (1984)
'Pools To Bathe In'/ The Japanese House (2015)

What is your favourite album beginning with P?

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