Album: Beverley Knight

Affirmation, PARLOPHONE
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The Independent Culture

Beverley Knight's 2002 album Who I Am established her as Britain's foremost soul diva, with a taste and sensitivity way beyond most of her American R&B peers. Her secret weapon was her sincerity: her vocal lines never sounded like showy exercises, but seemed to derive naturally from the spirit of the songs - she had the instinctive ability to pick the right note and stick with it, without running pointlessly up and down the scale. Which makes the incursions of fluttering melisma creeping into some tracks of this follow-up all the more disappointing, especially since, as the gospel-flavoured "First Time" demonstrates, she's capable of the kind of true soul power wielded by the likes of Mavis Staples. The loss of a close friend to Aids brings an emotional charge to some songs, notably "No One Ever Loves in Vain". But it's another loss, that of the American production team of James Poyser and Che Guevara, who brought such lean, limber style to Who I Am, that affects the sound of Affi

Beverley Knight's 2002 album Who I Am established her as Britain's foremost soul diva, with a taste and sensitivity way beyond most of her American R&B peers. Her secret weapon was her sincerity: her vocal lines never sounded like showy exercises, but seemed to derive naturally from the spirit of the songs - she had the instinctive ability to pick the right note and stick with it, without running pointlessly up and down the scale. Which makes the incursions of fluttering melisma creeping into some tracks of this follow-up all the more disappointing, especially since, as the gospel-flavoured "First Time" demonstrates, she's capable of the kind of true soul power wielded by the likes of Mavis Staples. The loss of a close friend to Aids brings an emotional charge to some songs, notably "No One Ever Loves in Vain". But it's another loss, that of the American production team of James Poyser and Che Guevara, who brought such lean, limber style to Who I Am, that affects the sound of Affirmation more directly: on a track such as "Come as You Are", there's a clear disparity between the mildness of the subject matter ("This is a brand new dress/ No need to make a mess") and the bluster of the arrangement. For all that, she remains head and shoulders above her contemporaries, a real talent rather than an R&B mannequin.

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