David Gray - Greatest Hits
Review by Jack Foley
DAVID Gray may have trained as a painter at the Liverpool College of Art but he’s since become an artist of a very different kind – and a very successful one at that!
In the 17 years since he decided to pursue a career in music, Gray has emerged as one of the finest singer-songwriters in the country, capable of some truly emotional power-ballads in the style of tracks like Babylon, his breakthrough success, Sail Away, Please Forgive Me and The Other Side.
Incrediby, it took time. In the first eight years of his music career, he was dropped by two record labels over the course of three albums, A Century Ends, Flesh and Sell, Sell, Sell. But then Gray retreated to his own house to write and release White Ladder on his own label.
To date, that album has sold six million copies worldwide and helped to establish Gray as one of the UK’s most popular and enduring artists. In Ireland, White Ladder remains the best-selling album of all-time.
Since then, he’s enjoyed another two UK No.1 albums and won the prestigious Ivor Novello Award twice – in 2001 for Babylon and in 2003 for The Other Side.
He has also won a GQ Award for Best Solo Artist (2002), a Q Award for best single (2001) and has been nominated twice for best male at the Brit Awards.
Such accolades are richly deserved, as Gray is fast becomig a national treasure. His voice is powerfully distinct- raw, passionate and at times heartbreaking. In live form, it’s astonishing and it’s little wonder that his three-song set with Damien Rice formed one of the highlights of this summer’s Live Earth bill.
The Greatest Hits LP contains 14 songs that span Gray’s musical career. Needless to say, the majority stem from his most popular albums but there are a few that showcase a talent that was left overlooked for some time.
One such track is Flame Turns Blue, a song originally recorded in 1999 that appears on the Lost Songs record. It begins with an acoustic guitar accompanying Gray’s stark vocals and slow-builds into an absolutely beautiful ballad, complete with pianos and drums. It’s one of those tracks you’ll wish you’d discovered earlier and is a highlight of the Greatest Hits collection.
Likewise, Caroline, a track that is “eccentric” by Gray’s own admission, having been written on his computer using lots of blips and bleeps and drum machine sounds. It works surprisingly well.
New single You’re The World To Me kicks things off in typically solid fashion, effectively showcasing the epic sweep and emotive power of the artist’s songwriting and vocals.
And then the hits speak for themselves. Babylon hasn’t really shown any sign of ageing, Please Forgive Me continues to stir the emotions, Be Mine is a rousing love anthem, This Year’s Love remains one for the hopeless romantics, and Sail Away offers one of two knee-tremblers, along with The Other Side.
And a live recording of Shine also provides a welcome reminder of why Gray is considered such a terrific live artist too.
The overall verdict? This is a fine Greatest Hits collection that ought to make a perfect stocking filler for countless listeners this festive season.
Download picks: Sail Away, The Other Side, Be Mine, Babylon, Please Forgive Me, Flame Turns Blue