The Beloved – Single File

In spite of their short, one-decade chart career, The Beloved made a good impact in their day, and there’s a good chance you might still be aware of some of their hits. If not, now would be a good time to find out about them, because their singles collection Single File celebrates its twentieth birthday this week.

It skips straight to their 1989 breakthrough hit The Sun Rising, presented here in its album version. Beautifully relaxed and chilled out, and yet at the same time full of energetic beats and an uplifting vocal, this has to be one of the finest singles of the late 1980s. Although it only peaked at number 26, it’s still one of The Beloved‘s best known songs.

The other is next, the brilliant Sweet Harmony, a top ten hit from the start of 1993. Now a husband-and-wife duo, they were briefly to be found everywhere when this was released, and the accompanying album Conscience, although perhaps not as distinguished as its predecessor Happiness, was a huge chart hit.

Some of the lesser-known hits come next – Your Love Takes Me Higher first, which came out twice as a single and never managed to make much of a dent on the charts. It’s a big, beatsy affair, which if it weren’t for the energy – and the acid bass line that turns up from time to time – might almost sound as cheesy as most of the other things that were on the chart in 1989 when it first came out. But it doesn’t – it’s easy to tell that there was something special about The Beloved.

By the late 1990s, they had evolved into a solid house-pop crossover act, so Satellite, from 1996’s exceptional X, gives us our first taste of their then-contemporary sound. It’s a strange mixture in a way, with its clearly accomplished melody and songwriting alongside some very silly lyrics and slightly naff backing vocals. It almost certainly would have sounded better in a club than it did on the radio – but by no means is it bad, and its energy is definitely not in dispute.

Outerspace Girl is next, the house-piano-driven minor hit that closed out the singles for Conscience. It was actually released as the preceding single, but it’s a good fit alongside Satellite, although more laid back than its neighbour.

Next comes the fantastic Time After Time, another minor hit from 1990. Driven primarily by a huge rhythmic bass line, with just a couple of string and pad lines, this is truly pop music at its best. So it’s a natural transition to the third of the big hits, Hello, a memorable hit that lists a lot of famous people, also from 1990.

The Beloved‘s penultimate hit single Ease the Pressure is next, falling just short of the Top 40 in mid-1996. It’s a deeper, more soulful hit than Satellite, with huge house beats and rippling bass lines and countermelodies alongside backing vocals from a male gospel choir. If there had been any justice, this would have been an enormous hit.

Representing the 1990 remix album Blissed Out is the longer, more melancholic, Back to Basics version of It’s Alright Now, a truly wonderful song. It isn’t the single version, and while it’s a shame that that never saw the light of day on an album, this is definitely the more appropriate recording of the track to have on here. After about five minutes or so, you’ll catch yourself wondering if it’s ever going to end. Sadly it does, but it’s a welcome excursion into the softer side of The Beloved.

You’ve Got Me Thinking is next, sweet, acoustic, and summery. The follow-up to Sweet Harmony, it peaked just outside the top 20 in the UK, thanks to some creative repackaging with remixes of Celebrate Your Life and the previous single.

Then comes Deliver Me, the single that never was (it was pulled shortly prior to release, although seems to be widely available anyway). Quite why it was never released is a mystery to me – it’s one of the duo’s finest moments – possibly even their finest – and even though it might not have sold millions, it still would have been a respectable hit.

But by 1996, the writing must have been on the wall for The Beloved‘s time on a major label. Shortly before (or perhaps after) being dropped, EastWest gave us this parting gift, with another fantastic Bob Linney sleeve, just like their early works, and finally a second release of The Sun Rising, packed with excellent new and old remixes. Closing Single File is Mark Pritchard‘s fantastic twelve-minute deep house odyssey. That might sound long – it really doesn’t seem that way when you listen.

Single File is not without its failings – in particular I think it would have benefitted from some more material that wasn’t on the major albums, so perhaps the single version of It’s Alright Now, or an early rarity such as Acid Love might have been nice. But in general, it’s a great introduction to a great group, who really need to get back together and release some new material.

The CD version of Single File no longer seems to be widely available, but you can still find copies or download it from places like this.

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