Just what has happened to the biggest selling British female artist of the 1990’s?
by Christopher Smith
Incredibly twenty-five years have passed since the release of “So Close”, British soul diva Dina Carroll’s debut album. Released in January 1993, it spent a year and a half on the album chart, peaked at No.2 and sold over a million and a half copies in the UK alone. It wound up the years third biggest selling album and went on to be nominated for the Mercury Music Prize.
Not many artists are afforded such an illustrious start to their career, so what happened next and where IS Dina Carroll now? Read on…
Geraldine Carroll was born in Newmarket, Suffolk in August 1968, of mixed Scottish and African descent. She began singing at the age of five and won a local talent contest at the age of thirteen. At sixteen she was signed to a small record label Streetwise and as part of a group called Masquerade, released two singles in 1985, “Set It Off” and “One Nation”, both of which made a very small dent in the British charts.
In 1989 she signed with Jive Records as a solo artist, releasing the singles “People All Around The World” and a funky-dance version of Dionna Warwick’s classic “Walk On By“. These failed to make any impact commercially, despite lots of marketing and promotion.
By 1990, she had caught the eye of one of the partners of First Avenue Management and was immediately snapped up. At the time they were working with a new dance/production duo called Quartz, who took an immediate shine to Dina and went into the recording studio with her.
Their first collaboration was another cover, this time Carole King’s “It’s Too Late”, which was released in February 1991. The song was massively promoted in the clubs and to the wider world and took itself to No.8 in the UK singles chart as well as topping the dance chart.
Quartz’s debut album “Perfect Timing” was released the following month and also included a second song recorded with Dina “Naked Love (Just Say You Want Me)”. This was released in May 1991 and peaked at No.39 in the UK.
With commercial success now in the bag, Dina was signed to A&M Records. She formed a new, and ultimately long-term partnership, with songwriter and producer Nigel Lowis and the pair set about writing and recording for a new solo project for Carroll.
The first taster of this new fusion came in June 1992 with the release of the dance anthem “Ain’t No Man”, which quickly established a following and wasted no time in breaking the singles chart and both the dance and club charts across Europe, reaching No.16 in the UK.
Her next single was co-written and produced by Robert Clivilles and David Cole, better known as C+C Music Factory. “Special Kind Of Love” continued the up-tempo dance theme and the success by charting high in singles, dance and club charts in many countries. It matched “Aint No Man” in the UK reaching No.16 in September.
Her debut album (originally titled “Dina Carroll”) was to of come next but was postponed till after the next single, the gorgeous soul ballad “So Close” was released in time for Christmas. Peaking at No.20 in the UK, it also found favour Stateside reaching No.95 on the Billboard singles chart.
With its new title of “So Close”, Dina’s eagerly awaited debut long player was released in the first week of 1993 and entered the UK album chart at No.6. Without any fuss or too much attention, it spent week after week, moving up and down the chart and selling like hotcakes. By June it was certified platinum and by October had sold half a million copies. By now it had reached a new peak of No.4 and by the end of the year had climbed yet more to reach No.2. It ended the year having sold over 700,000 copies in the UK and was the third biggest seller of the year as well as the biggest selling album by a female artist. The success continued into 1994 with Dina being nominated for and winning Best British Female at that years Brit Awards. By now “So Close” had topped a million and spent a total of five weeks at the No.2 position. It became the biggest selling debut album by a British female artist until Dido’s first offering “No Angel” in 1999.
1993 would see more chart success with another outstanding soul ballad “This Time” (UK No.23).
And the remixed dance floor filler “Express” (UK No.12).
That Autumn a sixth single was lifted from the album and given a glorious makeover. “Don’t Be A Stranger” was most people’s favourite track on the album, and with a full string orchestra, Dina re-recorded the song. It would become her biggest yet, spending three months on the UK top 40 and peaking at No.3, the 23rd biggest selling single of the year.
Dina was by now hot property and hit the road celebrating her amazing voice and success by playing to sell-out crowds across the UK.
That Christmas, to everyone’s surprise, Dina recorded “The Perfect Year” from Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s stage production of ‘Sunset Boulevard’. With Christmas splashed all over it with sparkles, the song was a huge success reaching No.5 in the UK and crowning the end of what had truly been THE perfect year for her.
For Part Two click here!